/ 18 February 2011

Satawu: Prove our members’ violence

Satawu: Prove Our Members' Violence

Matuma Letsoalo quizzes Satawu national sector coordinator Tabudi Ramakgolo on the violent truck drivers’ strike.

Why are your strikes so violent?
We have not found any member [of Satawu] to have been involved in any act of violence. We have asked all the provinces to investigate and so far the reports show that none of our members were directly involved.

Why do you allow members to carry knobkerries and sjamboks whenever they are on strike?
I saw only Gauteng members holding traditional weapons. We carry weapons to show we want to advance certain things. That is how we strike. But your members are using these weapons to intimidate non-strikers and damage property. I haven’t seen that. I only heard it in the media.

Are you not encouraging violence by allowing members to carry weapons?
Not necessarily, because we have not seen members beating up people.

There is a perception that the Satawu leaders are, in fact, the ones who encourage their members to act violently, as a tactic to force employers to accede to union demands.
Perceptions will remain perceptions. People must bring the facts to us proving that our members are responsible for the attacks.

Truck drivers have hit the streets in Johannesburg to protest against wages as low as R3 000 a month. We talk to Satawu about progress in wage negotiations with the Road Freight Employers’ Association.

But the evidence is there for everyone to see. In 2007 a number of people lost their lives during the security guard strike and this time a number of people were injured and trucks and property damaged by your members. Are you not worried by this?
If the members of Satawu were responsible, I would be worried. But remember, Satawu is not the only union involved in the strike.

What is Satawu doing to ensure the strike is not violent?
No one has come through to prove our members are behind the violence.

Then who is behind it?
I’m not sure. The police must do their job in finding out who is responsible. We are putting disciplinary measures in place to ensure our members are not involved. That is why we always have so many marshals whenever there is a strike.

Satawu has not come out strongly in condemning the violent actions of its members. Why?
In every statement we issue, we make sure we distance ourselves from acts of violence.

What action have you taken against members found to be behind the violence?
So far, none of our members has been found to be involved. No one can prove it.

Why do you have to wait for people to prove it to you when it is so clear that strikers are attacking people on a daily basis and damaging property?
This is South Africa. You have the Constitution, which protects everyone. No one can be presumed guilty until proven otherwise.

Given the current economic situation in the country, do you think the union’s demand of a 10% salary increase is justifiable?
Drivers in this country still earn R3 000 a month, in spite of the fact that they spend months away from their families doing their duties. The 10% is actually very little. Public servants earn way beyond this.

What else are you demanding?
We want the industry to do away with labour brokers. They cause a deterioration in the conditions of employment in our industry.