Cosatu House sealed off again

A large contingent of armed security forces surrounded Cosatu House yesterday afternoon for the second time in a week and arrested seven people in connection with the murder of four SA Transport Services workers on Tuesday evening at Kaserne railway depot.

Among those believed arrested is a 12-year-old youth who was found in the hall on the ground floor where Sats strikers were meeting. Police surrounded the building at about 3pm and moved into the foyer 30 minutes later. Sats workers barricaded themselves in the hall and were given five minutes to get out.

Jay Naidoo, general secretary of the Congress of SA Trade Unions, National Union of Mineworkers secretary general Cyril Ramaphosa and MetaI and Allied Workers Union national organiser Bernie Fanaroff approached the officer in charge before moving to the hall to persuade the workers to allow the police inside. Three men in balaclavas moved into the hall with the police and pointed out people in the crowd.

As the men were pointed out they were taken to three men in white coats who inspected their clothes and the soles of their shoes. The men are believed to be from the forensic department of the SA Police. The arrested men were later driven away in police cars and microbuses. Several people were allowed out of the building after been searched.

At 5.30 women workers were told to leave the building but when they reached the ground floor they were ordered back into their offices. A few minutes later they were allowed to leave the building. Police then fired teargas at a group of workers on the second floor who were accusing them of being sexist in allowing women to go. ”Police told us they were looking for people who had necklaced four Sats workers last night ” said one of the office workers who was searched and released.

In a statement last night, the SA Police said Cosatu House was being used by individuals to perpetrate violence. ”These four men had been brutally assaulted with knives and pauses and their bodies set alight by means of tyres and a flammable liquid.

”The South African Police now possess reliable evidence which indicates that these four men, who appeared to be Transport Service workers, were forcibly removed from their places of employment to Cosatu House, where they were violently assaulted and thereafter taken to Kaserne where they were butchered in the most barbaric fashion, for no reason than that they chose not to participate in Cosatu’s actions.

”Although an undertaking was sought from the South African Police to the effect that Cosatu members at Cosatu House would not be molested, an undertaking the SAP gave without hesitation, it is clear that Cosatu House is being used by individuals to plan and perpetrate acts of violence,” the police statement said.

According to the police, five men were originally abducted and taken to Cosatu House. One of them managed to escape by flinging himself from the vehicle in which they were travelling to Kaserne. He fled into a nearby veld, came across soldiers doing patrol duty and asked for help. An immediate search was launched and the four necklaced bodies discovered later nearby.

The police action comes a day after police undertook in the Rand Supreme Court not to unlawfully assault harass or intimidate Cosatu and its members. It also comes hours before the South African Railways and Harbours Workers Union (Sarhwu) was to file an application in the Rand Supreme Court seeking the reinstatement of three of the 18 000 dismissed Sats workers.

”According to Sarhwu, the dismissals were illegal and went far beyond the powers legitimately possessed by the Sats general manager. Sarhwu also accused Sats of having dragged out the six-week dispute in an effort to starve the workers into submission. Sats was also accused of having ”spent millions (of rands) in spreading lies and divisive turnouts in a pathetic effort to, break the unity of the workers”.

Sarhwu was responding to an advert by Sats in several newspapers today. In the advert seen as a veiled attack on Sarhwu, Sats accuses ”instigators” of having:

  • prevented strikers returning to their jobs;
  • made false promises that they would pay the strikers
  • canvassed membership through intimidation and assault;
  • caused violence to spread to civil unrest;
  • caused damage worth millions of Rands to Sats property and equipment and caused disruption of train services.

Sarhwu said the claim about payment of workers originated from Sats management. ”Since the beginning of the strike Sats has used the police and the army to harass, intimidate and finally to try and force many of the workers back to work at gunpoint.” Sarhwu said Sats has refused to acknowledge that workers have genuine grievances.


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Sefako Nyaka
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