'They must answer for it.' Clover accuses unions of security guard's murder

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  • Clover has blamed striking unions for a standoff that resulted in the death of a Fidelity security that was protecting a delivery truck.
  • Clover claims security personnel were attacked by striking workers and that Tsephe Molatsi was beaten and shot in the head.
  • General Industrial Workers' Union of South Africa secretary general John Appolis said the union's strike has been largely peaceful.

Dairy producer Clover has slammed striking unions at the company, blaming them for the death of a Fidelity security guard who was killed while on duty late on Saturday evening.

This comes amid a strike at the dairy producer, with the Food and Allied Workers' Union (Fawu) and the General Industrial Workers' Union of South Africa (Giwusa) fighting against restructuring and for the reversal of retrenchments at the company.

According to a statement from Clover, Tsephe Molatsi was part of a group of security guards protecting a Clover delivery truck. This was confirmed by Molatsi's employer, Fidelity.

Clover says the truck was attacked by striking workers and a standoff ensued, which claimed Molatsi's life.

Clover provided two separate case numbers for the incident; one for malicious damage to property which is being handled by the Olifantsfontein SAPS, and the other being murder, handled by the Midrand SAPS.

Clover spokesperson Steven Velthuysen said the violence of the attack was "not industrial action" but "murder" adding that the company had an interdict granted against the unions to prevent violence but this was allegedly ignored.

The statement said members of a union, which was not named in the statement, beat Molatsi and shot him in the head.

"We have now applied for another one [interdict] against the union and certain union officials, which will be heard on Monday. The union bears full responsibility for this appalling murder. They will need to answer for it," Velthuysen said.

Fidelity Services Group CEO Wahl Bartmann confirmed to Fin24 that Molatsi was employed by Fidelity Specialist Services for seven and a half years and was in an escort vehicle assigned to protect a Clover delivery vehicle from attack by striking workers when the incident took place.

"We extend our heartfelt condolences to officer Molatsi’s family and loved ones and his many friends. He enjoyed the greatest respect from his Fidelity colleagues who are all deeply shocked by his passing. He will be remembered for his dedication and extreme bravery," Bartmann said.

Lieutenant Colonel Mavela Masondo told Fin24 that a case of murder was opened at Midrand Police Station.

"[The] investigation is under way and no arrests have been made yet. Police are appealing to anyone who might have information that can help in the investigation or assist apprehend the suspects to please call the nearest police station or Crime Stop," Masondo said.

Giwusa secretary general John Appolis said the union would monitor the situation and investigations by police.

"We are still investigating the matter. It came to our attention yesterday and we are not sure who is involved in that process. Once we have done our investigation we will come back to you," said Appolis. According to a statement, the attackers were dressed in red.

Appolis said Giwusa generally conducted itself peacefully during the industrial action and that the union was committed to honouring the conditions of the picketing rules determined at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration before the strike began.

"Generally, the strike has been quite peaceful. In most areas we have been involved in peaceful picketing. Our activities are within the ambit of the law and our members are determined to continue with the strike," Appolis said.

He said the union met with Clover CEO Johann Vorster on Sunday to discuss how to end the deadlock, but an agreement could not be reached. Appolis said the meeting, facilitated by the Department of Trade and Industry, was adjourned to a later date that is still to be confirmed.

The Competition Commission is investigating potential breaches in the takeover of Clover by the Israeli-based Central Bottling Company subsidiary Milco, after the company cut jobs when job creation was stipulated as a condition for approval of the merger.

Fawu has not yet responded to requests for comment. 

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