ENTRANCES TO UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH AFRICA ARE BLOCKED! – after five trade union officers are sacked

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NEHAWU members at the University of South Africa demanding the reinstatement of their five trade union officers

Entrances leading up to the Unisa (University of South Africa) main campus in Muckleneuk, Pretoria are cordoned off with trees and vehicles this week, as protesting workers and students make it clear that they will not accept the sacking of five trade union officers.

Students and other stakeholder unions have rallied behind the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) to ensure the reinstatement of the five Unisa employees who were fired with immediate effect by the institution last week.

Sizwe Sixaba, Branch Secretary of the South African Students’ Congress (Sasco) at Unisa, said: ‘We need the workers for things to get going and it must be clear that these are our mothers and fathers so we are in solidarity with them.

‘As students, we know first-hand the difficulty being experienced by most of us at the institution as we can’t even get the vice-chancellor to respond to any student issues raised with her from the beginning of the year.’

Thomas Hlongwane, Chairman of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Tshwane, said the union condemns the style of management being implemented by the university and vice-chancellor in response to workers simply raising their issues with them.

Hlongwane said they support and understand the fight the workers have embarked on regarding salary increases and working conditions, however, they are concerned with how the university is handling the matter.

‘This style (of management) was used during the apartheid era and it cannot happen again so we will support the workers every day until they go back to their workplaces.’

Lwazi Nkolonzi, NEHAWU national spokesman, said the union is clear on its stance that the university management alongside the Vice-Chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula has not followed the legal prescripts in terms of the Labour Relations Act on the procedures to be followed when instituting disciplinary processes against a shop-steward.

Nkolonzi said they are shocked and angered by the actions of the university and as a result following the meeting with their members on Monday, have consulted with their lawyers and convened the members for broader action they plan to embark on.

‘We want to make it clear that as Nehawu we will not tolerate any victimisation of our members or any intimidation, neither will we accept any union-bashing attempts by the university.

‘We will take up the fight against such acts as our congress mandated us to close ranks and defend our base and this is what we will do.

‘We are going to fight for these shop-stewards whose employment contracts have been terminated unprocedurally by the VC and the management.

‘NEHAWU is angered and highly disappointed by the decision of the Vice-Chancellor and Management of University of South Africa (UNISA) to terminate unlawfully the employment contract of our shop stewards.

‘It is clear to us that the dismissal of our shop stewards was predetermined by the Vice-Chancellor…

‘NEHAWU is vehemently opposed to all forms of intimidation and victimisation including union bashing.

‘Certainly, the union shall not stand idle while its shop stewards and members are victimised.

‘In this regard, the national union shall be consulting its lawyers to secure a legal opinion on the matter whilst on the other hand will consider mobilising its members on a cause of action towards the real fight in defence for its members and workers.

‘Further, the national union will do everything in its power to defend its members while on the other hand it will remain open for any engagement with the employer as previously communicated.’

Meanwhile, South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi says the disruption of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Workers’ Day speech was ‘a powerful expression of unity between workers’.

Ramaphosa was forced to abandon his address in Rustenburg, North West, after mine workers booed him and stormed the stage.

He was scheduled to give a keynote address at the Cosatu rally but had to be whisked away when angry workers staged an angry protest.

Among their chief concerns was the demand for a R1,000 monthly salary increase for Sibanye-Stillwater gold mine workers.

‘It was a powerful message of unity between workers of different unions who do not belong to the same federations,’ Vavi said.

‘Workers used Ramaphosa’s speech as an opportunity to rudely awaken him from his slumber.

‘They sent a powerful message to all of the elite that we are fighting our battles in your absence and with you looking on the other side.’

ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba said the disruption demonstrated workers are tired of empty promises and Ramaphosa’s ‘charm’.

‘Chickens have come home to roost. Our workers have been abused, lied to and betrayed by the ANC. You can lie to people for so long, but you can’t lie to people with their lived experiences,’ said Mashaba.

He said Ramaphosa was under the impression that charm and smiling at workers would see them buy into his promises.

‘They demonstrated to him they are gatvol. We are in a country where youth unemployment is at 74%. This is unsustainable.

‘We are a country with open borders where home affairs is failing to protect borders and the sovereignty of SA.

‘This is, unfortunately, affecting poor South Africans. With people who have not worked in the past 20 years, you can’t lie to them,’ he said.

Veteran media personality Redi Tlhabi also weighed in on the booing of ANC leaders, saying it was about time.

‘I am here for it. It’s about time. They think they can look the other way when comrades steal, protect the same thieves while vilifying dissent.

‘When it suits them, they want to be seen as “different”. Cheers to “collective responsibility”. They didn’t stand up for citizens so boo,’ said Tlhabi.

Meanwhile, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Monday that it is deeply saddened by the fatal incident at Harmany Gold Mine where four mineworkers lost their lives last Saturday at the company’s Kusasalethu operation near Carletonville.

‘We cannot continue with the same triggers of incidents responsible for injuries and fatalities in the mining industry.

‘South Africa is capable of developing technology that can foretell the fall of ground, seismic events which are most notorious for mining disasters. If we care about human life, the expenses or cost towards procuring such advanced technology should not matter much.

‘It is quite disturbing that the poor mineworkers who are earning peanuts, continue to die like flies in the industry that is careless about their sweat and blood.

‘The NUM is calling on relevant authorities to speedily investigate this unfortunate incident. We also call on the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to enforce the laws and ensure that companies take full responsibilities for such incidents.

‘It cannot be right that workers continue to die whilst the captains of the industry are smiling all the way to the bank for fat salaries or bonuses.

‘The NUM would like to convey its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the families, colleagues, and friends of the deceased workers.’