Reaping what you sow: reflections on the Western Cape farm workers strike

Reaping what you sow: reflections on the Western Cape farm workers strike

The series of strikes and protests that recently took place in and around farms in South Africa’s Western Cape Province was fuelled by the deep-seated anger and frustration that workers feel. On a daily basis, farm workers face not only appalling wages, bad living conditions and precarious work, but also widespread racism, intimidation and humiliation. The extent of the oppressive conditions run deep and it is not uncommon for workers to even be beaten by farm-owners and managers for perceived ‘transgressions’. Indeed, life for workers in the rural areas has always been harsh, but over the last two decades it has in many ways gotten even worse and poverty has in many cases grown.

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Workers' Strikes and the Battle for Public Opinion

04-07-2011-15-07-01-484mdf37715Ah, so we have the strike season with us again. And with every story goes the same tiresome media refrain: “intimidation.” This, of course, is bolstered by every tame economist saying what they are so well paid to say: “The strikes are bad for the country. Labour laws are too rigid and strikes will only scare off investors and drive up joblessness. The demands being made are way above necessary, and therefore, certain to fuel inflation.”

This is the kind of journalism akin to the millionth re-enactment of a long-running play – Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap, for instance, where the script has long ago been written and it’s only the casting of the central characters that gets adjusted.

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