Farmworkers torch journo’s car

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By Chantall Presence

De Doorns - Protesting Western Cape farmworkers overturned and set fire to a  journalist's car before assaulting him in De Doorns on Wednesday.

The car, which belonged to Independent Newspapers and was being used by Cape Times journalist Xolani Koyana, was destroyed during a clash between protesters and police.

Koyana told Sapa he had to be pulled from his car to safety after protesters pelted it with stones. He and an intern reporter were in the car when protesters surrounded them and told them to move.

"I was with another reporter... (and) some people managed to pull him out," Koyana said.

When he got out of the car later, a group of people escorted him  to a nearby church.

"Some guys, when I got out (of the car), they hit me."

Koyana said he was in the church when the car was set alight.

Speaking from the De Doorns police station, Koyana said he sustained only a few cuts on his arms.

Police spokesman Lt-Col Andre Traut said 44 people were arrested  after the farmworkers' strike resumed on Wednesday.

The N1 highway at De Doorns remained closed to traffic on Wednesday afternoon. Protesters blocked the road with rocks and threw stones at the police, who retaliated with rubber bullets. A police captain was injured in the violence.

"It was not serious. He was treated and released," Traut said.

The strike was suspended last year following an undertaking that  negotiations would continue between workers' representatives and individual farmers, but this proved unsuccessful.

Workers wanted their daily wages of R69 increased to R150, and a  coherent land reform programme.

At least two people were killed during protests in farming areas  between August 27 and December 4 last year. - Sapa

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