"Black farmers will stop farming if they have to implement the R150 minimum wage, the Deciduous Fruit Development Chamber said on Monday. "I am confident that almost all of the black fruit farmers in the Western Cape will stop farming if the wage increases to R150 per day," chairman Walter Williams said in a statement on Monday. "Unfortunately, this is a reality and not a way of saying that we must not pay workers a living wage, not at all." The chamber said the entire agricultural sector agreed the current R69 minimum wage needed to be increased. However, the current discussion on minimum wages should consider that there were black farmers who were yet to make profits. Williams said the agricultural sector was unique in that profits differed between regions and had more than 30,000 individual players. He rejected the call by striking farmworkers for a boycott of Western Cape agricultural products. "Any call to boycott agricultural products will affect black farmers severely. A blanket boycott is naive and short sighted." He said unions had to ensure workers understood their rights and that their dignity was preserved.
On Monday, a police officer was injured during the strike in Villiersdorp, Western Cape. He was struck by stones thrown at a police station, Warrant Officer November Filander said. He was taken to a local hospital. Police arrested 16 people for public violence in De Doorns, nine in Wolseley, 12 in Villiersdorp, and two in Ladysmith. Workers set tyres alight at the police station, but no damage was caused. In Wolseley, the situation was similar. Protesters threw stones at police and burned tyres. The R43 road in Worcester was closed because burning tyres were strewn across the road. Farmworkers went on strike last year to demand their daily wage be increased from R69 to R150, and a coherent land reform programme. The strike was suspended in December, but resumed on Wednesday.
The labour department was holding further public hearings on the review of farmworkers' minimum wages across the Western Cape from Monday evening. Acting department spokesman Mokgadi Pela said the first hearing this week would take place in Grabouw at 6pm on Monday. A second hearing would be held in Paarl on Tuesday evening. Hearings had been set down for De Doorns, Robertson, Oudtshoorn and Vredendal for the remainder of the week, but venues had yet to be confirmed.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant was expected to make an announcement on the new wage determination in February. This would come into effect from March 1"