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Article Published by Corridor Gazette in May 2017

Mpumalanga - South Africa

 

 

Cosatu and Ramaphosa join forces with former Umbhaba workers

 

 

Hundreds of Cosatu members and former farm workers marched to Umbhaba Estate gates on May 1. The protest concerned alleged unfair dismissals which happened 16 months ago.

 

May 4, 2017

 

HECTORSPRUIT – Cosatu’s march to Umbhaba Estate formed part of the trade union’s May Day celebrations.

Cosatu aimed to highlight “the plight of farm workers and farm dwellers in the province whose rights are grossly violated and subjected to continuous victimisation and harassment, and to call for the speedy resolution of the Umhbaba workers’ strike”.

Despite the rain, supporters came in droves and gathered at the Tenbosch turn-off.

Protest action started in November 2015, when workers demanded that a trade union represents them in labour issues.  It escalated and after severe damage to the farm and its operations, a group of workers was dismissed. The workers alleged that the dismissal was unfair and protest action has occurred intermittently since.

READ: Violence escalates during Umbhaba protest action

 

Deputy president, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, was among the Cosatu and ANC members who addressed the crowd.

Although Cosatu’s first deputy president, Mr Tyotyo James, reaffirmed Cosatu’s stance to support Ramaphosa to succeed Mr Jacob Zuma as president of the ANC, Ramaphosa opted not to speak about the succession race and concentrated more on workers’ issues.

He promised the Umbhaba workers that government will prioritise addressing their problems with their employers.

 


 

Mr Cyril Ramaphosa addresses the workers. Photo: Yoliswa Hlatswayo

“I can see there are serious issues here and we cannot allow for this to happen, not in our lifetime. We will thoroughly engage with the Umbhaba management and push it to comply with the labour laws of our country,” promised Ramaphosa.

READ: EFF-led protest ends in violence

He threatened that if the Umbhaba owners do not come to the party, then government will be forced to take drastic measures. “There is a great possibility that this very same farm belonged to our people who were forcefully evicted from here during the apartheid era. And if this is the case, then we will need to investigate and take action,” said Ramaphosa. In preparation for the event, Umbhaba management erected several signs with slogans and Bible verses such as Proverbs 14:5: “An honest witness does not deceive, but a false witness pours out lies”.

 

 

 

   

 

One of the signboards that was erected at Umbhaba Estate.

Mr Roy Plath, Umbhaba’s CEO said the purpose of the signs was to make some genuine attempt to speak truth into the disastrous, confused and depraved situated that it finds itself in as a farming company.

 

Plath spoke up against comments and reports that have been misconstrued in the past. “The dismissals that took place were neither an easy nor unconsidered decision.”

 

“The dismissed workers engaged in criminal acts of public violence, malicious damage to property, assaults, contempt of court orders and intimidation on various occasions.”

 

 

 

 

“Independently chaired disciplinary steps were instituted and the workers were afforded every opportunity to make representations. In summary, serious criminal acts were the reason for the dismissals,” he said.

 

He told Corridor Gazette that the law must run its course and that the events that transpired would be legally adjudicated and that Umbhaba, as a law-abiding and ethical company, will leave it with the legal forums to adjudicate and resolve.

“A High Court interdict was granted against the Cosatu march beforehand. With the SAPS out in force, the event appeared to be controlled. The interdict was granted on the basis of the millions of rand of property damage and criminal acts that occurred previously. The full ambit of our civil claims will play out in the courts in due course. Our company has suffered huge damages due to all this lawlessness hidden under the banner of unionism. This lawlessness cannot be the way forward,” Plath said.

   

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