Transnet's Durban container port. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - Unions Numsa and Satawu were at each other's throats on Friday, as each blamed the other for the violence in the transport sector strike at the Ngqura container terminal outside Port Elizabeth.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) had recently been found to be behind and linked to deadly, violent protests taking place at Ngqura port terminals, the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) said in a statement.

“The question to be asked is - if a trade union claims to be revolutionary and represents the interests of the poor, how is it possible that that same trade union burns poor people's houses and carries weapons to shoot workers?

“What is the moral compass behind this kind of daylight thuggery - unless there are clear political reasons instigating for insurgency? Nothing else can explain the recent Numsa moves,” Satawu general secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said.

Satawu said its members' houses had been torched and they had received death threats.

Satawu said Numsa leaders had taken the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) back to a phase of mistrust and mischief.

“We are, however, perplexed that Numsa has just woken up from a coma where they have been hallucinating about utopian socialism,” Satawu said.

“This is a sign of anger and hatred they have developed against Cosatu, the (tripartite) alliance in general, and the programme of the national democratic revolution.

“We have further noted in confidence that Numsa is linked to a plot to destabilise the country and in their co-operation with foreign forces they seek to control our borders and ports as a means to ship in illegal goods and weapons to be used against our democratic state, our people, and the continent.”

Satawu said it would fight Numsa if it continued its “mischievous acts”.

According to media reports, Satawu said Numsa was “in bed” with the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union to “destabilise the country” and prepare for a 2019 Arab-style revolution.

However, Numsa denied this.

“The fantasy and imaginary Satawu statement that Numsa wants ports to be organised for purposes of bringing into the Republic of 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,” the union said.

“It is such a waste of time for Numsa to take time out of its very busy schedule to respond to the nonsense uttered by the delusional Satawu general secretary.”

Numsa spokesman Castro Ngobese said the allegations that the trade union was embedded with the EFF and Amcu were not true.

“Such allegations are not new. We have heard them before and they have previously failed to prove that we are working with them,” he told Sapa.

“We have never met with (Amcu president Joseph) Mathunjwa. He is a product of the NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) and we have no relationship with them.”

The EFF's leaders were part of the group of expelled ANC Youth League leaders, Ngobese said.

He said workers in Ngqura were joining Numsa daily and voluntarily because they were “fed-up” with Satawu but he could not say how many members they had.

Transnet spokesman Mboniso Sigonyela said the company would not comment on the politics between the two unions but said work continued at the terminal despite the strike.

He said 100 out of their 600-strong workforce were on strike but it has not affected the terminal.

“We continue to operate the terminal and we are comfortable with the level of productivity,” he said.

On June 13, a second Transnet employee was arrested for alleged intimidation during a strike at the Ngqura container terminal.

“Port Elizabeth police have arrested a second suspect, another Numsa member, in connection with the spate of bombings, arson and thuggery targeted at Transnet employees who chose not to join the union's industrial action,” Sigonyela said in a statement at the time.

Police confirmed the man was arrested for the illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition. Captain Andre Beetge said a non-striking Transnet employee claimed the 35-year-old man was a striker who intimidated him for refusing to join the strike.

Numsa members have been on strike for nine weeks at Ngqura over transport allowances, working hours for particular tasks, and the use of labour brokers.

Transnet said on Thursday it had increased security for its workers, their families, and property after at least 35 acts of violence and intimidation, including arson, since the strike began. - Sapa