Acts of violence and intimidation have been reported across the country in the past two days, with Gauteng being the most affected province, followed by KwaZulu-Natal.
SEIFSA Chief Executive Officer Kaizer Nyatsumba said that the Federation was inundated with reports from its members of blatant acts of lawlessness, including violence and general mayhem, by some of the workers currently on strike. He said that while workers’ rights to go on strike was respected, there was “absolutely no room for violence”.
“We are extremely disappointed with the violent behaviour of some union members who have embarked on a wanton campaign of damaging properties – including vehicles – of some of our member companies in the Wadeville and Isando areas since the beginning of the strike. This is precisely what we wanted to avoid when we called on the unions to commit to a Peace Accord at the beginning of the negotiations,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
The unions doggedly refused to sign such a Peace Accord, saying that they would be prepared to discuss Strike and Picketing Rules only once negotiations had broken down. The agreement remains unsigned and has now been referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration for finalization.
Mr Nyatsumba called on the union leadership to ensure that their members behaved in accordance with the laws of the country and refrained from any violent behaviour, and on the South Africa Police Service to act swiftly to prevent a recurrence of violent actions. He revealed that he had twice written to the National Commissioner of the SAPS, General Riah Phiyega (see attached second letter), asking her to ensure that the police stood ready to protect life and limb throughout the country. He said that it was important that all those guilty of perpetrating violence were made to face the full might of the law.
“The right to strike should be exercised without infringing on the rights of others and without creating a perception of lawlessness. Violence and other reprehensible, criminal acts during a strike action cannot be condoned and should be punishable by law. Leaders of organised labour have to step forward and accept responsibility for the conduct of their members during a strike,” Mr Nyatsumba said.
The SEIFSA CEO expressed concern that damages perpetrated by striking workers had the potential to lower the country’s growth prospects even further and were likely to exacerbate South Africa’s current unemployment problem. He said that it was important for all stakeholders to work tirelessly together to bring the strike to a speedy end in order to avoid more violence as desperation set in among striking workers.