Farmers Strike Back against Insurgent Farmworkers movement

first published in Groundup 
by Benjamin Fogel and Jeanne Hefez
Cancellation of a planned march by the farmworkers coalition against alleged intimidation by farmers has led to claims that the City of Cape Town is complicit in undermining the new R105 minimum wage.

In the backdrop of the scheduled minimum wage increase in the agricultural sector for farmworkers, a planned mass march to Parliament has been blocked by the City of Cape Town, according to the Farmworkers Strike Coalition. According to Karel Swarts of the Strike Coalition, the coalition is “devastated about the refusal to march and the decision is clearly based on politics, which we cannot accept in the new South Africa”. However, according to the Cape Times, the City claims that the coalition postponed the march on its own terms. Continue reading


Police Brutality in the new South Africa

first published in the Zambizian

The police in South Africa have taken yet another life, this time that of a 27 year old Mozambican Taxi Driver in Daveyton a neighbourhood in East Johannesburg . Mido Marcia was killed for parking on the wrong side of the road and having the guts to challenge the officer attempting to arrest him. For this he was handcuffed to the back of a police truck and dragged several hundred meters down the road in front of a crowd amassed at a taxi rank. Later it seems like he was beaten to death by police officers in a cell in a two hour assault.

In his death, but not through any deed of his own he joins the ranks of those recently slain by the police beginning with Andries Tatane in Ficksburg a few years ago and that of Mambush- or the man with the Green Blanket as he has become known in popular representations.

Despite some truly despicable police spin, there was evidence that would not go away, in this case the initial incident was caught on film and handed to the Daily Sun a mass circulation tabloid who exposed the footage which has since gone ‘viral’. Continue reading

‘Blacklisted’ Farmworker urges politicians to listen

Despite going from being a scab to striking worker and being recently unemployed, Jaurie Scheepers remains hopeful. “My God will make a plan for me”.

from the mail and guardian a few weeks back

He is in his late 30s and has been living in the De Doorns Stofland informal settlement for five years with his wife and two children. Since he lost his job, he has been worried about feeding them.

At the beginning of the farmworkers’s strike, Scheepers was a scab. But later, after having actively participated in the strike, he is now unable to work. He says he has been blacklisted by local farmers because he regularly spoke to the media. Continue reading

Continued existence of shacks is a real scandal

first published in Groundup
Yet another shack fire has devastated the BM section of Khayelitsha. On New Years morning fires raged through the community, leaving about 4,000 people homeless and killing at least four. The responses from authorities to what has now become a routine occurrence in the area have been mixed.

The response time of fire fighters was reportedly around two hours, despite the fire station being only a kilometer away. One City of Cape Town official Richard Bosman blamed the slow response time on the apparent obstruction of the routes to BM section caused by “resident’s belongings”. What that means in a community still lacking paved roads and desperately in need of “upgrading”, I do not know. Continue reading

The Selling of a Massacre: Media Complicity in Marikana Repression

a piece I wrote last year in response to the dangerous and pathetic media coverage

of the Marikana massacre which seems to be repeating itself of late

The 16th of August 2012 will surely join March 23 1960* and June 16 1976** as a day of infamy in South African history. The police force of the democratically elected government shot 102 black working-class miners (killing 34 and wounding 78), while arresting an additional 270 men at the Lonmin (London Mining) mine in the small North West town of Marikana. This followed the deaths of 10 other men in the week leading up to the massacre, beginning with the murder of two miners- allegedly by NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) officials.

The initial coverage of the massacre in the print media and the TV footage played out to the world appeared to indicate that the miners – carrying traditional weapons – were shot in a suicidal charge at the police lines. The blame for the deaths was largely placed at the feet of the ‘violent miners’ or the perceived opportunism of the independent union AMCU (Association of Mining and Construction workers Union), who ‘led’ the workers along by making false promises of being able to deliver successfully on the workers’ basic demand of a R12500 wage. Continue reading

Tensions remain following dismissals of workers in De Doorns

Hundreds of farmworkers in the De Doorns area have been fired after the end of the farmworkers strike in the area on 22 January. The strike had been called off by COSATU the week before, but the seemingly dominant union in the area, the Bawsi Agriculture Workers Union of South Africa (Bawusa), suspended the strike days later. Clashes between police and protesters resulted in at least one death, many injuries and 181 arrests of striking farmworkers.

Numerous groups of farmworkers returned home early throughout the day on Thursday 24 January, walking amongst the debris of the previous week’s clashes, on the way back from farms across the Hex River Valley. Speaking to a group of about 12 women that morning the Daily Maverick found that they had arrived at the farm only to find the gates barred and to be told they had been replaced by ‘loyal emergency workers’ from the nearby towns of Touws River and Worcester. Continue reading

British TV news airs footage refuting South African police claims about murdered Marikana miners. Where was the South African media?

published at Africa is a Country

Five months after the Marikana Massacre in South Africa, footage of police action at the ‘killing koppie‘ [“hill”] has finally reached the public. This footage somewhat predictably wasn’t brought to our attention by the local media, who have long since moved on to other things since the Marikana story stopped selling. Rather, it was Channel 4 in the United Kingdom who brought this footage to light. Why then did it take so long for the footage to reach us and why did it reach us in such a manner? Was it deliberately suppressed or is there a police whistleblower? One can reasonably speculate that the police were ordered to delete the evidence collected on their mobile phones in the aftermath of the massacre, but surely more footage has survived the culling of a cover-up.

Four months after the story of the killing koppie was brought into the mainstream media(working off the research of a group of University of Johannesburg sociologists) by Greg Marinovich and South African web-based publication Daily Maverick, cellphone footage taken by police at the scene of the massacre appears to provide further evidence to support Marinovitch’s claims of ‘execution style killings’. Continue reading