In June 1976 thousands of school youth rose up in Soweto against the Apartheid regime
In June 1976 thousands of school youth rose up in Soweto against the Apartheid regime

‘The South African Federation of Trade Unions lowers its flags in honour of Comrade Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, one of the great revolutionary icons of the struggle for freedom and democracy.’

SAFTU’s tribute continued: ‘Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela was a tireless fighter against apartheid.

‘Although thrust into the spotlight partly as a result of her 38-year marriage to Nelson Mandela, she was always a struggle leader in her own right, who fearlessly confronted the apartheid regime. ‘She was detained for 18 months in solitary confinement in a condemned cell at Pretoria Central Prison before being charged under the Suppression of Communism Act of 1950.

‘In 1969‚ she became one of the first detainees under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act of 1967 and later she was placed under house arrest for many years in Brandfort‚ a small town in the Free State. ‘After the first democratic election in 1994‚ Winnie Mandela became an MP and briefly served as deputy minister of arts, culture, science and technology. She however remained an MP ever since.

‘She was a woman revolutionary, who was never prepared to be just Nelson’s wife but a fearless fighter, moulded in the struggle against apartheid and a role model for women today.

‘She will always be an inspiration for future generations of women revolutionaries. ‘At a time when so many leaders on the once proud African Nation Congress have been corrupted by the lure of personal wealth, it is more important then ever to remember the veterans of the past like Winnie Mandela who refused to bend under the yoke of the racist tyranny.

‘As shown by her experience of jail, persecution and trauma at the hands of the apartheid security apparatus and racist capitalists, she was made of a mould that will not easily be broken! ‘We have lost a gallant fighter in our people’s struggle for their emancipation! Mama was no angel, just like everyone else, but she will always have a very special place in the hearts of millions. We love you mama!’

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of SAFTU, said: ‘We have a lost a gallant fighter in our people’s struggle for emancipation. The IndustriALL Global Union said: ‘“When you strike a woman, you strike a rock” is a popular slogan from the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, and a call to action on women’s rights in the country. ‘On April 2 one of the rocks of that struggle fell when Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died aged 81.

‘Jailed, arrested, detained, and persecuted under the notorious apartheid regime’s repression and intimidation, she was amongst the most courageous faces of the bitter struggle for democracy in South Africa. ‘When her former husband Nelson Mandela and other senior African National Congress and resistance leaders were in prison at Robben Island, she led from the trenches as one of the faces of the struggle. ‘She held senior positions in the ANC as president of the Women’s League and as executive member of the ruling party. ‘She was a deputy minister of arts, culture, science and technology in South Africa’s first democratic government.’

Paule France Ndessomin, IndustriALL Global Union regional secretary for sub Saharan Africa, said: ‘Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s legacy is that of a woman who fought bravely against the apartheid repression. ‘Her struggle, in which she made huge personal sacrifices, is an inspiration to all of us.

‘She is the people’s hero and that is why she was called Mother of the Nation.’

Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla said: ‘She stared down the evil apartheid regime, fearlessly fought it and ultimately outlived it.

‘Throughout her life she remained a warrior for social justice and never shied away from speaking truth to power, even after the 1994 democratic breakthrough. ‘She was a fearless voice and a staunch defender of working-class interests and spoke out against the perpetuation of apartheid separate development, growing inequality and deepening poverty. ‘She championed economic transformation without fear or favour and spoke out consistently against social injustice.’

• After a two-day picket, Shoprite workers say they will resort to a strike should the need arise.

The employees have been attempting to enter negotiations with the retailer’s management but say the company is not being receptive to their demands. The workers are demanding full-time employment for employees who have worked at the retailer for more than five years and want transport to be provided for those who complete shifts in the evening.

‘We’re saying: “Shoprite, meet us halfway.” Shoprite is running away, it doesn’t want to meet us,’ said Thabo Malatji, a South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union shop steward at the Eloff Street Shoprite branch in Johannesburg. ‘We seek assistance and support from the community to come and help us solve this problem of exploitation (from) Shoprite.’

Malatji said people who have been working there for decades have still not been offered permanent employment, which has had a ‘demoralising’ effect.

‘Now we are making an appeal to the community, to the citizens of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, we are all here. Shoprite is all over. Let’s unite and fight against this retail giant,’ he said. Malatji said they are pleading with people to boycott Shoprite during the negotiation period until a resolution has been reached with management. He said while they picket, Shoprite has made use of outsourced workers rather than engage with them.

‘I would appeal to (management) to join hands and meet us halfway. We are not criminals, we are not hooligans. We are the employees of this company. What we want is simple – we want good working conditions,’ he said. After a mass strike last year, Malatji said: ‘Shoprite promised to speedily resolve the issues but now they are playing hide and seek.’ ‘All we ask for is 40 hours; we’re not asking for more,’ said an outsourced supervisor at the Shoprite branch on Eloff Street. She said the company also doesn’t compensate the employees for overtime when they have to attend to customers after work hours.

‘We work hard for the company but 32 hours only gets you enough money for transport and one family pack so you can eat at home,’ she said.

Another employee who has been a casual worker at Shoprite for 16 years is gravely affected by the lack of secure transport after her late shifts. ‘I catch a taxi at Bree taxi rank but you find there aren’t many taxis and I end up arriving home at 11pm. I stay at Shoprite only because I need a job and my children need to eat.’

She said her work schedule has disrupted her family life and often causes tensions in her household.

‘Sometimes I find my children already sleeping, I can’t even help them with homework.

‘We just ask that Shoprite considers our struggles, considers that we have homes and children that we need to support,’ she added.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has spoken out in support of the Shoprite employees. ‘Numsa condemns the management of Shoprite for placing workers’ lives in danger by refusing to provide free, safe transportation for workers. The retailer has been allowed to abuse and exploit workers for far too long,’ the union said in a statement.