The purpose of the march was to request the employer to provide confirmation letters of employment for workers at the Golden Bakery so that the workers could go to Home Affairs on Monday to re-apply for their work permits. The Golden Bakery workers had been working there for between 7 and 15 years and the employer had never asked them for their work permits before. But as soon as they started organising and wanting their Basic Conditions of Employment Act rights, the employer threatened to have them deported unless they came up with work permits.
The SWF general meeting was consciously solidaristic with workers from the Southern Africa region, and elected four people to negotiate with the employer. As soon as the CWAO and SWF activists arrived at the bakery, the owner of the business immediately threatened that his "iinkabi" (sniper gunmen) would shoot the three elected representatives with live ammunition. The representatives reassured the owner that we were only there to request the letters. The owner first pushed and shoved one of the representatives, but after the representatives calmly restated the request for letters of confirmation, said he would write the letters.
As the three representatives went outside to advise the workers that the employer was writing the letters, the four snipers opened fire, spraying bullets everywhere. They were recklessly shooting in all directions. Some bystanders were sitting on the side of the road opposite, some way away, drinking their own beer and minding their own business and the gunmen also pointed their guns directly at them and shot them. People started running and screaming and then the CWAO staff and SWF activists gathered up the people who had been shot and called the police and ambulances. Fortunately, police were patrolling and were able to immediately assist. The ambulance took too long to come, so the activists transported the injured people to Germiston hospital.
Two SWF activists, two bystanders, and a CWAO Board member were shot with live bullets, one was shot in the back and hand and is seriously injured; one has shrapnel lodged in his brain and is seriously injured; one was shot in the buttock; another in the head and one was brought to hospital unconscious, having been shot.
The employer has refused to provide the footage to the police. There are shops all along the street that have cameras and we demand that the police retrieve that footage. In an emergency meeting last night, CWAO and SWF resolved to engage an attorney to pursue criminal and civil charges against the owner of Golden Bakery.
Many Germiston employers who hire and exploit casual workers are currently using groups of these hitmen to "protect" their premises, however, these are not registered private security companies. These hitmen do not wear uniforms and they only carry live ammunition. These syndicates of snipers only know how to shoot with live ammunition and they feel entitled to do so whenever their employer instructs them to do so. They feel they are above the law and that they are entitled to shoot to kill peaceful marchers. This is a grave concern - thugs are being used to "sort out the workers", no matter if they are merely exercising their Constitutional rights to peaceful association and assembly.
CWAO and SWF are also very concerned that the labour broking industry is a multi-billion rand industry and that our members and activists lives are at risk for trying to organize labour broker workers. This shooting comes just a few days after the Johannesburg Labour Court ruled that the Registrar of Labour Relations cannot continue to refuse to register the SWF as a trade union, and must do so within 14 days.
Are casual workers to be shot with live ammunition now that they are unionised?
This is our third experience in the last couple of weeks where there has been the threat of violence or actual violence. (The previous two incidents were when thugs emerged from the Liwayway Food SA offices and surrounded and threatened a CWAO organizer who had arrived for a meeting; and at Chint Global energy company in Germiston, where some of the workers were organizing and the worker leader was threatened with a knife).
The staff of CWAO and activists from SWF are deeply traumatized and distressed from the shooting they witnessed right in front of them, as well as the huge amounts of blood that was spilled. CWAO is arranging counselling today.
Contact people for comment:
Lengana - 083 729 6560
Vuyelwa Magidela - 076 154 3813
Edgar Mokgola - 063 694 5238
Siya Tshabalala - 061 045 1670
Category: PRESS RELEASE | DISPUTES