South African farm strikes claim third victim: police

Reuters News
Posted: Jan 15, 2013 11:43 AM

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - A man died after he was hit by a rubber bullet during clashes between police and striking farm workers demanding higher wages in one of South Africa's main grape-growing regions, a police spokesman said on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old was the third person to die in a series of protests by workers in rural areas around Cape Town - the latest outburst of labor unrest to hit Africa's largest economy.

The man was hit as police confronted stone-throwing protesters in the town of De Doorns on Monday as a walk-out by thousands of farm workers entered its second week.

He died later that day in hospital and an independent police watchdog was now looking into the matter, said police spokesman F.C. van Wyk.

Two protesters were killed in similar circumstances in November when thousands of fruit pickers and packers in rural towns in the same area downed tools to demand a doubling of basic daily wages to 150 rand ($17.22) from the current 69 rand.

There has little let-up in a wave of labor unrest that began six months ago in the country's platinum mines and then swept through the trucking and agriculture sectors.

South Africa, struggling with slow economic growth, is also bracing for job losses and more unrest in its crucial mining sector, responsible for about 6 percent of the economy.

On Tuesday the world's top platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum said it would cut 14,000 jobs.

($1 = 8.7109 South African rand)

(Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Jon Herskovitz and Andrew Heavens)