EFF-led protest ends in violence

A group of EFF members dance and sing in protest on the Tenbosch road.

TENBOSCH – The latest in a series of protest actions by former Umbhaba workers resulted in the arrest of the provincial leader of the EFF.

Workers and EFF members gathered at the Tenbosch turn-off on Thursday morning to once again demand the reinstatement of workers dismissed at the end of last year after violent strikes.

Police were present from early morning to help suppress any potential violence and ensure the safety of current Umbhaba employees.

Protesters demanded that Mr Roy Plath of Umbhaba Estate once again receive their memorandum of complaints, but insisted on access to the premises.

When both the employer and police refused them entry, the group stated that they would sleep at the gate until their demands were met.

By late afternoon there had still been no headway in negotiations and police had to disperse the crowd with tear gas and rubber bullets to ensure the safe passage of Umbhaba employees.

“It felt like Marikana,” one of the protesters stated and reported that one person, who had been slightly injured, was taken to hospital for treatment.

EFF provincial leader, Mr Collen Sedibe and 11 other accomplices were arrested for participating in an illegal gathering. Const Natacia Mbuyane of Komatipoort SAPS stated that the party had applied for permission to conduct the protest but that it had been denied.

Ten were charged with public violence and granted free bail. Two were released without charge. The ten have to be in court again on September 2.

A DA candidate and ten other people will be appearing in the same court on the same day on murder charges. Read more about it here.

A former Umbhaba worker, who asked not to be named to avoid victimisation, stated that the latest protest was due to the workers’ frustration about the situation. “I haven’t been working for nine months,” he explained. “And the unions are no longer here.”

The group approached the EFF in the hope that the party would lend some weight to their cause.

“We demanded that the employer reinstate the workers and pay for the time we spend out of work. Some of us have been working for Umbhaba for years and didn’t receive any compensation when we were dismissed.”

He said the group had already handed over three memorandums. They were, however, still not sure what is happening and whether there is any progress in their case among the institutions that had gotten involved in the past few months.

“We are still planning our next step and trying to find organisations willing to help our cause,” the worker reported.

The workers’ previous protest action was in May, when the Department of Labour, local trade union officials and strike leaders met to try and find a way to resolve the dire situation. Many of the people involved are dependent on food parcels periodically handed out by the South African Social Security Agency.

Plath, who is the CEO of Umbhaba, maintained in previous correspondence with Corridor Gazette that they would continue to deal with matters in an orderly and lawful manner and would allow the law to take its course.

Read previous reports on the issue:

Strikers want drastic action against Umbhaba

Workers march to Umbhaba to demand feedback

No resolution in sight as strike damage escalates

Retha Nel

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