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Nov. 3 (GIN) –Announcing an immediate ban on legal and illegal farm evictions, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa set off a firestorm among the mostly white commercial farmers from the fertile Western Cape who threatened retaliation.

Ramaphosa announced the freeze after an hours-long meeting with agricultural and farm labor representatives from the area. The talks are part of a dialogue to find solutions to problems in the agricultural sector.

“We are calling on all farmers who have plans for evictions to stop [the evictions] effective immediately,” Ramaphosa said after the meeting. The freeze will remain in force until at least next year, when a follow-up meeting will be held.

Theo de Jager, deputy president of AgriSA, responded with a threat: ““If the government wants us to create millions of jobs, they can now forget about it.

“This is absolutely cheap politicking in the short term that will cost our country dearly. (It) puts tremendous pressure on the only sector that has not collapsed under poor economic policies.”

By contrast, Tony Ehrenreich, secretary of the labor federation Cosatu, of Western Cape, praised the moratorium. Farmers, he said, are throwing workers off farms left and right, they hold on to “stolen land” and treat their employees with contempt.

Since a minimum daily wage of 105 rand was introduced early last year, Ehrenreich said, farmers did everything they could to make workers’ lives difficult.

“If we sound angry about these things, our members and the farm workers are a thousand times more angry because you cannot expect a man to remain silent while his family and children are despised and his legacy and contribution are dismissed as irrelevant.”

Japie Grobler, deputy chairman of the Agri-Sector unit forum, retorted: “Tony has been stirring terrible hatred in the agricultural community… The “realities” of the agricultural industry in South Africa are “extremely difficult” and it is not easy to find solutions.” w/pix of C. Ramaphosa

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