Twenty six people were arrested on Friday in the economic province of Gauteng following intimidation, public violence and malicious damage to property. This is in connection with the ongoing strike organised by the National Union of Mineworkers of South Africa (NUMSA).
NUMSA this week called a strike of its more than 200 000 members calling for an increase of between twelve and fifteen percent. They have also demanded a housing allowance of R1 000 as well as the scrapping of labour brokers. The employers, on the other hand, have argued that any double digit increase would be irresponsible. They have, instead offered an increase of up to eight percent. This was revealed by the National Employers Association of South Africa, who have also requested that the entry level workers’ wages be lowered and that the industry be made more flexible. Neasa CEO Gerhard Papenfus said the employers’ demand relating to entry-level wages was aimed at boosting job creation.
Police spokesman, Lt-Col Lungelo Dlamini confirmed that police were monitoring the strike of the metals, engineering and allied workers since there have been several reports of intimidation, violence, damage to property and other forms of violence. He went on to confirm that the police had in their custody twenty six individuals in connection with the strike. He added that of these, nineteen had been arrested in Elandsfontein in the East Rand, where strikers broke the gate of business premises. When the police were called in to try and quell the confusion, the crowd turned on them with stones and bricks, causing massive damage to the police vehicles. The police had to resort to the use of rubber bullets in order to disperse and control the strikers. In a separate incident that happened on Thursday and captured on national television, more than two thousand strikers forced their way into a company in Benoni, where they went on to damage equipment and computers which are valued at several millions of rands. In Wadeville, nine people were arrested for allegedly breaking windows and other things at a company.
Dlamini said that while it was understood that this was a protected strike and employees were allowed to picket, he emphasized that violent actions would not be tolerated and that police were in position to take action. He added that perpetrators would be arrested and brought to book. This comes against the backdrop of reports that employers have written to the National Police Commissioner, Riah Phiyega advising the police to prepare for a potentially violent strike.