Violent protests that have swept through rural areas of South Africa’s Western Cape Province since November claimed a third victim when a man died after being shot in the head with a rubber bullet.
The killing of the 23-year-old De Doorns resident, who died after being hospitalized, is being examined by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate, Western Cape Police said in an e-mailed response to questions today. “It is unclear where the incident happened,” the police said.
De Doorns, about 150 kilometers (94 miles) northeast of Cape Town, has been the center of protests since some farmworkers resumed a pay strike on Jan. 9., with police firing rubber bullets and stun grenades to disperse stone-throwing crowds. The violence threatens to delay harvesting in South Africa’s biggest table grape-growing region.
The Western Cape health department confirmed that a man who had sustained a rubber-bullet injury to his head was taken by ambulance from De Doorns to a hospital in the nearby town of Worcester.
“He was stabilized and transferred to Tygerberg Hospital” in Cape Town, the department said in an e-mailed statement. “The patient passed away later in the day. Since the start of protest action on Jan. 9, a total of 13 patients have been treated at Worcester and Ceres hospitals.”
Thousands of workers downed tools in November to demand an increase in the minimum wage to 150 rand ($17) a day from 70 rand.
On Nov. 14, tractor driver Michael Daniels, 28, was shot dead by police during a protest in the southern town of Wolseley. Three days later, farmworker Bongile Ndleni died after being shot by unknown assailants during a protest near Ceres, about 160 kilometers from Cape Town.
Labor action was suspended on Dec. 5 pending further negotiations and resumed this month after talks reached a deadlock on a number of farms.
About 160 people have been arrested in connection with strike-related violence since Jan. 9 and most face charges of public violence, police spokesman November Filander said. Most areas were quiet today, he said by phone from Cape Town today.
Agriculture makes up about 2.1 percent of South Africa’s gross domestic product. Farms produce close to 6.5 percent of the country’s exports, including wine, citrus fruit, corn, grapes, apples and pears, according to government data. Farming in the Western Cape employ about 200,000 workers, according to the provincial agriculture department.
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