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TRC Final Report
Page Number (Original) 237
Paragraph Numbers 207 to 208
Clashes in the workplace
207 Clashes between COSATU-affiliated workers and UWUSA members were also reported during this period. One of the first clashes between UWUSA and a COSATU affiliate occurred at the Hlobane colliery, near Vryheid, one month after UWUSA was launched in mid-1986. Eleven miners were killed and 115 others injured in clashes between NUM and UWUSA on 6 June 1986.
The Hlobane Colliery Incident
Tensions developed at the Hlobane collieries in 1985 when management and the mineworkers, members of NUM, deadlocked over wage negotiations. This led to a three-day strike. KwaZulu Minister of Welfare, Prince Gideon Zulu, who addressed the workers at the invitation of management, called on them to join the Zulu union which, he said, was to be launched in the near future.
On the day of the UWUSA launch at Kings Park, Durban, in May 1986, NUM members at Hlobane decided to work. Those who attended the rally reported that they were advised to leave NUM and join UWUSA. Management formally recognised the new union, alienating members of NUM, who accused management of promoting the idea that COSATU (and therefore, NUM) was for Xhosas and UWUSA for Zulu mineworkers.
On 6 June 1986, miners went on strike after a shop steward was dismissed. They gathered in the company hall to attend a meeting with management. At about 09h00, two busloads of Inkatha supporters from Nqutu, Nongoma and Ceza arrived. They were seen talking to the mine security personnel and police who had been called in to monitor the strike, then they allegedly began attacking the strikers in the hall. The police and mine security officials allegedly assisted the Inkatha attackers.
Eleven people died and at least 115 were injured in clashes as the workers attempted to escape the hall. Many Xhosa miners lost their jobs as a result of this incident and had to return to the Transkei (Newcastle hearing). In May 1987, the Pietermaritzburg Supreme Court granted NUM members at the colliery an interdict restraining UWUSA members from assaulting them [KZN/FS/200/NC].
THE COMMISSION FINDS THAT ELEVEN MINERS WERE KILLED AND 115 OTHERS INJURED BY UNKNOWN INKATHA SUPPORTERS IN CLASHES BETWEEN NUM AND UWUSA MEMBERS AT THE HLOBANE COLLIERY, NEAR VRYHEID, ON 6 JUNE 1986, CONSTITUTING GROSS VIOLATIONS OF HUMAN RIGHTS, FOR WHICH UNKNOWN SUPPORTERS OF THE INKATHA MOVEMENT ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.
208 The township of Mphophomeni, near Howick in the Natal Midlands, was built in 1985 when black residents were forcibly removed from Howick into the boundaries of KwaZulu. Most of the residents were employed at the British Tyre and Rubber (BTR) Sarmcol factory, part of the British-based Dunlop Group.
The Sarmcol Strike
In 1985, Sarmcol workers went on strike in support of demands for recognition of their union, the Metal and Allied Workers Union (MAWU). Management claimed the strike was illegal and, in March 1985, fired all 970 workers.
Virtually the entire township population was without employment and COSATU established a co-op to assist the fired workers. Local, regional and international pressure was applied to have the workers reinstated. Management employed replacement workers, mainly Inkatha supporters, whom the strikers resented as scabs.
The strike-breakers initially stayed on the factory premises for their own protection and later commuted from distant Inkatha strongholds. Although Mphophomeni was administered by KwaZulu, it had become a UDF-dominated area and Inkatha supporters were forced to move out to neighbouring KwaHaza and KwaShifu.
On 5 December 1986, Inkatha held a rally in the Mphophomeni community hall attended by approximately 200 Inkatha supporters, mainly Youth Brigade members. On leaving the hall, they spread out throughout the township, assaulting residents and damaging property. Four prominent MAWU members, Mr Phineas Sibiya [KZN/SW/001/PN], Mr Micca Sibiya, Mr Simon Ngubane [KZN/NN/117/PM] and Ms Flomena Mnikathi [KZN/NN/117/PM] were abducted and forced into the community hall, where armed men in KZP uniforms questioned and assaulted the union members. They were then bundled into a car and driven towards Lions River. Though shot and injured, Micca Sibiya managed to escape. The charred bodies of the remaining captives were found the following day.
A formal inquest (Howick Inquest 13/88) into the killing of the three MAWU members found nine known Inkatha members responsible for the killings. Despite the inquest finding, no one has been charged for these killings to date. One of those named was Mr Vela Mchunu, a ‘Caprivi trainee’. In order to prevent Mchunu from testifying at the inquest, KZP Captain Leonard Langeni and Chief Minister Buthelezi’s personal assistant, Mr MZ Khumalo, arranged for him to be hidden at the Mkhuze camp. In 1987, Sarmcol signed a recognition agreement with UWUSA, the Inkatha-aligned trade union, set up in opposition to COSATU.
In March 1998, thirteen years after the initial strike, the Appeal Court ruled in favour of the 970 dismissed strikers. The Court found that BTR Sarmcol was, to a large extent, to blame for the strike and that management had “snatched at the opportunity” to dismiss the workers, which it had done in “an unfair and over-hasty manner”. In his judgement, Judge Pierre Olivier stated that the BTR Sarmcol’s “real desire” had been to get rid of the union and its members. The mass dismissal had been followed by a careful policy of selective re-employment to ensure that the union and its workers did not return to the factory floor.
THE COMMISSION FINDS THE KILLING OF PROMINENT TRADE UNIONISTS IN MPHOPHOMENI TOWNSHIP BY MEMBERS OF INKATHA AND THE KZP SET IN MOTION A LENGTHY PERIOD OF POLITICAL CONFLICT RESULTING IN WIDESPREAD GROSS HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS FOR WHICH INKATHA AND THE KZP ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE.