News agency, Cape Town, South Africa
Wednesday September 19th 2018

Xenophobic tensions a worry in De Doorns

About 1000 farmworkers gather on the sportsfield in Stofland, De Doorns to await word on wage negotiations between Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, famers and union representatives. Farm workers in De Doorns embarked on a violent two-week strike demanding their wages be increased from R69 per day to R150 per day. De Doorns unrest then spread to 15 other agricultural areas on the Western Cape. Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

About 1000 farmworkers gather on the sportsfield in Stofland, De Doorns to await word on wage negotiations between Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, famers and union representatives. Farm workers in De Doorns embarked on a violent two-week strike demanding their wages be increased from R69 per day to R150 per day. De Doorns unrest then spread to 15 other agricultural areas on the Western Cape. Photo: Peter Luhanga/WCN

19.11.2012

While protests in the agriculture sector in the Western Cape appear to have ended for now, a refugee rights organization has warned that tensions remain high and  inflammatory public statements by politicians could spark xenophobic tensions in De Doorns.

In the last two weeks, De Doorns became the epicenter of violent farmworker strikes that spread to at least 16 small towns in the Western Cape as farmworkers demanded R150 a day instead of the current R70 a day minimum wage.

In a statement today People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) said in the wake of violence in De Doorns where there are about 8 000 migrant seasonal workers, they were concerned that police and Department of Home Affairs would crack down on migrants lacking documentation.

According to Passop organizer in De Doorns about 40 foreign migrants who were arrested during the strike could face deportation due as police were now demanding their asylum papers.

During a more localized strike in De Doons on October 8 at Royal Mushrooms farms, 35 Sotho nationals were arrested while with a contingent of about 60 workers on their way to support the strike.

At the time Police denied the arrests were related to the strike, saying Sotho nationals were arrest for lack of documentation.

Between 14 and 20 of the arrested Sotho nationals were sent to Pollsmoor Prison ahead of possible deportation.

Three years ago, about 3000 Zimbabweans were displaced in De Doorns due to xenophobic frictions resulting from alleged competition for seasonal jobs.

Today Passop called upon political leaders to act with caution when they talked about immigrant workers.

“We strongly reject claims that the strikes were started because of tensions between Sothos and Zimbabweans”.

Passop direct Braam Hanekom said such  “reckless remarks could provoke tensions and become a self-fulfilling prophecy if continually broadcast publically by politicians”.

He said they also rejected and were concerned by political leaders who were drawing attention to documentation problems of immigrants at this “sensitive time”.

Hanekom said “such comments are very dangerous”, urging farm owners and labour brokers to stop seeking workers “of particular nationalities” when sourcing workers.

He said they were also worried about reports of farm owners who allegedly wanted to employ ‘only coloureds’ and not ‘black’ workers as this could fuel racial conflicts.

He urged the Department of Home Affairs “who have clearly failed” to document immigrants not to interfere in De Doorns “until the dust settles”.

He said the situation there remained “volatile and their (Home Affairs) random deportations are leading to “serious tension”.

Hanekom also appealed to the government and non-profit organisations to provide humanitarian aid to a vast number of farmworkers who were facing hunger due to shop closures during the strike.

He said some of them had not been able to access their Anti Retroviral and TB drugs as the local clinic was shut down at the time of the strike.

Agri Wes-Cape spokesperson Porchia Adams confirmed yesterday that most farmworkers in the province, including those in De Doorns, had returned to work.

Provincial police spokesperson Andre Traut said the situation in the province was “quiet” yesterday but police were still monitoring the situation.  – Francis Hweshe

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