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Durban - Five people were taken to hospital after being shot by heavily armed security during a commotion when striking workers forced their way on to the premises of a Phoenix retail store on Wednesday.
SAPS spokesman, Captain Thulani Zwane said Tradeport Distribution workers had visited a sister company, Favors Cash and Carry in Paragon Place, and forced their way through the gate.
They hoped to encourage workers there to join the strike which started on Monday.
“The security company hired by the (Tradeport) business owners fired at the crowd. Four people were shot with rubber bullets whilst another was shot with live ammunition. They were all taken to a nearby hospital.
“Two short guns and a rifle, thought to have been used in the shooting, were confiscated by police for ballistic purposes,” said Zwane.
Workers said the shootings happened at about 11am.
In the early afternoon, a Daily News photographer had his camera snatched by a man believed to be linked to the company, outside its gates.
The man, whose name is known to the Daily News, was accompanied by armed security guards, one of whom pointed a firearm at the photographer.
The incident happened in full view of members of the SAPS special force, the Tactical Response Team.
Managers of the company had arrived at the premises a few minutes earlier. A commotion followed when the managers went to confront the workers who were blocking the driveway, outside the main gate.
The strikers had prevented the car of a shopper from entering the business premises.
The Mazibuye African Forum, an anti-Indian group, were called in by some of the casual workers as they did not have union representation.
Earlier, one of the strikers, Noluthando Mphongana, 29, said she had escaped the shooting with bruises to her face and legs after the crowd trampled her in fleeing the shooting.
“I fell and knocked my head against the tar road when people walked over me. I thought I was dying,” she said.
Paulos Mdluli, one of the leaders at the protest, said they wanted higher wages and to secure permanent employment.
Mdluli, 57, who is the only breadwinner at home and struggles to look after his family of six, said his circumstances were similar to many of the workers at the company.
“I do not enjoy benefits... I earn R140 a shift which is far less for someone who has worked four years in the company.
“I drive a big truck to different parts of the province delivering goods to big name stores. None of the workers are permanently employed,” Mdluli said.
He said workers had submitted a memorandum demanding an increase but the company had failed to respond.
Another leader, Nkosifikile Ngalo, 43, said he had been working at the company for 14 years but was earning R70 a day in his position as assistant driver.
“I earned R20 a day when I started. We are here to share with the public our sufferings. Employers make millions at the expense of the workers.
“The company is a feeder to all local spaza shops and other big name stores in the province. When we protest they threaten us with heavily armed security,” said Ngalo.
Phumlani Mfeka, a member of Mazibuye, said they were representing the workers.
“Our members asked Mayibuye to represent them because they were not unionised,” said Mfeka.
According to Islamic Finance website, the firm employs more than 400 staff and is the largest independent cash and carry distributor in Africa.