Leadership Must be Shown in Farmworker Strike Say Zille and Van Rensburg
Joint statement by Helen Zille Premier of the Western Cape, and Gerrit van Rensburg Minister of Agriculture
It is essential that Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant actively intervene in the violent farmworker strike currently underway which is centred in De Doorns and is now in its third day. There seems to be no resolution on the horizon and Minister Oliphant needs to be at the forefront of finding one, pending the sectoral determination process that will conclude in March.
She needs to bring together the relevant stakeholders to facilitate discussions and reach an agreement that would calm tensions and ensure that the harvest season is not disrupted. Failure to do so will see very severe consequences not only for the Western Cape but for South Africa as a whole. As I stated in a letter to President Jacob Zuma on 13 November 2012, this crisis “…will very seriously impact on our food export industry and the hundreds of thousands of people who are dependent on it. It will also have a profound impact on the fundamental issue of food security in South Africa.”
The disruption of farm operations at this time does not serve the interests of farmworkers and has shaken investor confidence resulting in a drop in South Africa’s credit rating last night, as reported today in the media. This development, linked very much to the violent nature of the crisis, will only result in the decline of the agricultural sector which is the key source of jobs for unskilled workers in the Province.
It is critical that we begin to stabilise the situation. While Minister Oliphant has a legislated role to play as far as the sectoral determination is concerned, her deafening silence in the face of this crisis must be challenged.
We are calling urgently on Minister Oliphant to show strong and decisive leadership that will result in a constructive short-term outcome. As the responsible Minister, she must not hide behind due process or use it as an excuse for inaction – hands-on leadership and intervention are needed now to prevent further injury and damage. It is incumbent on the Labour Minister to make the first move in defusing the situation through visible and proactive engagement.
Furthermore, she must apply pressure on her political comrades in the area, such as ANC councillor Pat Marran and union leader Nosey Pieterse, to stop their inflaming and stoking of the situation because their agitating is only making her job more difficult and is obstructive to reaching a solution.