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Unisa interdicts Nehawu strike over dismissal of shop stewards

The University of South Africa has obtained an interim Labour Court interdict preventing members of Cosatu affiliate, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, from protesting outside its campuses over the dismissal of their leaders at the institution. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

The University of South Africa has obtained an interim Labour Court interdict preventing members of Cosatu affiliate, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, from protesting outside its campuses over the dismissal of their leaders at the institution. Picture: Henk Kruger / African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 18, 2022

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Johannesburg - The University of SA (Unisa) has obtained an interim Labour Court interdict against members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) protesting against the firing of their leaders at the institution.

Judge Graham Moshoana granted Africa’s largest open distance learning institution a rule nisi, which is an interim order handed down ex parte (when an application brought without serving documents to the respondents or affected parties) directing that a particular person(s) and calling on them to appear in court at a certain fixed date.

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The order also bars Nehawu, its members and eight of its leaders at Unisa’s various campuses countrywide – David Khatsho, Sello Bila, Joy Sekwaila, Lunathi Hontoti, Tshembani Valoyi, Julia Mahlangu, Chantal Adams and Tebogo Msabala – from entering its premises.

On Monday, Judge Moshoana issued a rule nisi with a return date of September 1 for Nehawu, its members and leaders at Unisa to show cause why the order should not be made final.

In the meantime, the union, its members and leaders are interdicted and restrained from infringing traffic rules or obstructing the flow of traffic to or from Unisa campuses.

According to Judge Moshoana, they are also not allowed to carry firearms, knives, sharp objects, sticks or dangerous weapons as defined in the Dangerous Weapons Act to or near the entrances of any of Unisa’s campuses.

The interim interdict also stops Nehawu, its members and leaders from preventing people from tendering their employment or services to Unisa and interfering with its administration.

They must not participate in unlawful protests outside Unisa campuses within 150 metres from Unisa’s campuses.

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”Interdicting and restraining the respondents (Nehawu, its members and leaders) from intimidating any employee, student or visitor of the applicant (Unisa) or from committing any act of violence or other offence against them, damaging any of the applicant’s immovable and/or movable property or the property of its employees, students or visitors in any way or manner whatsoever,” reads the ruling.

Judge Moshoana directed the SAPS and its public order policing unit to enforce his order and take all reasonable steps to ensure adherence to and compliance with it.

Nehawu and its officials were interdicted and restrained from intimidating, threatening, persuading, encouraging, inciting and/or procuring members to participate in any conduct prohibited by Judge Moshoana’s order or any other unlawful conduct.

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In addition, the Cosatu affiliate was ordered to take all reasonable and necessary steps to ensure compliance with Judge Moshoana’s ruling by communicating through mass meetings and written memorandums to its eight leaders at Unisa to ensure that they conduct themselves lawfully.

Judge Moshoana’s order must be affixed to entrances of Unisa campuses, transmitted to Nehawu via e-mail or fax messages and handing copies to its leaders at the university insofar as this may be possible.

Nehawu on Tuesday said it will not fold its arms and watch Unisa, its vice-chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula and management run the institution as a “banana university or as their spaza shop”.

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”Already, we had sought legal advice from our lawyers and currently in the process of filing court papers today (May 17) to declare such actions unlawful and ought to be set aside by a court of law, while busy at the national level consolidating a programme to intensify the mobilisation on the ground,” the union’s general secretary Zola Saphetha said.

He called on the Unisa council to provide leadership to ensure stability at the institution and that the impasse is amicably resolved to enable the smooth running of the academic and institutional support programmes.

Nehawu has threatened to take the matter to Higher Education and Training, Science and Technology Minister Dr Blade Nzimande for a solution and action.

The union also expressed its anger at the dismissal of five of its Unisa shop stewards for violating terms of their suspension, incitement of public violence, malicious damage to property, organising and leading the forceful disruption of its graduation ceremonies in March and last month and violating a court order.

At the heart of the dispute between Nehawu and Unisa are allegations that LenkaBula undermined the collective bargaining last year by awarding a handful of staff members salary increases outside the institution’s bargaining forum, which according to the union, is the only forum that deals with conditions of services and matters of mutual interest.

This led to Nehawu embarking on lunch-hour demonstrations against LenkaBula’s action.

Nehawu also accuses the vice-chancellor of undermining Unisa’s recruitment and selection processes by appointing five people in her office without any advertisement and selection processes.

The union said all the irregularly-appointed staff in LenkaBula’s office earn above R1 million.

The Saturday Star

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