Saturday, 19 April 2008

South Africa's heroes of labour

Trades unionists and lovers of liberty worldwide should cast a special medal to celebrate the refusal of South African dockers and police to unload the 77 tonnes of weapons on board the Chinese ship, the An Yue Jiang. The weapons, which include three million rounds of AK47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and 3,000 mortar shells and launchers, were due to be transported from Durban to Robert Mugabe’s government in Harare. But the dockers, backed by the police – which merits another medal in its own right – did what South African president Thabo Mbeki and his government have so conspicuously refused to, took a stand against Mugabe and turned the ship away.

Randall Howard, general secretary of the dockers’ South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu), was quoted as saying: ‘As far as we are concerned, the containers will not be offloaded. The ship must return to China. If they the Mbeki government bring replacement labour to do the work, our members will not stand and look at them and smile.’

And South Africa’s Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) union warned off Mbeki from trying to use the police as scab labour. ‘The dockers have good reasons for not offloading the ship,’ said union spokesman Benzi Soko. ‘We understand their objection.’
It’s great to see that ordinary South African workers haven’t forgotten the real meaning of ‘liberation’.

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