South Africa police probed over farm strike shooting

BY: Sebastian Syme


South Africa's police are being investigated after a man died during the on-going farm workers' strike in the wine-producing Western Cape region.

The country's Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID) said it would determine the police's involvement in the man's death.

Letsekang Thokoene, who was not a farm worker, was allegedly shot by rubber bullets on Monday.

South Africa has been hit by a series of wildcat strikes since last year.

The strikers, who pick and pack fruit, have been demanding their daily wage be more than doubled to about $17 (£11).


Community activists in De Doorns, where Mr Thokoene owned a small shop, told the BBC he got caught in the crossfire as police and protesters clashed.

Western Cape police said Mr Thokoene was taken to hospital where he later died.

The police refused to give further details about what happened.

The IPID said it would investigate all the circumstances that led to Mr Thokoene's death.

The Western Cape region is home to South Africa's multi-billion dollar wine industry where labour relations have been fraught with racial tension, more than 18 years after white minority rule ended.

Most of the area's 3,000 farm workers, who are black or mixed race, are not employed on a permanent basis - despite working on the farms for many years, the BBC's Pumza Fihlani reports from Johannesburg.

They work seasonally to pick and pack fruit and say with rising costs they can no longer survive on their current wages.

But farmers, who are mainly white, are adamant they will go out of business if the minimum wage is raised, our reporter says.

The farms were hit by a strike last year, when two workers were killed in clashes with police and $11m-worth of damage was caused when some vineyards were set alight.

The strike resumed last week, despite intervention from unions, the government, farmers and other workers' representatives.

The governing African National Congress has called for workers to end violent protests, saying they were being used as a cover by criminals for their own purposes.