Police fire rubber bullets at striking S Africa farm workersAgence France-Presse . De Doorns
The South African police fired rubber bullets and teargas to disperse striking farm workers in the western fruit belt Wednesday amid fears that months of deadly wildcat action will flare-up again.
The 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 Wednesday, 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 armoured 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 protesters in Grabouw, around an hour’s drive away, threw rocks and looted shops.
In Wolseley 60 kilometres from De Doorns police also kept protestors from entering the town, but later removed the barriers as the numbers dwindled.
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