MALALANE – Members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) have been striking at Malelane Stene over salaries, demanding an increase across the board, over the past month.
Violence escalated, with the protesters throwing stones, damaging equipment and blocking the entrance, which led Malelane Stene to submit an urgent application for an interdict against the strikers on March 29 to prevent them from any acts of intimidation or violence.
According to Malelane Stene’s managing director, Hendrik van Dyk, protesters burnt a CAT excavator on Sunday night. Police were expected to aid the workers and trucks to gain access to the premises and resume their duties on Monday morning.
Shortly after workers started their activities on Monday, strikers arrived.
Van Dyk said a man threw a big stone through the open windows of his bakkie as he arrived and strikers started to block the entrances again.
Police arrived to monitor the situation.
Later the morning, Van Dyk had to escort a client out of the factory as they feared for her safety. He tried to get out of the gate and the protesters later opened a gap for him to move past.
He says strikers leaned against the bakkie as he slowly drove through the gap and he saw a woman falling to the ground, clearly uninjured but allegedly faking an injury. He drove forward a few metres before being stormed by members of SAPS’ Tactical Response Team.
He tried calming them down, saying that they could look at video footage to determine what had happened and that he was convinced that he did not injure anyone.
Van Dyk was arrested, taken to the police station and charged with attempted murder and hit-and-run. After inspecting the video footage, the charge was changed to negligent driving and he was released on bail.
Van Dyk appeared in the Tonga Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday morning and the case was struck off the roll due to insufficient evidence.
Staff reportedly had to stay in the factory on Monday as the strikers turned violent and police had to fire shock grenades and rubber bullets in order to get them out safely.
According to provincial SAPS spokesman, Brig Leonard Hlathi, allegations were made that strikers had been shot with rubber bullets but no one had come forward with information. He urged them to report the matter.
Malelane Stene is working on taking legal action against the strikers to enable them to continue their operations.
Van Dyk said its factory in White River is in production and not experiencing problems.
Police arrested 17 protestors in connection with the action on Wednesday evening.
Read about other incidents of protest action in the Onderberg over the past few months: