On Wed 14th Nov 2012 the General Secretary of Bawusa (Building and Allied Workers Union of SA), Nosey Pieterse, announced that the farm workers strike was suspended for 2 weeks. The Regional Secretary of Cosatu, Tony Ehrenreich, issued a similar statement, stating that if workers demands had not been met by the 4th December, workers could come back on strike.
On the same day, 3 workers were shot dead by police in Wolseley. At the same time a virtual state of emergency was placed on farming areas by the police as they attacked strikers. For the first time in centuries, the farm workers fought back, overturning some police vehicles and attacking some police stations. Workers were furious that the union leaders had not consulted them and resolved to continue the strike until at least the demand for a minimum of R150 per day was gazetted. After the shooting of workers, some strikers said they were no longer fighting for R150 but now demanded R200 per day. Many were also raising the demand for an end to labour broking and several demands which included that youth who lived on farms with their parents, would not be charged extra rent upon turning 18. Workers have started to set up committees on each farm; since the beginning, the strike was not led by the Cosatu alliance. The Cosatu alliance and unions tried to place themselves at the head of the strike, but workers have now taken ownership of the strike, uniting as workers, not based on union affiliation. Most workers are not unionised. (For our exposure of the conditions on the farms, see our leaflet- We expose how the ANC and Cosatu leaders with the farm bosses in slavery in De Doorns).
18 years of the ANC government has not freed the farm workers from slavery. The Cosatu unions and ‘independent’ unions have not managed to abolish slave wages and conditions of the farms. Why?
It is because the unions are in alliance with the bosses and the Cosatu unions are in alliance with the capitalist ANC government
Nosey Pieterse is secretary of Bawusa, but at the same time he is the Chairperson of Lindiwe wines which sources its grapes from the farms around Robertson, where the wages of farm workers range from R63 to R75 per day. Here we have a capitalist who is the secretary of a union that claims to represent farm workers interests. Was Nosey thinking about workers interests or was he thinking about getting the next order out for Lindiwe wines? You decide. The National Empowerment Fund (our tax money) gave R3 million to Lindiwe wines, to help start it up. Was the ANC govt concerned about the slavery of the farm workers? Or were they more interested in promoting black capitalists to get a share of profits out of continued slavery of the farm workers? You decide.
The union, Bawusa, operates from the office of BAWSI (Black Association of the Wine and Spirit Industry), which has its aim, the promotion of black capitalists in the wine sector. The President of Bawsi is also the same Nosey Pieterse. Bawsi receives R200 000 per month from the SA Wine Industries Trust, which in turn receives its funds from the wine sector capitalists (Wosa- Wines of SA). Bawsi is part of Phetogo Investments, a BEE capitalist group that has a 27% share in KWV. Bawsi and Phetogo received a loan of R120 million from the IDC (government money) R40 million from SAWIT (the wines bosses Trust) and R40 million from KWV itself. In short, Bawsi is part of the bosses of the wine sector. So when Pieterse or any official of Bawusa speaks, how can they claim to represent workers, when they are tied by loans and R200 000 spending money a month, to the bosses?
The Chair of KWV ( the major wine bottler and distributor) is Marcel Golding, former Deputy Secretary of the NUM (National Union of Mine Workers). One of the Directors of KWV is Johny Copelyn, former secretary of Cosatu’s Clothing union (SACTWU). HCI, which was set up with funds from mostly highly exploited clothing workers, has a 35% stake in KWV. The ex-Cosatu leaders are now leading capitalists in the wine sector. Other leading ANC members who have shares in the wine sector, owning their own brands, are Tokyo Sexwale (Bloemendal and Oude Kelder) and Valli Moosa (Paardenkloof). [When the ANC calls a boycott of wines, do they also mean the BEE wines of their own leaders, or are they exempt?]
The ANC government and the ex-Cosatu leaders are part of the wine capitalists. The DA members are the big wine farmers. The ANC and DA are really in alliance against the workers. Why are we as workers still supporting such parties of slavery- surely we need our own workers’ party that is independent of the bosses and the exploiters? We cannot expect the ANC, DA and other parliamentary parties to end the slavery on the farms. The delay of 2 weeks was to tire workers out and give time to the wine bosses to intimidate and divide the workers. Workers were right to reject the suspension of the strike.
A proposed way forward
1. Form workers’ committees on each farm, whether local or immigrant; let the strike be led in all its forms by these committees; form self-defence committees as part of the workers committees; link up with the mine workers committees, other sectors in struggle and community committees;
2. Away with labour brokers on the farms- equal pay for equal work;
3. R12 500 monthly wage for all farm workers;
4. Nationalise the land; Expropriate all commercial farms and major food retailers, without compensation to the capitalists, under workers’ control. This is the way to rational pricing and planning, so everyone can eat.
5. Housing, development, schooling, recreation and services for the rural areas, on a par with the urban areas.
6. Scrap the additional rent for youth turning 18 and still living on farms
7. Break with the ANC and DA; it’s time to form a working class party that will lead the way to fight for a workers government based on workers committees on the mines, farms, factories, workplaces and working class communities.
15.11.2012 Workers International Vanguard Party ph 0822020617 firstname.lastname@example.org ph 021 4476777, www.workersinternational.org.za