RE: COSATU PRESS STATEMENT ON THE 24 HOUR GENERAL STRIKE
Today several millions heeded the call by COSATU for workers to embark on a general strike and occupy the streets in defence of their constitutional demands. COSATU is overwhelmed by the positive response of workers to its call. Initial estimation shows that 75% of workers in major industrial areas heeded the call. This being the first general strike after democratic elections shows that workers are not prepared to leave their future and demands to only those they elected into parliament.
The strike comes with the background of threats of dismissals, disciplinary actions, lock-outs, and blackmailing. The fact that workers ignored all these threats from anti working class forces comes as no surprise to COSATU. Even the last minute attempt by the big capital blue eyed boys in the form of Democratic Party's Tony Leon, who yesterday declared our strike illegal, could not deter workers' resolve to fight in support of their legitimate demands. COSATU once more demonstrated that it has an organisational capacity to mobilise workers within a short period of time if there is a need. The strike was announced on the 20 April 1996 and in 6 working days we were able to pull more than 325 000 workers in the streets of major towns with millions heeding the call for a strike. It is a tribute to workers that despite the transport and logistical problems they faced, so many were prepared to come to the cities. In Klerksdorp alone more than 20 000 workers in the mines were left stranded without transport. There are dozens of such examples across the country as in most townships there were no running trains and busses. (See attached details of members who attended different rallies.) We also attach a separate statement for SACTWU indicating the levels of support in the clothing and textile industry.
We are particularly pleased that in true COSATU tradition, our strike was not accompanied by violence and intimidation. Despite the volatile situation in KwaZulu Natal, we were able to have a solid support from workers in that region. We are disappointed at the reported sporadic incidents of violence and intimidation in some of the townships in KwaZulu Natal.
We are reiterating our call to our members to remain on their toes for further actions as may be necessitated by the developments in the Constitutional Assembly. We are making a call to big business and National Party to drop their undemocratic demands. We hope that even at this late hour they shall review their current position and realise that our members together with the rest of the democratic South Africa shall not be held hostage by minority interests. We call on the African National Congress to stand firm on their positions and reject any clever formulation that will bring the principles on issues on dispute back on the constitution.
With regard to the lock-out clause, COSATU is interested in one thing - the removal of the entire clause. We will continue to reject any clever formulation that is intended to bring the lock-out clause in the constitution through the back door.
We acknowledge the participation of NACTU and whoever else supported us in our marches.
We call on employers who have threatened workers with lock-out action on the 03 May 1996 when they return, not to risk a chain of reaction by workers in defence of each other.
REPORT ON STRIKE 30/04/1996
Marchers marched to the offices of the NP where a memorandum was handed over to John Dow of the NP Local Council in Klerksdorp.
An estimated number of 22 000 mine workers were left stranded without transport.
15 000 Workers participated in the march.
10 000 marchers went to NP offices but there was no one waiting to receive the memorandum. An unidentified person received it. The march ended at 12h10.
Started at 11:00 hrs from Mafikeng square through Montshiwa to NWDC.
7 000 attended the march and the Memorandum was handed in at 12:30.
About 15 000 marchers went to parliament. Tony Leon wanted to address the marchers but was refused. The DP refused to accept the memorandum.
Workers marched to DP Offices to hand over and read to them memorandam. DP wanted to give them a memorandum, but the workers told them that they have to march if they wanted to give them a memorandum.
A number of 3000-4000 marchers was estimated. They handed the memorandum to NP offices, and headed for Taung rally.
No further reports on other areas were received.
5 000 people marched to the offices of the NP. The march ended peacefully at 14h00.
The march in Nelspruit had an attendance of about 5000 workers. The march started at Valencia Stadium in Nelspruit at 12h00 and proceeded to the national Party offices in Brown Street.
The DP and BSA did not arrive to receive their memorandums and Mr Meyer of the NP refused to accept their memorandums. The local has written a letter to them to arrange for the handing of memorandums.
The march was well supported by alliance partners.
The march started at 10:00 hrs, Ackerville Stadium to the Chamber of Business. Very few people in town and industrial areas totally deserted. 13:55 the memorandum was handed to the President of the Chamber of Business. They said they will respond in writing to COSATU Head Office. Workers went back to the stadium and there was a report on May Day. Estimation is, +- 1500 people.
A rally was held at Thandukukhanya Stadium at 11:00. They did not apply for the march to take place. Shops operating but industrial areas deserted. Public transport unaffected.
The rally was poorly attended +- 500 people.
264 NUM members from TSELENTIS Collieries marched from the mine to NP office in Breyten.
March started at 9h00 from Mhluzi to Town Council offices. March was peaceful and