Police fire rubber bullets at striking S. Africa farm workers

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Updated 10 January 2013
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Police fire rubber bullets at striking S. Africa farm workers

DE DOORNS, South Africa: South African police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse striking farm workers in the western fruit belt yesterday amid fears that months of deadly wildcat action will flare-up again.
Police turned to the bullets and tearsmoke to break up the protests as around 3,500 people turned violent in De Doorns, a top grape-growing area outside Cape Town, an AFP correspondent reported.
The unrest flared up across the Western Cape province yesterday, weeks after farm strikes left two dead and vineyards destroyed.
“So far a total of 44 people have been arrested on charges of intimidation and public violence,” said police spokesman Andre Traut.
An officer had been injured, he said. An AFP correspondent saw the man, who was hit by a rock, with a cut on his forehead.
The industrial action follows violent work stoppages in the mining industry late last year which left over 50 people dead, including 34 shot dead by police in one day in scenes reminiscent of apartheid police brutality.
Workers on fruit farms have downed tools, demanding a wage hike from 69 rand ($8) to 150 rand ($17.50) a day.
The protesters had also occupied part of the country’s major N1 highway, forcing dozens of police officers and two armored vehicles to move down the road, pushing the protesters back from the town entrance.
Skirmishes broke out with protesters throwing rocks, moving away and regrouping.
A police helicopter circled the air as gun smoke clouded view and rubber bullet casings littered the ground.
Meanwhile Eyewitness News reported that potestors in Grabouw, around an hour’s drive away, threw rocks and looted shops.
In Wolseley 60 kilometers (37 miles) from De Doorns police also kept protesters from entering the town, but later removed the barriers as the numbers dwindled.
Some protesters carried signs ‘Agri SA julle is apartheid boere’, slamming the main commercial agriculture body as being farmers of apartheid, and ‘150.00’ to push for wage demands.
About 40 percent of laborers in the area went to work, said James Cornelius, the regional secretary of the Bawsi Agricultural Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa), deploring the low striker turnout.
“There will be less people going to work tomorrow (Thursday),” he said.
Wage negotiations have been complicated because few farm workers are unionized, and talks between individual farms and employees collapsed.
Farmers worry the violence will damage production of especially table grapes and stone fruit, though the potential effect on the wine industry is still uncertain.
Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said earlier law dictates the basic wage may only be reviewed one year after it was put in place. The current level dates to March last year, meaning the next review can only be two months from now.
But Cornelius vowed stoppages would continue until farmers bow to their wage demands. Talks with farmers continued, he said.



“I think they don’t have a choice because we will strike until we get the 150,” he said, adding that organizers would evaluate their action on Sunday.
Two people died during last year’s unrest which started in De Doorns. Police fired rubber bullets at protesters, who torched vineyards, vehicles and liquor stores. Damage amounted to 150 million rand.
The province provides 55-60 percent of the country’s agricultural exports and employs nearly 200,000 permanent and seasonal workers.


Yulia Skripal says recovery from poisoning ‘slow, painful’

Updated 6 min 10 sec ago
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Yulia Skripal says recovery from poisoning ‘slow, painful’

  • Skripal said she and her 66-year-old father Sergei were “lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination.”
  • The incident has sparked a Cold War-style diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West, including the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from both sides.

LONDON: Yulia Skripal, who was poisoned with her ex-spy father in a nerve agent attack, said Wednesday her recovery has been “slow and painful,” and that she hopes to return to her home in Russia someday.
In her first appearance on camera since the poisoning that sent UK-Russia tensions soaring, Skripal said she and her 66-year-old father Sergei were “lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination.”
They spent weeks hospitalized in critical condition after they were found unconscious in the English city of Salisbury 90 miles (145 kilometers) southwest of London, on March 4.
Britain blames Russia for poisoning the Skripals with a military-grade nerve agent — a charge Russia vehemently denies. The incident has sparked a Cold War-style diplomatic crisis between Russia and the West, including the expulsion of hundreds of diplomats from both sides.
Yulia Skripal’s statement appeared designed in part to address claims from Moscow that Britain has effectively kidnapped the pair and prevented Russian officials from visiting them. But the Russian Embassy in London said it remained concerned that Skripal was being held against her will.
Yulia, 33, was discharged from the hospital in April, and her father last week. Both have been taken to an undisclosed location for their protection.
She said she had arrived to visit her father in Salisbury the day before the attack.
“After 20 days in a coma, I woke to the news that we had both been poisoned,” she said.
During their “slow and extremely painful” recovery, she has been struggling to come to terms with “the devastating changes thrust upon me both physically and emotionally,” she said.
“I don’t want to describe the details, but the clinical treatment was invasive, painful and depressing,” she said.
“In the longer term, I hope to return home to my country” once she and her father have both recovered, she added.
Sergei Skripal is a former Russian intelligence officer who was convicted of spying for Britain before coming to the UK as part of a 2010 prisoner swap. He had been living quietly in Salisbury when he was struck down.
Britain says the Russian state poisoned the Skripals with a Soviet-designed nerve agent dubbed Novichok that likely was smeared on the door handle of Sergei Skripal’s suburban house.
The international chemical weapons watchdog has backed up Britain’s conclusion that the Skripals were poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent, but has not determined where it was produced.
Hundreds of counterterrorism officers and support staff are working on the case, but police have not yet identified any suspects.
Moscow accuses Britain of failing to provide any evidence for its claims and of stonewalling Russian requests for information.
Russia’s ambassador to London has accused the UK government of breaking international law by not granting Russia consular access to them. Britain has said it is up to the Skripals to decide whether they want to meet with embassy officials.
The Russian Embassy in London issued a statement that said, “We are glad to have seen Yulia Skripal alive and well. ... However, the video shown only strengthens our concerns as to the conditions in which she is being held.”
The statement said she appeared to be reading from a text “initially written by a native English-speaker.” It added that the UK “is obliged to give us the opportunity to speak to Yulia directly in order to make sure that she is not held against her own will and is not speaking under pressure. So far, we have every reason to suspect the opposite.”
Yulia Skripal requested that she and her father be given privacy.
“We need time to recover and come to terms with everything that has happened,” she said.
“I’m grateful for the offers of assistance from the Russian Embassy, but at the moment I do not wish to avail myself of their services.
“Also, I want to reiterate what I said in my earlier statement that no one speaks for me, or for my father, but ourselves,” she said.