Premier Zille Requests Minister of Defence Mapisa-Nqakula to Deploy the SANDF in Western Cape Farm Areas
Media Statement by Helen Zille, Premier of the Western Cape.
Today, I have written to National Minister of Defence Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula to request her to authorise the deployment of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to play a peace keeping role in areas that could face renewed violence and arson, following warnings by Tony Ehrenreich (who represents both the ANC and COSATU) of a “low level civil war” in farming areas of the Western Cape.
I have also contacted Western Cape Provincial Police Commissioner Arno Lamoer asking him to support this request.
The context of my request is as follows:
Yesterday, National Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant announced that it was impossible to meet the 4 December deadline to review the current sectoral determination (minimum wages) for agriculture. She stated that according to current legislation this review could only take place in April next year.
In making this statement, Minister Oliphant effectively repudiated her Cabinet colleague, Agriculture Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson, who had promised farmworkers that a new minimum wage would be set by December 4. As a result of this promise, COSATU called off the illegal strike.
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.
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.
A recent media statement has been released by NGOs “Women on Farms”, Sikhule Sonke (We grow together) , BAWSI (Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry) which stated that if the minimum wage was not increased to R150 by 4 December there would be an intensification of protest actions, both in scope and militancy.
A pamphlet has been distributed amongst farm workers that call on them to strike on 4 December and demand amongst other things a R150 minimum wage, the dropping of disciplinary action against farm workers who went on strike and the re-employment of farm workers who were dismissed during the strike.
My request for the army to be deployed in a peace-keeping role in support of the police follows the challenges SAPS faced in limiting the destruction and multi-million Rand damages caused in the violent strike two weeks ago.
At the time, police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Andrè Traut stated that while every endeavor was being made to maintain law and order, the SAPS’s response time was “compromised and affected by the situation”.
When I wrote to President Zuma two weeks ago to request that the army be deployed to hotspot areas his spokesperson Mac Maharaj responded that there was no need for me to approach the President as he had already authorised the SANDF to support the SAPS in areas around the country.
The presidency released a statement in September which stated that soldiers would be deployed to support the police “in the prevention and combating of crime as well as the maintenance of law and order in the Marikana area, North West province and other areas around the country where needed”. The deployment would last from 14 September until 31 January 2013.
Mac Maharaj said that I was therefore entitled to approach Minister Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula and call for such assistance.
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.
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.