26 held for strike-related crimes

2014-07-04 17:31

A total of 26 people have been arrested in Gauteng for intimidation, public violence and malicious damage to property as police monitor the metals and engineering strike, say police.

The 26 were arrested in connection with crimes committed over the past three days, Lieutenant Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said today.

Of these, 19 people were arrested in Elandsfontein on the East Rand after protesters, believed to be strikers in the metals and engineering industries, broke the gate of a business.

When police arrived, the crowd stoned their vehicles. Police used rubber bullets to disperse them.

In a separate incident in Benoni yesterday, about 2 000 striking workers forced their way into a company and damaged equipment and computers. The damage was estimated at several millions of rands.

In Wadeville, also on the East Rand, nine people were arrested for allegedly breaking windows at the premises of a business.

“Although it is a protected strike and employees are allowed to picket, acts of violence will not be tolerated and police are ready to take action,” Dlamini said.

The majority union in the metals and engineering industries, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) embarked on an indefinite strike on Tuesday. Several smaller unions have joined the strike.

Numsa is demanding a one-year bargaining agreement, including a 15% wage increase, a R1 000 housing allowance and the scrapping of labour brokers.

Read: Seifsa ‘disappointed’ as Numsa rejects offer

National Employers’ Association of SA CEO Gerhard Papenfus said about half of the companies affected by the strike had reported violence and intimidation.

Seifsa also complained that some of its members had reported damage to property and violence accompanying the strike.

The federation’s CEO, Kaizer Nyatsumba, has written to national police commissioner Riah Phiyega twice, calling on police to prepare for a potentially violent strike.

Earlier today, the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry condemned strike-related violence and called on police to arrest the perpetrators.

“The high economic costs and severe infringement on the rights of South African citizens indicate that government must intervene to avert anarchy,” said CEO Neren Rau.

Communications Minister Faith Muthambi said the government condemned the violence attributed to Numsa members.

“While South Africans have the constitutional right to protest, intimidation and violence against those not participating in the strike will not be accepted,” she said.

The government called on employers and trade unions to work together to reach an amicable and speedy resolution.

Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant is expected to meet Seifsa and Numsa after her meeting with Numsa on Monday, said her spokesperson Mokgadi Pela.

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