JOHANNESBURG, August 23 – A trade unionist had a narrow escape after unknown assailants attacked and petrol-bombed her house in Zone 17 Sebokeng in the Vaal, south of Johannesburg, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
This attack was one of several where houses belonging to NUM branch leadership in the Vaal, were petrol bombed and one house was completely burnt out at around 1am on Wednesday in a suspected union rivalry.
The rivalry between two unions, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Workers Union (Amcu), has escalated at the ceramic manufacturing company, Vaal Sanitaryware.
Workers affiliated to Amcu, the majority union at Vaal Sanitaryware, have been on strike for the past three months, while NUM members have continued going to work. Vaal Sanitaryware employs just over 400 workers, and around 150 of them belong to the NUM.
NUM’s branch chairperson at Vaal Sanitary, Tebogo Litelu, said that the union’s leadership had been targeted as seven houses were petrol bombed by unknown people in different parts of the township since the beginning of the strike.
Litelu said the intimidation started when NUM members took a decision to go back to work after realising that the wage strike led by Amcu would not achieve anything.
“The house that is completely burnt belongs to the NUM women’s structure deputy secretary at the branch. She has been left traumatised by the incident. I can say that she and the rest of the family are unharmed but they do not have any clothing since everything was completely burnt down,” Litelu said.
“The NUM strongly condemns the escalation of systematic attacks on its members by thugs who are exploiting the strike situation with acts of crime and barbarism.”
Amcu leaders in the Vaal were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.
Litelu said they were calling on law enforcement agencies to arrest the criminals who were intimidating their members, adding that the police did not intervene until they were called by NUM’s national leadership.