Cosatu affiliates in brutal war of words

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BR Numsa 57[1] Independent Newspapers Numsa strikers at the Ngqura Container Terminal in Port Elizabeth. The union's war of words with Satawu escalated last week. Photo: Supplied

Johannesburg - Two Cosatu affiliates, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and the SA Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), have been taking pot shots at each other during the almost two-month Ngqura Container Terminal strike, which has turned violent. The terminal, outside Port Elizabeth, is owned by Transnet.

Last Thursday, Satawu accused Numsa of being responsible for the clashes with non-striking workers who belong to the transport union. Acts of violence against Satawu members included bomb attacks and arson on houses, intimidation and torching of cars.

However, Numsa said there was not a shred of evidence implicating its members.

It regarded such allegations as engineered by Transnet.

Numsa members at Ngqura embarked on industrial action on April 25, demanding the banning of labour brokers, the reinstatement of the previous working shifts and the equalisation of the transport subsidy.

On Thursday, Satawu accused Numsa members of carrying out violence and said the police had intercepted a carload of ammunition and weapons, including assault rifles, intended for use against its members employed at Ngqura.

Karl Cloete, deputy general secretary of Numsa, said: “Accusing Numsa of perpetrating violent acts against Satawu members and shop stewards is not only untested and irresponsible but it borders on libel, which we are referring to our attorneys for advice.”

Zenzo Mahlangu, the general secretary of Satawu, said: “The question to be asked is if a trade union claims to be revolutionary and [to] represent the interests of the poor, how is it possible that the same trade union burns poor people’s houses and [carries] weapons to shoot workers?

“What is the moral compass behind this daylight thuggery? Unless there are clear political reasons instigating insurgency, nothing can explain the recent Numsa moves.”

He said the battles Numsa purported to be fighting at Ngqura had long been won by Satawu against Transnet and, gradually, many members of Satawu who were former Numsa members employed as subcontractors to Transnet had been employed on a permanent basis and rescued from labour brokers.

Mahlangu said of Numsa: “They have taken one of the most self-disastrous resolutions about being a political party and a super trade union. This is a sign of anger they have developed against Cosatu, the [tripartite] alliance in general and the programme of the national democratic revolution.

“For us, this only means that Numsa has abandoned the struggle of the workers for a political objective that clearly is in the interests of reversing all the gains the workers have received since” 1994.

He said Satawu had noted in confidence that Numsa was being linked to a plot to destabilise the country and, in its co-operation with foreign forces, sought to control the borders and ports as a means to ship illegal goods and weapons to be used against “our democratic state, our people and the continent”.

Cloete said Numsa was not and would never be a political party, as suggested by Satawu.

“The fantasy and imaginary statement that Numsa wants ports to be organised for [the] purposes of bringing into South Africa illegal goods and weapons shows that Satawu and its leadership would drum up emotive fantasies, probably with the help of rogue intelligence elements in the state.”

Transnet has said Numsa represented less than 0.5 percent of the transport logistics company’s more than 60 000 employees. Satawu and two other unions represented about 80 percent of Transnet employees in the bargaining unit.

It said all employees at its Eastern Cape terminals were now directly in its employ. - Business Report


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