THE African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape said on Tuesday it was suspicious of "the clear collusion" between the Democratic Alliance-run (DA-run) government and organised agriculture in the province.
Hundreds of protesting farm workers blocked the N1 highway at De Doorns, near Worcester, on Monday. The violent protests left some vineyards in flames, as protesters looted shops.
Police on Tuesday fired rubber bullets after protesters pelted stones at patrolling officers and reinforcements had to be called in an attempt to quell the violence.
A farmer was arrested for allegedly shooting at protesters. Six workers have so far been arrested in connection with the violence. It is understood that the striking workers in the area want their daily wages to be doubled, demanding a minimum wage of R130 per day.
ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman accused the DA’s agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg of siding and meeting with the farmers, "not the disgruntled farm workers, and calls in helicopters for reinforcements to fight unarmed labourers".
"It is shocking that one of the most affluent and financially viable produce areas in our country are paying farm workers a pittance.… Workers seem not to share in the profits there for decades now and the situation became untenable," said Mr Fransman.
"Some time ago, the ANC again raised the importance of farmers and organised agriculture to stop discriminating against these workers. In this area, farm workers still feel the brunt of apartheid abuse on farms," he said.
Mr Fransman said workers on the farms were being ill treated and it was "completely unacceptable that these things go on unchecked".
The Congress of South African Trade Unions in the province said it supported the workers’ demands and the community of De Doorns, for a "living wage and decent living conditions with basic services and proper housing plans". However, the union federation called on the workers and the community to desist from violence and unlawful acts.
Mr van Rensburg said the protests were politically motivated and not a "labour unrest". He said it was not traditional Western Cape farm workers who were behind the illegal protest action. "It is at this stage very difficult to identify the leadership of the protest, and therefore impossible to engage in dialogue with the protesters".
He was "saddened" to learn of farm workers who were being intimidated to partake in the protest.
In a late statement, DA Western Cape leader Ivan Meyer said the conflict in De Doorns had been defused. "Through intense mediatory discussions with all the stakeholders, we managed to defuse (Monday’s) conflict. "
Mr Meyer said it was "very clear" the local ANC has "once again played a large role in inciting the violence and vandalism".