South Africa: Farm workers strike over higher wages


Chinese visitors sample imported wines during the Vinexpo Asia-Pacific trade fair in Hong Kong on May 30, 2012. Fruity reds are the kings of the Chinese wine market, but experts at Asia's biggest wine fair say women are leading a trend toward whites that will open new revenue streams for producers worldwide, including South Africa.


Laurent Fievet

Police have fired rubber bullets into a crowd of protesters in South Africa's Western Cape province after the striking farm workers blocked roads during a protest for higher wages. Twenty people have also been arrested in the clashes.

According to Al Jazeera English, the rubber bullets were fired after protesters in the town of De Doorns threw stones at vehicles on the highway that runs through the region. According to the BCC, they are demanding higher daily wages, from $7 to about $15.

The Western Cape province is known for producing much of South Africa's wine. The protesters, most of them black, pick and pack fruit on farms that are owned by the white minority.

"We are struggling. It is very difficult to survive on 69 rand a day. School is starting and we don't have money for school clothes," said Lena Lottering, 35, a mother of three, while speaking to Reuters.

"There is no food on the table and my children often go to bed hungry."

The strikes first began in November. Two people have so far died, and vineyards have been burned. In early December, unions and workers suspended their labor action so that the new minimum wages could be negotiated on a farm-by-farm basis, Bloomberg reported.

These negotiations broke down this week, however. Many union leaders have highlighted racial and wealth divisions that are still existent in a post-apartheid South Africa.

The South African government says that it can't legislate a new minimum until April, when the old rates have been in place for 12 months, Bloomberg reported.