One of SA’s largest banana producers has claimed R318m damages from the police and a trade union for alleged looting and vandalism during protests while the police looked on, Netwerk24 reports.

Umbhaba Estates – producing bananas on three farms in Mpumalanga – claims members of the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) took part in an unprotected strike of four months around November 2015.

More than 152 000 young banana trees died as a result.

Umbhaba claims the police watched on as violence continued and the producer even obtained a court order forcing the police to act, but this was ignored.

Gauteng High Court (Pretoria) Judge Ronel Tolmay has now ruled on an interlocutory matter on jurisdiction of the court.

She ordered that Umbhaba be allowed to replace the word ‘strike’ and ‘strikers’ with ‘protest’ and ‘protesters’ in its claim – after Fawu insisted that the matter should be heard by the Labour Court.

Full Netwerk24 report (subscription needed)