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.


Version of PM May’s deal can get through parliament: Hunt

Updated 15 December 2018
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Version of PM May’s deal can get through parliament: Hunt

  • May pulled a vote on her deal this week after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the divorce agreement’s “backstop”

LONDON: Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said on Saturday that the British parliament could back Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal if lawmakers received assurances from the European Union, but warned that a no deal Brexit was still on the table.
May pulled a vote on her deal this week after acknowledging it would be heavily defeated over concerns about the divorce agreement’s “backstop,” an insurance policy designed to avoid any hard land border for Ireland but which critics say could bind Britain to EU rules indefinitely.
“When the dust has settled, the only way we’re going to get this through the House of Commons ... is to have a version of the deal that the government has negotiated,” Hunt told BBC radio.
Following a summit in Brussels on Friday, May said it was possible that the EU could give further guarantees that the backstop would be temporary although the bloc’s other 27 leaders told her they would not renegotiate the treaty.
Hunt said the EU was likely to make concessions to avoid Britain leaving without any deal, a scenario that both sides say would be highly damaging for business and their economies.
“The EU cannot be sure that if they choose not to be helpful and flexible ... that we would not end up with no deal,” Hunt said. “We cannot in these negotiations take no deal off the table. I don’t think the EU could be remotely sure that if we don’t find a way through this we wouldn’t end up with no deal.”
The Times newspaper reported on Saturday that most of May’s senior ministerial team thought her deal was dead and were discussing a range of options including a second referendum.
“Brexit is in danger of getting stuck – and that is something that should worry us all,” pensions minister Amber Rudd wrote in the Daily Mail newspaper.
“If MPs (lawmakers) dig in against the Prime Minister’s deal and then hunker down in their different corners, none with a majority, the country will face serious trouble.”