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Message of Support and Condolences: A Joint Statement by the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa (DEMAWUSA) and the Municipal and Allied Trade Union of South Africa (MATUSA)

The Murder of a Shop Steward

On Friday 29th July,  SAMWU members employed by Pikitup went to their Unions Head Office in Johannesburg  to try find out what was happening after ending their month long strike earlier this year. At the entrance to the shabby building that has had millions of members subscriptions misspent on it, the workers were confronted by a team of so-called protectors, who resembled nightclub bouncers, and employed by the Union at a phenomenal cost.

Despite being orderly and disciplined, the workers were physically prevented from entering their own building, and eventually after assaulting workers, the ‘bouncers’ drew weapons and opened fire.  Three people were wounded, and one a leading shop steward was gunned down, at point blank range, and it appears, in the back as he was leaving.  The victim, a respected shop steward, eventually died on the scene before an EMS team could arrive, in front of his comrades, in full view of the public, and outside the Union Head Office that he represented. Of the two others comrades who were shot, one is still in a very precarious condition.

Killed for demanding answers from his union – the body of the SAMWU comrade lies on the street outside the union’s head quarters in Johannesburg

Leaders Who Use Members Money Against Their Own Members!

When members subscriptions are spent on ‘protecting’ leaders from those they are supposed to represent this indicates that something is very very wrong inside SAMWU. COSATU has condemned the killing of the SAMWU shop steward, and yet when concerned members who later formed SOS pleaded with COSATU leaders to demand a forensic audit they simply refused to do so because at that time they cynically needed SAMWU leadership votes to expel NUMSA and dismiss Zwelinzima Vavi. This is the price of factionalism.

Pikitup Workers Sacrificed on the Alter of Corruption

During the four week strike of Pikitup workers, the National SAMWU leadership offered virtually no support to the workers. They left the workers to campaign virtually alone under the guidance of a few of the regional leadership. They did not organise solidarity action, messages of support, provide resources, or demand an end to management intransigence.

The workers valiantly fought on, in the face of a hostile media, and numerous and spurious external interventions that were aimed at breaking the strike and refusing to address the workers concerns about corruption at the highest levels of Pikitup management.

Recent events however have shown that the workers were absolutely right. As revealed this week, after a City investigation, the Pikitup management has acted in a corrupt manner, and the workers demands were completely vindicated.

The abject failure of the COSATU leadership to intervene properly when asked to do so two years or more ago is a grave indictment and they must now share the responsibility for the worsening crisis that is now unfolding, and the tragic human costs it has entailed.  Getting rid of Zwelinzima Vavi and NUMSA was their overwhelming obsession at that time, and everything else was regarded as secondary, to their eternal shame.  Abandoning workers in this manner is an unforgivable dereliction of the most fundamentals of class solidarity.

What is Needed Now

Firstly, there must be a full,exhaustive and speedy police inquiry into the killing of the Pikitup Shop Steward and the wounding of two others. Not just to determine those who pulled the triggers, but also those who paid for and gave the authority to shoot to kill. This is not the first time that this has happened, and previous instances must also now be properly and thoroughly re-investigated

Secondly, there must be a full disclosure to the Hawks by SAMWU staff and all others who have information that will accelerate the conviction of all those who have stolen SAMWU funds. If necessary they should be issued with subpoenas to appear and give evidence or be charged with aiding and abetting corruption and be prosecuted.

Thirdly, those workers remaining in SAMWU must demand that COSATU stop protecting either faction, and insist that the deliberations of the Ernst and Young Forensic Audit be made available to all members without delay. Workers themselves must assert their power, and decide for themselves the next steps forward.

Fourthly, the Hawks must continue to prepare for the Court case scheduled to take place on September 16th later this year, and municipal workers from all organisations regardless of their affiliation must mobilise to make sure that those who have stolen workers money, and who it seems, are prepared to kill for it are tried and convicted, and ALL of those responsible are made to account for their misdeeds.

We Mourn, But We Must Also Continue to Care

Finally, ALL municipal workers, regardless of the Union they belong to must bow their heads in condolence for the loss and injury of fellow workers. Every effort must now be made to ensure that the families of those who have lost a breadwinner and loved one, or who have been injured are properly cared for, and are not abandoned. This is the least that we must do. Nothing is more precious than human life.

We send our heartfelt condolences to the family of our anti-corruption stalwart comrade Manyosi and wish all other injured comrades a speedy recovery. To the workers at Pikitup we say Akwehlanga lungehlanga. Modimo wa khotso a le tiise bohlokong ba lona.