South African police arrest 50 in farm protest



Johannesburg: South African police fired rubber bullets at striking farm workers who set up barricades and threw stones at motorists and security forces today in a province whose vineyards are vital to the wine industry. At least 50 demonstrators were arrested, authorities said.

Labour unrest was reported in several areas of Western Cape province, where similar protests last year also turned violent, causing at least two deaths.

Chaotic scenes unfolded in the town of Grabouw, where protesters, some carrying clubs, raced through the streets during clashes with riot police. One man taunted police by pointing a stick at them in the manner of someone lining up a rifle's sights. An injured female demonstrator grimaced as blood flowed down the side of her face.

Dozens of protesters looted a supermarket in Grabouw and dispersed when police arrived and ran into the store, guns drawn, reported Eyewitness News, a South African media outlet.

Footage on eNCA television showed debris in flames on a rock-strewn highway, and the smashed window of a police vehicle. Security forces in helmets patrolled the area. Police Lt Col Andre Traut said police had arrested about 50 people across the province, according to the South African Press Association, or SAPA.

The protesters had sought to block roads in a campaign for higher wages and to prevent other farmhands from going to work. They want their daily wages to be more than doubled to 150 South African rand (USD 17.5), saying they can't survive on current salaries.

PTI