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Western Cape farm strike ends, but not over
Posted by CBB ⋅ January 23, 2013 on 02.04.2013 um 15:03 (UTC)
 Filed Under Agri SA, Congress of South African Trade Union, De Doorns, South Africa, Strike action, Tony Ehrenreich, Western Cape
“He said Cosatu would be co-ordinating ‘the mother of all strikes against bad farmers’ later in the year, should no agreement be reached on a better daily wage, decent farm conditions and a comprehensive land reform plan.”

The Western Cape farmworkers’ strike has been called off, a provincial Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) official said on Tuesday.

“On the advice of workers, we are calling off the strike actions in all areas, so that workers can evaluate the victories that they have gained, and plan more carefully for the way forward,” Western Cape secretary general Tony Ehrenreich said.

He said Cosatu would be co-ordinating “the mother of all strikes against bad farmers” later in the year, should no agreement be reached on a better daily wage, decent farm conditions and a comprehensive land reform plan.

Farmworkers went on strike last year, demanding that the minimum daily wage to be increased from R69 to R150. The strike was suspended in December, but resumed a few weeks ago in various towns in the province.

Cosatu suspended the strike a week ago on condition that farmers’ organisation Agri SA agreed not to victimise workers and committed to “local-level” agreements.

At the time, the union federation said the strike would resume this week should these conditions not be met.

On Tuesday, Ehrenreich said while workers wanted to continue with the strike, they had to consider the impact on children who had no food at home.

“We are also mindful of the fact that these industries belong to the people of South Africa, and while we want to ruin bad farmers, we don’t want to ruin our industries.“

Cosatu claimed Agri SA repeatedly rejected its offer of “peace, friendship and a new industry plan“.

“It is this short-sightedness from Agri SA that has seen a motion of no confidence in the president of Agri SA being considered.“

Agri SA president Johannes Mller said anyone in his organisation was more than welcome pass a motion of no confidence in him.

“I might even, at the next round of meetings we have, consider asking the council of Agri SA to consider it,” he told Sapa.

He said the employer body intended finding a way forward in agriculture, agreeing that R70 a day in wages was not enough.

The organisation was waiting for the pronouncement on the new minimum wage early in February, with effect from March 1.

In the meantime, it had contacted the International Labour Organisation to see if it could offer assistance through its decent work country programme.

Mller said he was cautiously optimistic at Cosatu’s calling off of the strike, considering the damage to income from both sides.

“We are still getting conflicting reports on whether everybody is in agreement on whether the strike is off or not.“

The Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) announced on Tuesday that around 1 500 farmworkers were expected to start trickling back to work from Wednesday in De Doorns, the epicentre of strike action.

Asked if Fawu would extend the call to other towns, general secretary Katishi Masemola said this depended on the sentiments of workers.

“The problem was that we were having mixed messages and many voices speaking. This can create confusion. We have to meet with our members in these areas first.“

The Building and Allied Workers’ Union of SA said on Tuesday morning that the strike continued in De Doorns.

General secretary Nosey Pieterse said meetings would be held in De Doorns, Worcester, or Paarl on Tuesday evening.

Civil rights group AfriForum laid a public violence complaint against Pieterse at the Lyttelton police station in Centurion, Gauteng, on Tuesday morning.

AfriForum’s Investigation unit head Nantes Kelder said they had found Pieterse was the central figure in the strike after visiting the affected areas at the end of last year.

“Pieterse still continues with the unprotected strike, knowing full well that it has become violent. According to AfriForum, he is therefore guilty of a criminal offence and he must take responsibility for his actions,” Kelder said.

AfriForum encouraged farmers to bring claims for damages against Pieterse and Cosatu.

Pieterse was not immediately available to comment.

 

Real story behind Western Cape farm violence
Posted by CBB ⋅ March 17, 2013 on 02.04.2013 um 15:01 (UTC)
 Mr Noseyman (Nosey) Pieterse, who emerged as a key figure behind the “strikes”, is mobilising for the next round of the “rural struggle” he claims to lead.

From years of experience, I know that when I am in a political pressure cooker, it is best to allow the heat to subside and some steam to escape before analysing what happened.

At the height of a crisis, when perceptions are sharply polarised, people aren’t prepared to question their pre-conceptions. They only see the “evidence” that supports their prejudices.

The recent “farm strikes” that shook the Western Cape for most of December and January (with a short Christmas break) was a case in point.

Let’s look at what really happened, not because the crisis is behind us, but because we are in a lull between storms. By all accounts, Mr Noseyman (Nosey) Pieterse, who emerged as a key figure behind the “strikes”, is mobilising for the next round of the “rural struggle” he claims to lead. Mr Pieterse wears several hats. He is simultaneously a farmer, the President of an association of BEE farmers in the wine and spirit industry, as well as a trade union leader, organising workers in the industry.

We should, in the weeks ahead, be prepared for the possibility of further rural “strikes”. In this context, it would help to have a better understanding of the crisis from which we have just emerged.

Before I begin, let me be clear: the life of a seasonal farm labourer is a very difficult one. Thousands of poverty stricken people come to the Western Cape from across Southern Africa (particularly Zimbabwe, Lesotho and the Eastern Cape) for the fruit-picking season, desperately seeking work in one of the few remaining sectors that employ unskilled labour. Many of these migrants have remained in the Province permanently and have set up “home” in shack settlements on the outskirts of rural towns. Unemployed for most of the year, they rely on the short fruit-picking season to earn some income, much of which disappears immediately into the coffers of loan sharks on whom they depend to keep their families alive. And as growing numbers of desperate work-seekers arrive, the competition intensifies between them for the shrinking number of jobs available, a result of the consolidation of farms and escalating mechanisation. As tough as it is to survive on the daily minimum wage, it is far tougher to earn nothing at all. And, as happens world-wide in situations of conflict over scarce resources, individuals band together in groups to protect and advance their interests. In divided societies, the fault line between groups is often determined by ethnicity. Here there are four distinct groups of seasonal work-seekers on the Province’s deciduous fruit and grape farms: Zimbabweans, Basotho, amaXhosa and traditional Western Cape farm workers, who would (in terms of the old apartheid designations) have been classified Coloured.

This is fertile ground for exploitation. And so it is easy to see how the dominant (but entirely misleading) narrative arose: “heartless white farmers and labour brokers make ‘super profits’ by using ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics to drive down workers’ wages as their lives deteriorate”.

It is easy to see how this narrative fuelled the anger and rage that led to the destruction of tens of millions of Rands worth of farm infrastructure (packing sheds, cooling stores, tractors, orchards and vineyards) in an orgy of violence lasting several weeks.

And one can discern the ANC’s interest in fuelling this narrative. It was a golden opportunity to drive a wedge between two strong sectors of DA support — farmers and farm workers – while seeking to position the DA on the side of “heartless farmers” and the ANC as the “champion of exploited workers”.

Unsurprisingly, this narrative was parroted by many observers, reinforcing stereotypes and creating conditions conducive to disinvestment and job losses in a sector that is the backbone of the Western Cape’s economy.

Except that the truth was the exact opposite.

I have rarely come across a case study that so graphically illustrates the disjuncture between perception and reality.

Some of the key facts (that explode this narrative) are as follows:

The workers’ protests started on a farm called Keurboschkloof, previously a model farm in the Western Cape where workers were paid far above the minimum wage. When the farmer, Pierre Smit, died, his farm was taken over by a Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) consortium that immediately CUT WORKERS’ WAGES from an average of R14.51 to R10.60 per hour.
This, understandably, elicited protests by workers, further aggravated by the fact that a former ANC Councillor, who is also a labour broker, tried to bring in “scab labour” at the behest of this BEE consortium to replace the protesting workers.
Braam Hanekom (nephew of an ANC Cabinet member) and his organisation “Passop” sought to unionise the workers for the COSATU affiliate, the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU).
He was challenged by Nosey Pieterse, a rival unionist, who claimed sole right to organise workers in the area.
When the protests spread to the Royal Mushroom Farm and Normandy Farm in mid-October, I was tipped off about an ANC strategy to “bring Marikana to the farms of the Western Cape” – a phrase used repeatedly by the ANC, and particularly Tony Ehrenreich, who combines a role as COSATU provincial general secretary and the ANC caucus leader in the City of Cape Town.
And as the protests spread, ANC Western Cape Leader Marius Fransman made his presence felt, announcing “die Boere gaan k.k”, while the Minister of Agriculture, Tina Joemat-Petterrson also visited the area and used inflammatory language.
But the one Minister actually responsible for labour matters, Mildred Oliphant, remained abroad for weeks, and did not bother to cut her trip short despite the protest against the minimum wage SHE HAD SET. All the while, the ANC sought to blame the farmers.
 

South African Farm Killings
By M00min | Posted February 9, 2013 | South Africa on 02.04.2013 um 14:50 (UTC)
 http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Mthethwa-under-fire-over-farm-murders-20130131

"Farming has become the most dangerous occupation in the country, and it that does not warrant the classification of farm murders as a priority crime, it must mean that the government does not value the lives of farmers, their families or their employees,"

http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Mthethwa-under-fire-over-farm-murders-20130131
 

British man killed in robbery at South African farm
David Smith in Johannesburg on 02.04.2013 um 14:47 (UTC)
 A British man who emigrated to South Africa and planned to turn a farm into a nature reserve and rehabilitation centre for owls and cheetahs has been stabbed to death during a robbery in which about £210 and a mobile phone were stolen, police said on Monday.

Chris Preece, 54, stepped outside to investigate a power cut when he was attacked by three men with machetes. "Preece fled to the house, but the attackers chased after him and continued the assault," said police spokesman Phumelelo Dhlamini.

Police were alerted on Sunday morning by workers reporting for duty at the Fleur des Lis farm near Ficksburg, a town close to South Africa's border with Lesotho. The murder weapons were discovered but no arrests have been made.

Preece's guard dogs are believed to have been poisoned after he took them out on Saturday night, according to the Volksblad newspaper. Preece became concerned when they did not return and was attacked soon after. His 56-year-old wife, Felicity, was stabbed several times and suffered a fractured skull. She is said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

The couple's daughter-in-law, Jeanne Preece, told Volksblad: "The robbers threw her against the walls, slashed her and left her for dead covered in blood. And for what? A bit of money, a wallet and a few cellphones."

Preece, originally from Southgate, north London, moved to South Africa in 1995 to work as a geotechnical engineer for a mining company, she said. He worked in Johannesburg and spent weekends at the farm, 200 miles away, where his wife and other relatives lived. The couple gave horse riding lessons to children.

It is said to be the second murder, and fifth violent robbery, in the region in the past month. This comes against a backdrop of protests on South Africa's wine farms and years of tension in which white farmers have argued they are targeted in racially motivated attacks.

The most notorious recent example was the hacking to death of white supremacist Eugene Terre'Blanche on his farm in 2010.But some commentators deny that farmers are being singled out, noting that, on average, 42 people a day are murdered in South Africa, one of the most violent and unequal societies in the world. The vast majority of victims are black.

Jeanne Preece said" I tell people this wasn't a farm murder! He wasn't a farmer. He was in love with this land."

Wouter Wessels, a spokesman for the pro-Afrikaner Freedom Front Plus party, said estimates that 3,000 white farmers had been killed since the end of racial apartheid in 1994 were "roundabout" right.

But he admitted: "There are no official statistics available. All murders should be condemned but, when we have a people being viciously targeted, we need figures to look at it and find a solution. I think race does play a part."

Wessels called for farm murders to be made a "priority crime" and condemned the killing of Preece, adding: "The image that is being created in the international community is dangerous and that is having a detrimental effect on our economy."
 

‘Mthethwa disregards farm murders’
January 31 2013 at 08:24pm on 02.04.2013 um 14:46 (UTC)
 Johannesburg - Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa is disregarding the farm murder crisis by saying farms are not special areas in society, AfriForum said on Thursday.

“Mthethwa is callously disregarding the fact that a South African farmer's chances of being murdered are more than twice as high as those of a police officer, and more than three times higher than those of an ordinary citizen.

“Farming has become the most dangerous occupation in the country, and it that does not warrant the classification of farm murders as a priority crime, it must mean that the government does not value the lives of farmers, their families or their employees,” said AfriForum CEO Kallie Kriel said.

Mthethwa had earlier told the New Age Business Breakfast that farms were not special and did not deserve to have more police focus than any other area in the country.

“What I have refused to accede to is (the idea) that farms are special areas in our society. No, they are not. They are part and parcel of the rural safety plan,” he said.

Kriel said Mthethwa was purposely turning a blind eye to the extreme violence and brutality that characterised farm murders.

He said it was a disgrace for Mthethwa to use the TNA breakfast as a platform to show his indifference towards the agricultural community “who also happen to be taxpayers”. - Sapa
 

South African farmers fearing for their lives
By Erin Conway-Smith, Pretoria on 02.04.2013 um 14:42 (UTC)
 On Saturday, in an unprecedented move to mark the second anniversary of the slaughter of a farming family, survivors of farm attacks marched in Pretoria and called for attacks on South Africa's mostly white farmers to be designated a crime of national priority.
Since the attack on Attie Potgieter and his family, the simple stone farmhouse where they lived has stood empty and crumbling, with nobody wanting to live in the home where one of South Africa's most disturbingly brutal crimes took place.

Mr Potgieter, a farm caretaker, was stabbed and hacked 151 times with a garden fork, a knife and a machete near Lindley in the Free State - the agricultural heart of the country.

His wife, Wilna, and two-year-old daughter, Willemien, were both made to watch him die, before being shot in the head, execution style.

All for pocket money, and possessions of relatively little value – a too-common story in South Africa's rural areas, where mostly white Afrikaner farmers feel they are being targeted in gratuitously violent attacks on their remote farms and smallholdings. They accuse police and government of failing to make these crimes a priority. And as the horrifying murders continue, they are growing increasingly angry.

"If you kill a rhinoceros in South Africa, you get more time in jail then if you kill a person," said Susan Nortje, 26, Mrs Potgieter's younger sister. "I don't think people understand. We must show people what's really happening."

The murder last weekend of British engineer Chris Preece, 54, who was born in Southgate in north London and found his dream on a piece of rolling farmland bordering Lesotho's Maluti mountains, is the most recent farm killing to make headlines.

Mr Preece spent his weekdays working in Johannesburg before retreating to his beloved farm near the town of Ficksburg, where he and wife Felicity dreamed of starting a nature reserve to save raptor birds and cheetahs.

He was stabbed and hacked to death by men who stole just £210 and a mobile phone. Felicity was left severely traumatised with a skull fracture, and has not yet been able to talk about the attack from the Bloemfontein hospital in where she is being treated.

The couple's son, Robert Preece, and his wife, Jeanne, are now considering leaving their native South Africa, because they don't want to raise children in a country "where a man can be hacked to death for no reason".

"This isn't something we're going to get over," Jeanne Preece, 29, told The Sunday Telegraph. "It is a bottomless weight in all our souls."

On Saturday, in an unprecedented move to mark the second anniversary of the slaughter of the Potgieters, families of murdered farmers and survivors of farm attacks marched in the capital Pretoria and called for attacks on South Africa's mostly white farmers to be designated a crime of national priority.

Carrying photos of dead relatives and friends, 200 protesters - many wearing the khaki shorts and short-sleeved shirts that are the unofficial uniform of white South African farmers - sought to deliver a memorandum to the country's police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, urging that farm attacks be given the same elevated police attention already accorded to rhinoceros poaching and copper cable theft.

"These murders are marked by a unique level of brutality – often worse than that found in terrorist attacks," the memorandum said. "The argument that farm murders are 'only murder' does not hold water."

South African police stopped releasing separate figures on farm attacks in 2007, and incorporated them into wider violent crime statistics.

But according to the Transvaal Agricultural Union of South Africa, there have been 2,863 farm attacks and 1,592 farm murders since 1990, and independent think-tanks put the true number of farmers murdered at closer to 3,000.

It is now twice as dangerous to be a farmer as it is to be a police officer in South Africa, according to Johan Burger, a senior researcher with the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies' crime and justice programme. Last year the country had a murder rate of 31.9 per 100,000 people, almost 30 times higher than Britain, according to police statistics. For police officers, this rate rises to 51 – and among farmers, a staggering 99 people killed per 100,000.

What troubles many South Africans is the horrific and unnecessary violence that's a grim hallmark of farm attacks ostensibly staged to steal money - blamed by some on resentment at the yawning gap between rich and poor, 40 per cent unemployment in some rural areas and the legacy of ill feeling bequeathed by the former apartheid system.

Ernst Roets, deputy CEO of the Afrikaner civil rights group AfriForum and an organiser of the campaign, complained that the government had tried to declare the march an illegal gathering. "They are taking active steps to stop us from speaking out about the problem," he said.

The police minister was not in his offices on Saturday to receive the memorandum. But a spokesman, Zweli Mnisi, accused AfriForum of "grandstanding".

Mr Mnisi said: "They are only representing people based on their colour. For us, racialising crime is problematic. You can't have a separate category that says, farmers are the special golden boys and girls.

"You end up saying the life of a white person is more important. You cannot do this."

South African farms are still overwhelmingly owned by whites, mostly Afrikaner - who are descended from the country's first Dutch settlers and speak their own language. The government's efforts to encourage a gentle method of land reform, known as "willing buyer, willing seller" in stark contrast to the state-sponsored violent takeovers in neighbouring Zimbabwe, has been a flop.

Prof Burger rejects claims by some in the Afrikaans farming community that the attacks amount to a genocide on white farmers. He said there is also no evidence of political involvement in the attacks.

"The perception is that farmers are all rich, and these criminals know the vulnerability of these remote farms, and so they see it as relatively low risk," he said.

However, he added, in some attacks the perpetrators "take out their hatred for all those past wrongs, and show who's in control now". Farmers claim their attackers are stirred by the old black struggle song "Shoot the Boer", the subject of a court case on hate speech brought against the former African National Congress party youth leader Julius Malema after he took to singing it at rallies.

Among those on the march was Magda Pistorius, 53, who still grieves for her husband Wybrand, killed in an attack in June last year.

The couple were asleep at their new home on a smallholding in Muldersdrift, near Johannesburg, which they had moved into just 12 hours earlier, when they awoke at 3.50am to find two men standing over the bed. One of the men said "Hello, boss" - and then shot and killed Mr Pistorius, 53, before shooting his wife in the stomach.

Their daughters were also at home, but unharmed. The robbers fled with just a mobile phone and a torch.

The bullet was removed from Mrs Pistorius' stomach four months after the June 2011 attack. Today, she lives around the corner from the smallholding, and finds daily life hard because of the constant reminders of her husband.

"Physically, I have recovered," she said. "But emotionally, it will never go away.

"The government has to do something to stop this whole story. This whole country is so lawless. It's easy to rob and steal. The justice system is a mess. Everyone else here has got their human rights. But what about ours?"

Also protesting were three generations of the Pretorius family, ambushed when they returned home from a church service to their smallholding in Muldersdrift, near Johannesburg, one night in 2005.

Unbeknown to them, members of their extended family had been held captive at the house. A worker ran out to warn that a gang of armed men were inside, but while Coenie Pretorius, 36, was trying to drive off, the men opened fire.

Mr Pretorius died from gunshot wounds in front of his family and his wife, Petro de Kock, was shot in the lower back while protecting their two young children. She survived the injury, but the family still has deep scars from the trauma of the attack, especially since no one was ever convicted.

The slain farmer's parents have since moved to Perth, Australia, saying they can no longer live in South Africa, but returned to join in yesterday's protest.

Their grandson - also called Coenie, who is now 20 and lives in Johannesburg, said: "It makes it so difficult for us, because they wrecked our lives.

"Something needs to be done. This isn't just happening to our family - look at how many families there are here today."
 

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