There seems to be no end in sight to the protracted and violent strike at the Transnet’s newest multibillion-rand port in the Eastern Cape’s commercial hub of Nelson Mandela Bay municipality in Port Elizabeth.
Houses and cars of nonstriking employees were attacked and torched in the Motherwell township in the early hours of Friday, in what management condemned as “resumption of thuggery, violence and lawlessness” against those not taking part in the industrial action at the Ngqura Container Terminal.
The strike started on April 25, with members of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) downing tools to support their demands including the banning of labour brokers, which were phased out by the company last Monday, harmonisation of the transport subsidy, and better working conditions for truck drivers.
Transnet spokesperson Mboniso Sigonyela said on Friday the Labour Court had ordered Numsa and its members to stop intimidating, assaulting or threatening employees working at the port, and their families, causing damage to property, vehicles or buildings of Transnet and its employees and inciting or intimidating any person to commit an act of violence against Transnet, its employees, their families and properties.
“Transnet sought to interdict Numsa in line with its commitment to protect its workers and their families after a shocking night of violence in which homes belonging to our colleagues were petrol-bombed, while two vehicles, also belonging to nonstriking workers, were torched in 10 coordinated violent attacks on Friday morning.
“Two more houses belonging to our nonstriking colleagues were stoned in the early hours of Saturday, despite the interdict. This, we view as flagrant contempt of the court’s decision.
“The latest incidents take the number of such attacks to 30 since the union, which represents a minority of Transnet’s more than 60000 workers, vowed to intensify its action against the company last week. The majority of our colleagues do not belong to Numsa,” Sigonyela said.
Transnet supervisor Thulisa Tanda’s car was set alight on Friday morning, prompting him to ask:“Where is our safety? We are not on strike. We are living in fear now because these people can come back and burn down our house.
Cargo coordinator Salem Mbomvu’s house in Zwide township was pelted with stones last week. “I was shocked. My children are not safe. We are just going to work because we have to make a living. “But what is happening is not fair to us,” she said.
Truck driver Andile Ngcaphe, whose house in KwaDwesi suburb was petrol-bombed last week said: “Only the door was damaged. The situation will turn from bad to worse should we choose to retaliate. They must not think they are heroes.”
Transnet Port Terminals Eastern Cape general manager Siya Mhlaluka, said: “We have escalated this to our principals, and we are working with the police. There are ongoing engagements with Numsa. They say they condemn violence but the violence is continuing.”
Numsa regional secretary Phumzile Nodongwe said their members were disciplined and would not resort to violence.