CAPE TOWN Nov 14 A South African farm worker
was killed on Wednesday in protests sweeping the vineyards of
the Western Cape that have forced the government to consider
raising the minimum agricultural wage to avert further unrest.
Encouraged in part by violent strikes in the mining sector,
hundreds of seasonal workers in the farming belt around Cape
Town have gone on the rampage in the last week, blockading roads
with rocks and setting vineyards and warehouses ablaze.
Scores of protesters have been arrested, and police said a
28-year-old man in the town of Wolseley, 70 km (40 miles)
northwest of Cape Town, had died in an "incident" that was now
in the hands of the police complaints bureau.
"We are calling for an end to violence and wish to appeal to
the farm workers to give us a chance to attend to their
demands," acting Labour Minister Angie Motshekga told a news
conference at parliament in Cape Town.
The opposition Democratic Alliance, which controls the
Western Cape, has called for the army to be sent in to support
the stretched police force, although defence ministry officials
said the military had received no orders.
However, the protests, spurred on by high food inflation and
unemployment, have forced the government to start reviewing
labourers' pay under a law that lets it set the minimum wage
once a year in sectors such as farming and domestic work.
South African farm workers are among the lowest paid in the
country, and often live in squalid conditions with no hot water
Some are still paid in alcohol, part of a "tot system"
introduced during colonial times, although the wine industry,
which exports across the world, has moved to improve pay and
A Western Cape disaster management office reported fires at
numerous farms and fruit storage facilities over the past two
days in and around the Hex River valley, where many of the 16
towns hit by the protests are situated.
(Reporting by Wendell Roelf and Samantha Lee; Editing by Ed
Cropley and Tom Pfeiffer)