South Africa: Farm workers' protests turn violent
Posted: 01/10/2013 at 1:03 pm
By: By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA
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South African Policeman provide security as farm workers demonstrate against low wages in the background, by placing rocks in a road, in the town of Grabouw, South Africa, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013. Striking farm workers on Wednesday set up barricades and threw stones at motorists and police in a South African province whose vineyards are vital to the wine industry, prompting riot officers to close roads and arrest at least 50 demonstrators, South African media reported. (AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam)
South African farm workers on Thursday fought police during protests for higher wages, blocking a highway and only dispersing when security forces used rubber bullets, a water cannon and stun grenades against them.
The violence was concentrated in the town of De Doorns in Western Cape province, and protests occurred in at least two other towns in the region. At least five people were arrested, according to Eyewitness News, a South African media outlet. Dozens were arrested on Wednesday, the first day of a strike by farmhands.
The South African Press Association said strikers used tractors to block a highway in De Doorns, but they abandoned the vehicles when police moved in aggressively. Smoke caused by small fires billowed in several parts of the road.
The news agency cited an agricultural workers' union as saying nine people have been injured by rubber bullets since Wednesday. Thousands of farm workers have participated in the protests, many throwing rocks at security forces.
The protesters want their daily wages to be more than doubled to 150 South African rand ($17.50). Vineyards in the province are key to South Africa's wine industry; laborers also work on apple and other fruit farms.
Last year, at least two people died in similar protests in the area.