Strike shooting leaves two injured
Two people were injured when the supervisor at an engineering company in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg, allegedly shot at striking protesters on Friday, Gauteng police said.
Captain Jacob Raboroko said about 150 protesters arrived at the company’s premises, forced the gates open and started assaulting employees who were working.
The supervisor pulled out his gun and allegedly shot two of the protesters. One was shot in the back and the other in the shoulder, he said.
The supervisor and the two protesters were arrested. The injured men were then taken to a local hospital under police guard.
Raboroko said it was calm in Krugersdorp on Friday afternoon, but police were monitoring the situation.
The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) condemned the shooting of the two strikers.
“Numsa demands an immediate arrest of the owner for his barbaric act with an intention to kill to be arrested and face the full might of the law,” national spokesperson Castro Ngobese said in a statement.
‘The loud silence’
The union called on its members to “resist the temptation” to destroy public property or intimidate non-striking workers.
Such actions only served to shift the focus from Numsa’s legitimate demands for a living wage and improved conditions of employment, Ngobese said.
On Thursday, four Numsa members were injured after police fired rubber bullets during a strike in Krugersdorp.
In an open letter to Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Numsa said police were abusing their power and authority by using excessive force and shooting strikers.
“We strongly believe that police can’t be used as an antagonistic measure to suppress workers from advancing their struggle against blatant exploitation by companies,” deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said in the letter.
“They prove consistently to hold an intransigent attitude towards workers striking. They can’t be used to mitigate [sic] over industrial disputes between unions and employers.”
He said the “brutal” shooting and assault by police was reminiscent of apartheid regime tactics.
“...We will be the first union to oppose the current democratic police services to degenerate to that kind of draconian and monstrous apartheid police force.”
Cloete said the union was concerned “by the loud silence” from National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele and called on Mthethwa to intervene with immediate effect.
“The failure to heed our demand will only reinforce our suspicions that the police have been co-opted or are being used by capital to silent [sic] popular dissent in advancing a struggle for a living wage and improved conditions of service for workers,” he said.
Several trade unions, representing about 170 000 workers, started a countrywide strike in the engineering sector on Monday to press for better wages.
Workers gave their employers until the end of Thursday to respond to their wage demands. Union leaders would meet with employees over the weekend, Ngobese said.
Numsa was joined by five other trade unions—the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood, and Allied Workers’ Union (Ceppwawu), the Metal and Electrical Workers’ Union (Mewusa), the United Association of South Africa (Uasa), Solidarity, and the South African Equity Workers’ Association (Saewa).
The unions are demanding wage increases ranging from 10% to 13%.
Ngobese said no negotiations or talks had taken place since Monday.
The Steel and Engineering Industries’ Federation of South Africa said it could not afford the wage increases the unions wanted.
Employers in the sector have offered 7%.—Sapa