A TRUCK driver was threatened and his truck, said to be worth more than R1-million, set alight in a protest in Uitenhage yesterday as Eastcape Midlands College students and members of the National Health and Allied Workers’ Union continued their strike.
Yesterday, all roads leading to the town centre were barricaded with burning tyres and rubble as students called for the reinstatement of their 66 axed lecturers.
Nehawu members, who have been on strike for eight weeks, have distanced themselves from the violence that has characterised the strike in the last few weeks.
Eastcape Midlands College (EMC) Nehawu branch chairman Sandile Sanda said community members from KwaLanga and KwaNobuhle had joined the students in their demand to get their lecturers back.
“The students, joined by community members, are demanding that their lecturers be reinstated. I heard that there were three students who were arrested but not yet charged.
“It was never our intention to strike but we would like the management to listen to our grievances as it is our wish to go back to work. The campuses have been closed since Thursday,” he said.
Tension has been brewing at the college since last year as Nehawu-affiliated staff tried to get the college to adhere to a collective agreement calling for their salaries to be increased.
The college was plagued by rolling closures and protests, which had intensified earlier this year, leading to the mass axing of 66 lecturers for their failure to appear for disciplinary hearing on charges of embarking on an unprotected strike. The union said the college refused to sit down with them to iron things out.
But college spokeswoman Elmari van der Merwe had earlier said this could not happen until the legalities around the strike had been adhered to.
“EMC is following legal disciplinary processes and policies in respect of the illegal and unprotected strike action, while the union is also ignoring the court interdict preventing them from disrupting and intimidating staff and students at all EMC campuses. These legal processes will be followed to conclusion. Whilst the legal process is followed, no mediation can take place,” she said.
Ward 45 councillor Monde Vaaltyn condemned the protest, saying people’s right to strike should not infringe on others’ right not to.
Police have opened a case of malicious damage to property.
The college’s Nehawu branch secretary, Kenneth Fitoyi said the police used live ammunition to disperse their students.
Police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Gerda Swart said the roads were barricaded between 6am and 7am yesterday.
“There were different groups closing all the roads leading to Uitenhage town. A truck driver was threatened and the truck he was driving was burnt,” she said.
Swart denied the use of live ammunition by police, saying they used rubber bullets to disperse protesting crowds.
–Yoliswa Sobuwa, Additional reporting by Zandile Mbabela