Protests causing 'irreparable damage' to brand SA

South Africa's investor image is again being tainted by strikes.

Violent strikes by Western Cape farm workers have resulted in numerous arrests.

Workers want wages to double to R150 a day.

On Thursday Cosatu said it had "exhausted its social and political capital" in trying to find a solution to the current upheaval.

Worryingly, it said the protests were "out of its hands".

Few farm workers actually belong to a union.

"The workers have said they will not go back to work until their demands are met. This entire area will now burn to the ground until a solution is found.... I do not know whether a solution will be found," Cosatu Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon.

Agricultural Business Chamber CEO John Purchase said the farm strikes were doing "irreparable damage to brand South Africa".

"It will definitely affect investor sentiment. It is not just agriculture and the Western Cape that will suffer, but the whole of South Africa."

The Fitch ratings agency responded by lowering South Africa's sovereign credit rating late Thursday, citing political tensions and subdued growth. The rating was cut by one notch to BBB.

While some striking workers have returned to the negotiating table, there were reports Friday that action was spreading.

Fears over another Marikana mount.

Image: Getty