South Africa: Zille calls for defense force presence in farm areas
The premier of South Africa's Western Cape province has called on the national government to deploy defense forces for peacekeeping in farming areas, in a bid to prevent a repeat of the unrest that erupted this month over rural wages.
Helen Zille made the request to Minister of Defense Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula, asking her to authorize a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) presence in zones that faced renewed violence and arson.
In the letter, Zille claimed there was an increased threat of violence as the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) had only agreed to call off strikes on the proviso that a new minimum wage be set by Dec. 4; an outcome Minister of Labor Mildred Oliphant has described as "impossible".
"Minister Oliphant’s announcement has exposed the depth of conflict within the ANC over this issue and increased the threat of a new wave of violent strikes," Zille said.
"Western Cape COSATU Secretary Tony Ehrenreich (and ANC caucus leader in the Cape Town Council) responded by announcing that this “could see a reversal to the low-level civil war we all witnessed on farms a few weeks ago.”
"Ehrenreich’s statements corroborate evidence that some organisations, including the NGO “Women on Farms” and the newly established “United Democratic Front” spearheaded by Manenberg activist Mario Wanza, have been distributing pamphlets calling for a “day of action and mobilisation” on 4 December, as a prelude to further strike action."
Zille said the call for defense forces was made as the police (SAPS) faced challenges in limiting destruction in the event of violence.
"It is essential that the SANDF be brought in to hotspot areas so that they can play a peacekeeping role in order to support the SAPS to maintain law and order," she said.
"We must do everything we can to prevent the further outbreak of violence on farms in the province. Further unlawful strikes cannot serve the interests of the farm workers and will only result in the decline of the Agricultural sector which is the key source of jobs for unskilled labour in the Province.
"While law enforcement agencies have a crucial role to play in this regard, it is also vital that farmers, farm workers and communities living in farming areas remain calm and support the processes required by current legislation when reviewing the sectoral determination for agriculture."
COSATU has issued a release showing its support for bringing in the army, but more in the defense of farm workers than farm owners.
"COSATU supports the call by Premier Zille for the deployment of the army in the Western Cape to protect farm workers, but for very different reasons, given the murder of farm workers by the farmers’ security companies who can only be described as private armies or right-wing vigilantes and death squads," the release said.
"This killing of workers by the security companies and the brutality of farmers against workers can only be described as a low-level civil war. The farmers in a public meeting had called for farmers to arm and protect themselves, and said they would not be caught napping like 2 weeks ago, facts that Zille ignores.
"Zille agrees with the civil war characterisation and tries to raise all kinds of issues, which just confirms that her only concern is for the farmers and she has no regard for farm workers and their right to a decent wage or their right to protest."
The release said the Premier held a grudge against workers for "chasing her out of De Doorns and hopes the army will come and teach them a lesson".
"The Premier has not once tried to facilitate or participate in a meeting trying to find a solution. It is a sad indictment of a leader when the only thing she can do is call someone else to come and solve the problem.
"We need leadership in this time of crisis, not vuvuzela politics from the Premier."
Photo: Cape Times