JOHANNESBURG, September 13 – The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said on Thursday the Constitutional Court had ruled that workers fired by a company for singing a struggle song during a 2013 strike must be reinstated.
“NUMSA wins again!! The Constitutional court has found that workers who sang the Struggle song “Umama uyajabula mangishayi ibhunu” are NOT guilty of hate speech. They must be reinstated after they were unfairly fired by Duncanmec,” Numsa posted on its Twitter account.
In 2013 Duncanmec dismissed workers affiliated to Numsa for misconduct after they sang the song, one of many that were popular during the decades long struggle against oppressive white rule, which loosely translated from isiZulu means “My mother rejoices when I hit the boer”, a reference to white Afrikaner descendants of Dutch-speaking settlers.
The company said the song was racist and an example of hate speech, and took the matter to the Constitutional Court after the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and the Labour Court ruled in favour of the fired employees.
Numsa defended the workers, insisting that struggle songs “tell the story of our battles with apartheid and with our modern day oppressor which is Capital (private companies)”.
“Struggle songs are a part of who we are and how we express ourselves as the working class majority in Africa. Any limitation on this right is a limitation on the right to freedom of speech. As NUMSA we are committed to vociferously defending this freedom with all we have.”
Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim called Thursday’s Constitutional Court ruling a victory for workers.
“When workers demonstrate, protest, they are allowed to go to the archives, to sing revolutionary songs that they identify with,” Jim told reporters. (ANA)