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CAPE

Cape Agulhas Dune Fynbos - Overberg. Picture courtesy South African Tourism. Visit their flickr pageThe beautiful Western Cape draws millions of visitors each year, and foreign investors are snapping up valuable properties in the Province. For many South Africans it’s a favourite holiday destination, with many even moving to the Province to retire or seek a better quality of life.  Bordered by two oceans – the warm Indian Ocean to the south and the cold Atlantic to the west – The Western Cape Province is truly diverse in its beauty – from the wild Cape Agulhas coast with its sparse, sweeping stretches of sand, punctuated only by rocky outcrops and solitary fishing villages; to the sun-drenched vineyards of the Cape Winelands, and the magnificent Garden Route with its emerald lakes and indigenous forests. Even the magnificent passes which reach into the interior; and the wide and arid, windswept spaces of the Klein Karoo, seem part of a fantasy landscape that often defies description. 

12 Apostles & Camps Bay. Picture courtesy Christopher Griner. Visit his flickr page.The challenge of developing a coastal garden in the Cape has often deterred even the most resolute of home owners. Often faced with impoverished soils at the coast and at times severe summer drought, the amateur and even knowledgeable gardeners often struggle to secure plant cover which is hardy and yet at the same time functional. The Western Cape Province is exceptionally topographically and climatologically diverse, with many distinct micro and macroclimates, created by the varied topography and the influence of the surrounding ocean currents. Because topography and climatic statistics can vary greatly over even short distances, this can pose many problems for gardeners, unless you understand the subtle nuances of your particular region.

Worcester Karoo Flowers. Picture courtesy South African Tourism. Visit their flickr page.In summer the climate is influenced by westerly winds originating from a high-pressure system originating in the Atlantic Ocean and which settles semi-permanently over the southern and western parts of the country. The cold northward-flowing Benguela Current not only cools the west coast considerably but also contributes to the dryness and stability of the atmosphere. During winter cold polar air moves over the southwestern, southern, and south-eastern coastal areas, sometimes reaching the southern interior of the country from the southwest. These polar masses are accompanied by cold fronts as well as by rain and snow.

Most of the province is considered to have a typical Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters, and warm, dry summers with very little rainfall. Thunderstorms are generally rare in the province (except in the Karoo), and extremes of heat and cold are common inland, but rare near the coast. Snow is a common winter occurrence on the Western Cape Mountains occasionally reaching down into the inland valleys. Otherwise, frost is relatively rare in coastal areas and many of the heavily cultivated valleys. Both the Great Karoo and Little Karoo in the interior have an arid to semi-arid climate, typified by many species of succulents and drought-resistant shrubs and thorn trees; with cold, frosty winters and hot summers with occasional thunderstorms.

Camps Bay. Picture courtesy Warren Rohner. Visit his flickr page From spring to late summer a strong, often persistent and dry south-easterly wind blows on the South African coastline. Although the wind blows over a wide area of the Western Cape Province, it is especially notorious in and around the Cape Peninsula, where it can be unpleasantly strong and irritating. Capetonians also call it “The South-Easter” or “The Cape Doctor” because of a local belief that it clears Cape Town of pollution and ‘pestilence’. The South Easter is usually accompanied by fair weather. However, if the South-Easter is accompanied by a cut-off low as occasionally happens in the spring and autumn months, this can cause heavy rains to fall over the Western Cape. This phenomenon is popularly known as a “Black South-Easter”. The Laingsburg flood of January 1981 was caused by heavy rains as part of a black South-Easter. However, meteorological records for Cape Town show that the north-westerly winds of winter can be far stronger than the South-Easter, and these winds are usually accompanied by rain, which can fall for days and even weeks.

The hottest month of a typical year in the Western Cape is the month of February, but during March and April the weather of the region becomes idyllic as the summer heat subsides and the wind settles down.

Mossel Bay. Picture courtesy Bob Adams. Visit his flickr pageThe province is divided into three rainfall regions:  Winter Rainfall Region; Year-round Rainfall Region; Late-summer Rainfall Region. The winter rainfall region covers the western half of the Province, including Cape Town and the west coast, and cold fronts are the major rain-producing system in this region. The late-summer rainfall area includes the region around Beaufort West which receives most of its rainfall from late summer thunderstorms that occur between March and May. The year-round rainfall region includes most of the south coast, and Mossel Bay in the Garden Route is considered to have the second mildest climate worldwide after Hawaii. This region receives rain when an onshore wind pushes moist air inland and up against the mountains in summer and from cold fronts in winter. This region also commonly experiences thunderstorms which develop over the interior and then move towards the coast.

View of the Langeberg. Picture courtesy Atelier Design Studio. Visit their flickr page.The Overberg, literally over the Hottentots-Holland Mountains, via Sir Lowry’s Pass, is a region of such immense beauty that it attracts thousands of visitors each year to its forests, orchards, grain fields, and vistas of rolling mountain ranges. This great expanse of beautiful and diverse landscapes stretches from the Hottentots-Holland Mountains in the west, to Swellendam in the east; and in the north it reaches as far as the Riviersonderend Mountains and south to include an incredible coastline. The Overberg is known as a gateway to the Garden Route coastal stretch, and both regions have a maritime climate with extremely lush vegetation with cool, moist winters and mild, moist summers. In its temperate rainforests (or Afromontane Forests), grow typical hardwood species of exceptional height, such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Ironwood trees, and these forests  cover many areas adjacent to the coast, reaching inland in deep river valleys and along the southern slopes of the Outeniqua mountain range.

Temperatures also vary greatly in the Province, near the coast the summer temperature rises from a pleasant low of 15° C in the morning to a pleasantly warm 27° C, and inland the temperatures are some 3 to 5° higher. Coastal winters see the mercury dropping to a mild 7° C at night and rising to a comfortable 18° C by day. Inland, the temperatures rise in the morning, from 5° C to approximately 22° C by midday. The Garden Route has a temperate climate with warm summers and mild winters, with gentle, intermittent precipitation. In winter the peaks of the Boland and the Cederberg Mountains are capped with snow, but with the onset of spring, the fast-retreating winter and summer sun, brings forth some of the world’s most spectacular wild flower displays.

Franschoek. Picture courtesy Darren Glanville. Visit his flickr pagePerhaps the most critical factor in developing a garden in the Western Cape is the soil factor, as soils are of absolute importance in maintaining plant growth and survival. The evolution of plants in the Cape has been governed by two vital soil factors. Number one is whether the soil is calcareous or not. The second is how wet the soil becomes during the rainy months and how freely it drains. If you know what your soil type is, you will be able to determine, to a large extent, which plants it is likely to support.

If you live close to the sea on the West coast, on False Bay or along the stretch from Hermanus to Cape Agulhas, and all the way to Port Elizabeth, your home has most likely been built on dune sand. Coastal dunes are highly calcareous, that is, they are rich in calcium, a chief component of lime, largely due to their origins from finely broken pieces of marine shells. This type of soil has a high pH and is alkaline. It also contains small quartz grains and only small amounts of organic matter, and is therefore poor in plant nutrients like nitrogen and potassium. This type of soil is hard to amend, so it is better to introduce indigenous plants which thrive on such soils.

Bettys Bay, Harold Porter Botanical Garden. Picture ourtesy Allan Watt. Visit his flickr page.If you live inland of the Betty’s Bay coast and many parts of the Cape Peninsula, your soil is probably derived from sandstone or even granite. These soils have low calcium content with a low pH, and are therefore acidic. Although granitic soils have a better texture and a browner colour due to the presence of clay minerals, and are slightly more fertile than those developed on sandstone, they are still low in the all-important nutrients for good plant growth.

An easy scientific method to determine if your soil is calcareous or not is to dilute one part battery acid with nine parts water and then add some soil. The acid reacts with the shell fragments to release the gas carbon dioxide, so, if the water fizzes it is calcareous.

Once you have established your soil type and ascertained what the drainage is like, you will be well on your way to knowing which plants will thrive and which simply won’t. It is far easier to grow plants suitable to the soil in your region than to try to amend the soil. Once your garden is more established, you can always add a few potted plants or raised beds to grow some of your favourite exotic plants in.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Picture courtesy Thomas Guillem. Visit his flickr pageThe selection of plants available to grow on calcareous soils is far less than those adaptable to acidic soils, so when selecting the right plants for your Cape garden it is most important that you consult with your local garden centre. They know what does well in your area, so do not hesitate to ask them for advice.

If you are totally new to gardening in the Cape, friendly neighbours can give invaluable advice, or you many even decide to take a stroll through your suburb or local parks to take small cuttings of plants which appeal to you. These can be identified by your local horticulturalist. Even if you live on a small plot, planting a garden will help to stabilise soil, prevent dust and sand blowing into your house, create shade to cool the house and provide a space for animals and plants to live – creating an ecosystem and supporting biodiversity.

Indigenous plants are the best choice for your main framework of trees and shrubs because they have evolved over eons to adapt to their local environment. Indigenous plants have also developed a symbiotic relationship with many of the insects, birds and local animals over a long time, creating a complex system of life that we must support, rather than disrupt, in order to sustain the huge variety of life forms in the eco-system. In addition, local plants are adapted to the soil types and precipitation where they occur naturally and will require little supplementary watering – reducing the amount of water you need to keep your garden beautiful.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Picture courtesy Thomas Guillem. Visit his flickr page.Remember, when planting indigenous plants it is most important that you chose plants that grow wild in your immediate vicinity, because plants from even a small distance away may cross-pollinate with other related wild species to form hybrids, and this may undermine conservation efforts. Be extremely careful not to plant any invasive alien species in your garden. Invasive alien species such as Rooikrans and Fountain Grass pose some of the greatest threats to biodiversity and also increase the risk of severe wild fires.

Because different localities in the Cape present a variety of growing conditions, including rainfall, wind exposure and soil type, one plant list will not suit everyone. Compiling lists for each region separately is also most exhaustive, so for now, I have compiled general plant lists which will help you with your selection, but which will still require some homework on your part to hone your list down to only those plants which are perfect for your area.

For convenience sake, these plant lists will be published in separate articles, so keep posted to Gardening in South Africa for more.


Gardening in South Africa

Mr Noseyman (Nosey) Pieterse, who emerged as a key figure behind the “strikes”, is mobilising for the next round of the “rural struggle” he claims to lead.

From years of experience, I know that when I am in a political pressure cooker, it is best to allow the heat to subside and some steam to escape before analysing what happened.

The Real Story behind the Western Cape’s Farm Violence

Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance (Photo: DA)

At the height of a crisis, when perceptions are sharply polarised, people aren’t prepared to question their pre-conceptions. They only see the “evidence” that supports their prejudices.

The recent “farm strikes” that shook the Western Cape for most of December and January (with a short Christmas break) was a case in point.

Let’s look at what really happened, not because the crisis is behind us, but because we are in a lull between storms. By all accounts, Mr Noseyman (Nosey) Pieterse, who emerged as a key figure behind the “strikes”, is mobilising for the next round of the “rural struggle” he claims to lead. Mr Pieterse wears several hats. He is simultaneously a farmer, the President of an association of BEE farmers in the wine and spirit industry, as well as a trade union leader, organising workers in the industry.

We should, in the weeks ahead, be prepared for the possibility of further rural “strikes”. In this context, it would help to have a better understanding of the crisis from which we have just emerged.

Before I begin, let me be clear: the life of a seasonal farm labourer is a very difficult one. Thousands of poverty stricken people come to the Western Cape from across Southern Africa (particularly Zimbabwe, Lesotho and the Eastern Cape) for the fruit-picking season, desperately seeking work in one of the few remaining sectors that employ unskilled labour. Many of these migrants have remained in the Province permanently and have set up “home” in shack settlements on the outskirts of rural towns. Unemployed for most of the year, they rely on the short fruit-picking season to earn some income, much of which disappears immediately into the coffers of loan sharks on whom they depend to keep their families alive. And as growing numbers of desperate work-seekers arrive, the competition intensifies between them for the shrinking number of jobs available, a result of the consolidation of farms and escalating mechanisation. As tough as it is to survive on the daily minimum wage, it is far tougher to earn nothing at all. And, as happens world-wide in situations of conflict over scarce resources, individuals band together in groups to protect and advance their interests. In divided societies, the fault line between groups is often determined by ethnicity. Here there are four distinct groups of seasonal work-seekers on the Province’s deciduous fruit and grape farms: Zimbabweans, Basotho, amaXhosa and traditional Western Cape farm workers, who would (in terms of the old apartheid designations) have been classified Coloured.

This is fertile ground for exploitation. And so it is easy to see how the dominant (but entirely misleading) narrative arose: “heartless white farmers and labour brokers make ‘super profits’ by using ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics to drive down workers’ wages as their lives deteriorate”.

It is easy to see how this narrative fuelled the anger and rage that led to the destruction of tens of millions of Rands worth of farm infrastructure (packing sheds, cooling stores, tractors, orchards and vineyards) in an orgy of violence lasting several weeks.

And one can discern the ANC’s interest in fuelling this narrative. It was a golden opportunity to drive a wedge between two strong sectors of DA support — farmers and farm workers – while seeking to position the DA on the side of “heartless farmers” and the ANC as the “champion of exploited workers”.

Unsurprisingly, this narrative was parroted by many observers, reinforcing stereotypes and creating conditions conducive to disinvestment and job losses in a sector that is the backbone of the Western Cape’s economy.

Except that the truth was the exact opposite.

I have rarely come across a case study that so graphically illustrates the disjuncture between perception and reality.

Some of the key facts (that explode this narrative) are as follows:

  • The workers’ protests started on a farm called Keurboschkloof, previously a model farm in the Western Cape where workers were paid far above the minimum wage. When the farmer, Pierre Smit, died, his farm was taken over by a Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) consortium that immediately CUT WORKERS’ WAGES from an average of R14.51 to R10.60 per hour.
  • This, understandably, elicited protests by workers, further aggravated by the fact that a former ANC Councillor, who is also a labour broker, tried to bring in “scab labour” at the behest of this BEE consortium to replace the protesting workers.
  • Braam Hanekom (nephew of an ANC Cabinet member) and his organisation “Passop” sought to unionise the workers for the COSATU affiliate, the Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU).
  • He was challenged by Nosey Pieterse, a rival unionist, who claimed sole right to organise workers in the area.
  • When the protests spread to the Royal Mushroom Farm and Normandy Farm in mid-October, I was tipped off about an ANC strategy to “bring Marikana to the farms of the Western Cape” – a phrase used repeatedly by the ANC, and particularly Tony Ehrenreich, who combines a role as COSATU provincial general secretary and the ANC caucus leader in the City of Cape Town.
  • And as the protests spread, ANC Western Cape Leader Marius Fransman made his presence felt, announcing “die Boere gaan k.k”, while the Minister of Agriculture, Tina Joemat-Petterrson also visited the area and used inflammatory language.
  • But the one Minister actually responsible for labour matters, Mildred Oliphant, remained abroad for weeks, and did not bother to cut her trip short despite the protest against the minimum wage SHE HAD SET. All the while, the ANC sought to blame the farmers.

So the truth is exactly the opposite of the prevailing narrative

In fact, the best option available for unskilled, seasonal farm workers in South Africa is to secure a job with a farmer like Pierre Smit, who is not a rare exception in the Western Cape. In fact, research by Ben Stanwix of UCT’s Development Policy Unit shows that on average farmers pay significantly higher wages in the Western Cape than other provinces. This is one of the reasons why tens of thousands of desperately poor people leave their homes in far more fertile regions across Southern Africa to seek work on the rocky mountain slopes of De Doorns and other farms in the Western Cape.

The truth also reveals a number of profound ironies

Irony number one: while the ANC was slamming “heartless white farmers”, many of them were actually paying their workers more than the minimum wage that had been set by the ANC Minister of Labour, Mildred Oliphant, in consultation with COSATU.

Irony number two: When the workers went on strike in protest, and the ANC was slamming labour brokers for playing a role in the exploitation of workers, a former ANC councillor, Nelie Barends, who is also a labour broker, tried to provide the BEE farming consortium that took over Keurboschkloof farm with scab labour. In fact, throughout the period that the ANC was slamming labour brokers’ in the Hex River Valley, their own members (including ANC councillor Pat Marran and his wife) were playing a key role as brokers supplying seasonal labour to farms.

Irony number three: as the ANC, Passop, FAWU and Nosey Pieterse claimed to be representing the interest of the workers they were actually at war with each other, a conflict which seriously jeopardised worker interests, causing serious divisions and infighting between different groups of workers, usually divided on an ethnic basis. But they all shared one common goal: to convince workers that their “war” was actually with the farmers. All the while, ANC politicians sought to spread the unrest across the province for their political advantage.

Irony number four: While the ANC accused farmers of fanning xenophobia, it has actually been driven by labour brokers representing differing groups of workers, and exploiting the fault lines caused by ANC policy. While Zimbabweans were legalised through a special amnesty of the Department of Home Affairs (with the support of the farmers), workers from Lesotho were excluded from the amnesty and their employment was deemed illegal and penalised through heavy fines. This meant that thousands of Basotho who had been previously employed, were now unemployed due to ANC policies, while the ANC sought to fan and exploit their anger to spread the unrest.

Irony number five: While the ANC claims to be against labour brokers, it was the farmers, together with the Zimbabwean workers who really fought to get rid of these broker intermediaries. The Zimbabweans, in particular, resisted a consortium or labour brokers (including those with ANC links) who sought to extract from farmers R10 per day for every worker the brokers placed in a job. Zimbabweans wanted to contract directly with farmers, without an intermediary role of labour brokers. This was vehemently opposed by the labour brokers, dominated by ANC public representatives, who were determined to defend the “super profits” they earned from placing workers.

Irony number six: The ANC and its various allied organisations, were happy to drive the conflict between the Basotho, Zimbabweans, and local labour to extend the unrest throughout rural areas, in their attempts to present the Western Cape as being exploitative, racist, and ungovernable.

Why should anyone believe me? Go and read the primary academic research such as Ben Stanwix’s article “Minimum wages and compliance in South African agriculture” as well as a discussion document by Jan Theron (co-ordinator of the Labour and Enterprise Policy Research Group at UCT) titled “Changing employment trends on farms in the Hex and Breede River valleys” and the research paper “Violence, Labour and the Displacement of Zimbabweans in De Doorns, Western Cape” written by Jean Pierre Misago of the University of the Witwatersrand’s Forced Migration Studies Programme that contain some in-depth interviews on this matter (over and above my direct discussions with farm workers and farmers).

There is much priceless information out there if one is prepared to join the dots

The best of all of these is an article titled “Oogsten in Afrika” published in the magazine Quote in October 2012, which quotes Anton de Vries, the Dutch co-founder of the BEE consortium that took over Keurboschkloof farm (that cut worker wages as soon as they took over) saying he had set up a venture to “profit” from land reform. He boasted that it was an official partner of the ANC national government and has contacts in the highest levels, which is its greatest asset.

It is time we woke up and saw what is really happening in our platteland, instead of continuing to bow before the ANC’s warped and deliberately distorted version of events.

The reality is that while most farmers pay significantly higher than the minimum wage they are struggling to make ends meet because of the low return on their product. For example, a “Capturing Gains” research project revealed that when it comes to the final retail price for table grapes from Hex River Valley imported to the United Kingdom, 42% goes to supermarkets, 32% to distributors, while only 18% is retained by the farmers, who must cover all their costs from this return.

Instead, of falling prey to the ANC’s ‘divide-and-rule’ tactics, farmers, farm workers, civil society and government need to work together to address this highly distorted value chain and increase profitability on farms so that the individuals putting in the hard work start reaping the benefits.

By Helen Zille, Leader of the Democratic Alliance – 17 March 2013

The Real Story behind the Western Cape’s Farm Violence


South Africa News

The Western Cape labour conflict is being contested in more arenas than merely the farmlands. It’s descending into a war of words, too, with the DA laying a charge of incitement to violence against Cosatu Western Cape Secretary Tony Ehrenreich, after the distribution of Nehawu’s contentious poster.

The staff of Cape Town Central Police Station must know the drill by now. Politicians march in, trailed by journalists, and announce they wish to lay a charge of incitement to violence. It first happened last Wednesday, when ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile, provincial legislature chief whip Pierre Uys and Boland party chair Pat Marran trotted in to file lay a charge of incitement against Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. Zille, they said, had agitated the violence in the winelands through her behaviour on Twitter.

The police officer taking down the statement asked what proof they had. Mjongile produced a bundle of pages and said they contained a record of Zille’s tweets on the subject of the winelands protests. Among the tweets they singled out as problematic was her suggestion on 14 November that “Reports coming that a farmer has died after being assaulted in Wellington. Grave risk of retaliation. Zuma must bring in SADF.” Zille shortly afterwards tweeted casting doubt on whether this was true, and then again later the same day retracted the claim, but ANC Provincial Secretary Songezo Mjongile said the damage had been done. Mjongile alleged that farmers had mobilised on Facebook as a result of Zille’s claims, leading to the assault of farmworkers.

Zille called the charge against her a “publicity stunt”. But apparently a lot can change in a week, because the DA has now laid its own charges of incitement against Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich, on the basis of a pamphlet being circulated around Cape Town.

The DA must have had to do some thorough testing of the authenticity of the pamphlet, because during the current labour unrest they have already been caught out once leaping on a document which turned out to be false – the fake ANC flyer purporting to offer workers money for participating in protests. The ANC, you might recall, then claimed that the DA themselves had made it, in another bizarre round of their political ping-pong.

But this time round, it seems that the pamphlet is indeed legitimate – and it has nothing to do with farmworkers. It bears the logo of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and features a picture of Western Cape Cosatu leader Tony Ehrenreich raising his fist while addressing a crowd. “Cosatu speaks to Western Cape government workers,” runs the heading, and beneath that is a call to government workers to “picket against DA persecution” by joining a protest on Friday 30 November outside the Provincial Legislature.

“Nehawu is calling on ALL the workers in the provincial government to show their disgust at the apartheid style persecution of professionals who are not seen as DA party hacks!” it reads. Under the photo of Ehrenreich, it reminds the reader: “Cde Tony Ehrenreich has warned Premier Helen Zille on the imminent Marikana of the Western Cape!!!”

At the bottom, in capital letters, it concludes: “FEEL IT!!! WESTERN CAPE MARIKANA IS HERE!!!

Feel it! Western Cape Marikana is here!

FEEL IT!!! WESTERN CAPE MARIKANA IS HERE!!!

It is the latter phrasing that has caused outrage. Since “Feel it” was one of the World Cup catchphrases, the exhortation seems to try to yoke the excitement of 2010 to the horror of the Marikana miners’ strike, in which over 40 people died. Nick Clelland, the Western Cape government’s director of strategic communication, tweeted in response to the pamphlet: “What sort of nasty mind conflates the joy of the World Cup with Marikana?”

And so DA Western Cape leader Ivan Meyer duly arrived at the Barrack Street police station on Thursday afternoon to lay charges of incitement to violence against Tony Ehrenreich, in his capacity as Cosatu provincial secretary. “Cosatu is using the symbolism and violence of Marikana to promote its public gatherings,” the DA announced. The pamphlet, said the DA, “resonates with Mr Ehrenreich’s highly inflammatory remark earlier this month when he said ‘Marikana is coming to the farms in the Western Cape’.”

According to reports, Ehrenreich allegedly made the statement on 7 November during meetings in De Doorns, when he said that “the ill treatment and under-payment of workers by some farmers must stop, otherwise we will see a Marikana in De Doorns”. This statement seems substantially different in tone and meaning – a warning rather than an exhortation – to that of the offending Nehawu posters, but the DA sees the two as amounting to much the same thing.

The Daily Maverick asked Nehawu provincial secretary Luthando Logcinisa if the posters were authentic. Yes, he said. He explained that they grew out of a frustration on the part of the union that the provincial government was refusing to engage with them on “a number of issues we are unhappy about”. Among these, he cited the case of 50 Nehawu members in the Department of Social Development who are being made to re-apply for their jobs two years after being appointed, because “they were informed that the process that they had undergone was done incorrectly.” Logcinisa said: “We said, there is no way that two years later you can ask people to re-apply for their jobs.”

The DA’s Western Cape media manager, Liza Albrecht, responded to this by calling the claim “confused”, telling the Daily Maverick that “the Social Development Department is restructuring and modernising its organogram in order to best serve the public.”

Another issue worrying Nehawu, Logcinisa said, was “the rate at which Nehawu shop stewards are being targeted” within provincial government. If the union’s shop stewards speak out, he claimed, they end up “getting charged with something”. (The DA said it did not see “any substance” to this claim.) Logcinisa also alleged that there had been a “systematic purging” of people of colour from senior management positions.

In response to this claim, Albrecht sent the Daily Maverick statistics to show that the workforce profile statistics for the Western Cape government’s four upper occupation levels (Top Management, Senior Management, Professionally Qualified and Skilled Technical) indicate that 77.7% (39, 276 of 50, 521) “fall within the designated ‘black’ group”.

Regardless of Nehawu’s claims, however, what about the issue of whether it was appropriate to reference Marikana in publicising a government picket? “What we were saying was that the employer, the provincial government, has come up with innovative ways of suppressing dissent,” Logcinisa said. But why link the picket to an event where many people died? “No, what we were saying is not about dying,” he said. “It’s about defiance. We are going to defy their unlawfulness. The DA claims to uphold the laws, but they flout them whenever they feel like it.”

He said also that Tony Ehrenreich was not involved with the production of the posters – that they were solely a Nehawu initiative.

The DA’s Albrecht told the Daily Maverick that the issue of whether Ehrenreich had actually had a role in the poster production was moot, in that the charge had been laid against him in his capacity as provincial secretary of Cosatu. “Nehawu is an affiliate of Cosatu and therefore Cosatu and Ehrenreich are responsible,” she said.

“It must be clear that the issue here is the glorifying of Marikana even as grieving families mourn those who lost their lives in that tragedy,” Albrecht said. “These Nehawu claims are so broad and baseless that it confuses the issue, which is the inciteful language in the poster.”

There has been a dangerously loose use of language from many quarters during the Western Cape labour dispute. Premier Helen Zille was also strongly criticised by refugee rights groups for citing unrest between Basotho and Zimbabweans as a contributor to the issue, with groups like People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) saying the citing of xenophobic tensions could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In calling the people of the Western Cape to merrily rally around Marikana in order to picket the provincial legislature, however, Nehawu has surely overstepped the mark, any mark.

SourceUnion poster: ‘Feel it! Western Cape Marikana is here!’

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[Source: South Africa News]

The Western Cape labour conflict is being contested in more arenas than merely the farmlands. It’s descending into a war of words, too, with the DA laying a charge of incitement to violence against Cosatu Western Cape Secretary Tony Ehrenreich, after the distribution of Nehawu’s contentious poster.

The staff of Cape Town Central Police Station must know the drill by now. Politicians march in, trailed by journalists, and announce they wish to lay a charge of incitement to violence. It first happened last Wednesday, when ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile, provincial legislature chief whip Pierre Uys and Boland party chair Pat Marran trotted in to file lay a charge of incitement against Western Cape Premier Helen Zille. Zille, they said, had agitated the violence in the winelands through her behaviour on Twitter.

The police officer taking down the statement asked what proof they had. Mjongile produced a bundle of pages and said they contained a record of Zille’s tweets on the subject of the winelands protests. Among the tweets they singled out as problematic was her suggestion on 14 November that “Reports coming that a farmer has died after being assaulted in Wellington. Grave risk of retaliation. Zuma must bring in SADF.” Zille shortly afterwards tweeted casting doubt on whether this was true, and then again later the same day retracted the claim, but ANC Provincial Secretary Songezo Mjongile said the damage had been done. Mjongile alleged that farmers had mobilised on Facebook as a result of Zille’s claims, leading to the assault of farmworkers.

Zille called the charge against her a “publicity stunt”. But apparently a lot can change in a week, because the DA has now laid its own charges of incitement against Cosatu provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich, on the basis of a pamphlet being circulated around Cape Town.

The DA must have had to do some thorough testing of the authenticity of the pamphlet, because during the current labour unrest they have already been caught out once leaping on a document which turned out to be false – the fake ANC flyer purporting to offer workers money for participating in protests. The ANC, you might recall, then claimed that the DA themselves had made it, in another bizarre round of their political ping-pong.

But this time round, it seems that the pamphlet is indeed legitimate – and it has nothing to do with farmworkers. It bears the logo of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and features a picture of Western Cape Cosatu leader Tony Ehrenreich raising his fist while addressing a crowd. “Cosatu speaks to Western Cape government workers,” runs the heading, and beneath that is a call to government workers to “picket against DA persecution” by joining a protest on Friday 30 November outside the Provincial Legislature.

“Nehawu is calling on ALL the workers in the provincial government to show their disgust at the apartheid style persecution of professionals who are not seen as DA party hacks!” it reads. Under the photo of Ehrenreich, it reminds the reader: “Cde Tony Ehrenreich has warned Premier Helen Zille on the imminent Marikana of the Western Cape!!!”

At the bottom, in capital letters, it concludes: “FEEL IT!!! WESTERN CAPE MARIKANA IS HERE!!!

Feel it! Western Cape Marikana is here!

FEEL IT!!! WESTERN CAPE MARIKANA IS HERE!!!

It is the latter phrasing that has caused outrage. Since “Feel it” was one of the World Cup catchphrases, the exhortation seems to try to yoke the excitement of 2010 to the horror of the Marikana miners’ strike, in which over 40 people died. Nick Clelland, the Western Cape government’s director of strategic communication, tweeted in response to the pamphlet: “What sort of nasty mind conflates the joy of the World Cup with Marikana?”

And so DA Western Cape leader Ivan Meyer duly arrived at the Barrack Street police station on Thursday afternoon to lay charges of incitement to violence against Tony Ehrenreich, in his capacity as Cosatu provincial secretary. “Cosatu is using the symbolism and violence of Marikana to promote its public gatherings,” the DA announced. The pamphlet, said the DA, “resonates with Mr Ehrenreich’s highly inflammatory remark earlier this month when he said ‘Marikana is coming to the farms in the Western Cape’.”

According to reports, Ehrenreich allegedly made the statement on 7 November during meetings in De Doorns, when he said that “the ill treatment and under-payment of workers by some farmers must stop, otherwise we will see a Marikana in De Doorns”. This statement seems substantially different in tone and meaning – a warning rather than an exhortation – to that of the offending Nehawu posters, but the DA sees the two as amounting to much the same thing.

The Daily Maverick asked Nehawu provincial secretary Luthando Logcinisa if the posters were authentic. Yes, he said. He explained that they grew out of a frustration on the part of the union that the provincial government was refusing to engage with them on “a number of issues we are unhappy about”. Among these, he cited the case of 50 Nehawu members in the Department of Social Development who are being made to re-apply for their jobs two years after being appointed, because “they were informed that the process that they had undergone was done incorrectly.” Logcinisa said: “We said, there is no way that two years later you can ask people to re-apply for their jobs.”

The DA’s Western Cape media manager, Liza Albrecht, responded to this by calling the claim “confused”, telling the Daily Maverick that “the Social Development Department is restructuring and modernising its organogram in order to best serve the public.”

Another issue worrying Nehawu, Logcinisa said, was “the rate at which Nehawu shop stewards are being targeted” within provincial government. If the union’s shop stewards speak out, he claimed, they end up “getting charged with something”. (The DA said it did not see “any substance” to this claim.) Logcinisa also alleged that there had been a “systematic purging” of people of colour from senior management positions.

In response to this claim, Albrecht sent the Daily Maverick statistics to show that the workforce profile statistics for the Western Cape government’s four upper occupation levels (Top Management, Senior Management, Professionally Qualified and Skilled Technical) indicate that 77.7% (39, 276 of 50, 521) “fall within the designated ‘black’ group”.

Regardless of Nehawu’s claims, however, what about the issue of whether it was appropriate to reference Marikana in publicising a government picket? “What we were saying was that the employer, the provincial government, has come up with innovative ways of suppressing dissent,” Logcinisa said. But why link the picket to an event where many people died? “No, what we were saying is not about dying,” he said. “It’s about defiance. We are going to defy their unlawfulness. The DA claims to uphold the laws, but they flout them whenever they feel like it.”

He said also that Tony Ehrenreich was not involved with the production of the posters – that they were solely a Nehawu initiative.

The DA’s Albrecht told the Daily Maverick that the issue of whether Ehrenreich had actually had a role in the poster production was moot, in that the charge had been laid against him in his capacity as provincial secretary of Cosatu. “Nehawu is an affiliate of Cosatu and therefore Cosatu and Ehrenreich are responsible,” she said.

“It must be clear that the issue here is the glorifying of Marikana even as grieving families mourn those who lost their lives in that tragedy,” Albrecht said. “These Nehawu claims are so broad and baseless that it confuses the issue, which is the inciteful language in the poster.”

There has been a dangerously loose use of language from many quarters during the Western Cape labour dispute. Premier Helen Zille was also strongly criticised by refugee rights groups for citing unrest between Basotho and Zimbabweans as a contributor to the issue, with groups like People Against Suffering, Oppression and Poverty (Passop) saying the citing of xenophobic tensions could become a self-fulfilling prophecy. In calling the people of the Western Cape to merrily rally around Marikana in order to picket the provincial legislature, however, Nehawu has surely overstepped the mark, any mark.

SourceUnion poster: ‘Feel it! Western Cape Marikana is here!’

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[Source: South Africa News]

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[Source: South Africa News]

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