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.


Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan faces rape accuser in court

Updated 18 September 2018
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Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan faces rape accuser in court

  • Ramadan was charged in France in February with raping two women in hotels in 2009 and 2012
  • Swiss prosecutors have also opened an investigation into allegations that he raped a woman in a Geneva hotel in 2008

PARIS: Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan was due to face one of his rape accusers in a French court Tuesday as he seeks bail after seven months in custody on charges he furiously denies.
Ramadan, a frequent TV commentator, was a professor at Oxford University until he was forced to take leave when the rape allegations surfaced at the height of the “Me Too” movement late last year.
The Swiss citizen, whose grandfather founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, was charged in France in February with raping two women in hotels in 2009 and 2012.
Swiss prosecutors have also opened an investigation into allegations that he raped a woman in a Geneva hotel in 2008, local media reported Sunday.
Ramadan, 56, has repeatedly sought bail arguing that being in prison is making it more difficult for him to receive treatment for multiple sclerosis.
In a video posted on Facebook Monday, his son Sami said his father had been “presumed guilty since the start” and that he appeared frail during a recent visit. “He needs assistance and a walking frame to move,” he said in the video.
But judges have ruled that he has adequate care in the prison hospital at Fresnes in the southern Paris suburbs.
On Tuesday, he will come face-to-face with the disabled woman who accuses him of attacking her in the eastern French city of Lyon in 2009.
She remains anonymous but is known in the media as “Christelle.”
Ramadan was initially due to face her at a hearing in mid-July but it was postponed after Christelle’s lawyers said she was unwell.
Ramadan, a married father of four who has dismissed the allegations against him as a smear campaign, has denied any sexual contact with Christelle.
At a previous hearing she described a scar on Ramadan’s groin as proof they had a sexual encounter, but his lawyers have argued she could have obtained this detail from one of his former mistresses.
He has said he engaged in a flirtatious exchange of messages with the woman and met her for around half an hour in the hotel lobby, while she maintains that he raped and beat her in his room.
His other French accuser, a Muslim fundamentalist turned secular activist named Henda Ayari, went public with her allegations last October.
She said she was encouraged to speak out by the global torrent of sexual harassment and abuse stories unleashed by the allegations against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.
Both she and Christelle said they approached Ramadan, one of the best-known Islamic scholars in Europe, seeking religious advice.
Ramadan’s lawyers have pointed to inconsistencies in Ayari’s account of the alleged attack.
Another woman, French former call girl Mounia Rabbouj, has accused Ramadan of raping her several times in France as well as in London and Brussels between 2013 and 2014, but he has not been charged over those allegations.
He maintains he had a consensual affair with Rabbouj, describing relations that were “feisty” and involved “domination.”