26 held over De Doorns strike
Cape Town - Police have arrested at least 26 people in De Doorns on Friday for blocking roads and trying to prevent farmworkers from going to work, said Jesaja Louw, leader of the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) in the town.
Police are still processing suspects, and would be unable to comment until later on Friday, said spokeswoman Constable Lybey Swartz.
There were more violent clashes between police and strikers last night, said De Doorns resident and activist Owen Maromo.
Cosatu’s message that farmworkers should return to work has become a bloody fault line between strikers.
The labour federation issued a statement on Wednesday that the strike would be suspended for two weeks - the time deemed necessary for Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant to review the minimum wage.
Fawu says its members in the Hex Valley have refused to return to work.
“We don’t want to contradict Cosatu, but we have to respect the wishes of our members. They want a wage offer on the table, until then the strike is on,” said Fawu president Attwell Nazo.
Cosatu’s Tony Ehrenreich, however, remains adamant that the strike is suspended. He said it was a strategic decision, because some people in De Doorns had run out of money.
Farmworker Rosemarie Filander said farmers “will laugh at us if we return to work, they’ll throw it back in our faces… People have gone hungry for two weeks, they will go hungry for another two.”
Hunger has become a serious concern for many strikers, who have not been paid for two weeks. Many workers who have heeded Cosatu’s call to return to work have been assaulted by diehard strikers. Crime and violence - looting, vandalism and arson - continue to accompany the strike.
“What we need now is communication, unity and consensus among the people. It would be a tragedy if the strike rips into two,” said Louw.
He admitted the unions’ communication to strikers about the interim agreement had been inadequate.
Road closures in the Boland due to strike action include the N1 at De Doorns, the R46 outside Ceres and the road between Villiersdorp and Grabouw, said provincial traffic chief Kenny Africa.