Calm restored after truck driver protest at Durban container terminal

News24 reports that KwaZulu-Natal police say calm has been restored to the Durban container terminal, where protesting truck drivers blockaded roads overnight, causing traffic congestion on Wednesday morning. Various social media users shared pictures of the blockade, advising motorists to avoid Bayhead and Langeberg roads.

According to KZN police spokesperson Colonel Thembeka Mbele, no damage to property or injuries were reported from the scene of the protest. “About 50 truck drivers blockaded Bayhead Road harbour,” said Mbele. “The situation is under control and [police] members are monitoring the area,” she said. According to IOL, truck owners who transport shipping containers to and from the Durban container terminal are demanding a meeting with Transnet. They claim that officials from Transnet only gave them empty promises over the years. According to Mbele, community members embarked on protest action at around 06:00 on Wednesday.

by Kamva Somdyala

3 people hospitalised after SABC diesel spillage, old equipment blamed

The Citizen reports that three people were transported to hospital after suffering effects of chemical inhalation following a diesel spillage at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Johannesburg, Radio Park building on Wednesday morning, emergency services said. Netcare 911 said three patients suffered the effects of chemical inhalation and were treated on the scene before being transported by ambulance to hospital for further assessment. Ageing infrastructure has been blamed for a diesel spillage that resulted in the broadcaster’s Auckland Park headquarters having to be evacuated on Wednesday morning.

In a follow-up statement after the event, the SABC explained that an on-site generator had malfunctioned during the process of switching the building’s power supply from the City Power grid to the generator. Speaking to News24, Netcare 911 spokesperson Shawn Herbst confirmed that 2,000 litres of diesel had leaked from a generator on the 15th floor according to information he had received from the scene and added that no fires had been reported at that point. Affected stations have since switched to automation and listeners will have non-stop music to listen to until they are able to get back to their studios or make contingency plans.

by Kaunda Selisho

Legal Aid SA accused of intimidation to stop demonstration

The Citizen writes that Legal Aid South Africa has been accused of using intimidation tactics to discourage workers, including lawyers and support staff, from taking part in today’s planned demonstrations. An internal memo – the contents of which workers believe are crafted to thwart support for the demonstration – sent to staff reminds workers intending to participate that their actions would not be protected by the Labour Relations Act but by the Regulation of Gatherings Act. The memo, sent out this week by the human resources department, reminds workers that the agency did not agree with the demonstration at the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Since the demonstrations will be taking place during working hours, the “no work, no pay” principle will be applied for a minimum of half a day to a full day for those participating, the memo stated. As part of a build-up to a full-blown strike, workers will today hold demonstrations at the public legal agency’s Braamfontein offices. Workers claim Legal Aid SA has failed to address their safety concerns, with people simply walking into their offices to attack them, despite, according to the Legal Aid SA’s annual report, the costs of security at the agency increasing from R2,144,152 in 2017 to R2,258,71 last year. They are also aggrieved by a debilitating workload which, they said, compromised quality at the expense of the accused, who depend on Legal Aid lawyers for justice. Legal Aid SA chief operating officer Dr Jerry Makokoane denied that the memo was to intimidate, saying they were simply engaging staff to detail the regulations around the intended action to ensure compliance with the relevant laws.

by Sipho Mabena

Sunday World to shut down

The Citizen reports that media conglomerate Tiso Blackstar has announced that their tabloid Sunday World will be closing down. In addition, there will be retrenchments at a number of its publications including the Sowetan, Business Day, The Herald, and Daily Dispatch. The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) has released a statement saying they are “perturbed about the continued job losses in the media industry”. Sanef sees the closure of Sunday World as an indication of “hard times for the local media industry”.

The organisation is “concerned that declining numbers of media institutions, publications and the shrinking numbers of journalists will lead to fewer reporting, opinions and debate in the country”. “In the past two years, scores of journalists lost their jobs due to retrenchments by Tiso Blackstar, Media24, Independent Media, and the shutdown of Afro Worldview, previously known as ANN7, by Multichoice,” the statement says.  “The SABC has also said it was necessary to retrench journalists to remain financially viable. In some newsrooms, journalists are simply not being replaced, resulting in [a] diminished capacity to cover the length and breadth of the country. “We call on media owners to think creatively and responsibly about implementing new, sustainable business models, built on the integrity and trust our readers, viewers and listeners place in us to tell the country’s stories without fear or favour,” the statement concludes.

Online school registration postponed

SABC News reports that Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi has postponed the online school registration process by a week. Parents were meant to start registering their children for Grade 1 and 8 from Monday, however, Lesufi received a number of objections including a lawyer’s letter.

Online registration has been used in Gauteng schools for four years now. Lesufi says he is willing to postpone the process by a week following the threats of legal action to stop the process.

by Angela Bolowana

Eight AMCU members in court for murder

SABC News reports that the murder and attempted murder trial of eight Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) leaders will be heard in the Pretoria High Court in on Monday. The men face charges of murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to commit murder and the possession of an unlicensed firearm and ammunition. They accused are alleged to have shot and wounded the union’s newly elected chairperson, Malibongwe Mdazo, at a Marikana branch in 2017.

Mdazo was accosted while leaving a soccer stadium in Mooinooi, near Rustenburg and was shot multiple times. Later in the day, Mveliso Biyela, who had been walking home with his wife and son in Wonderkop near Marikana, was also shot multiple times and died on the scene. The State alleges that the same weapon used to kill Biyela was used to shoot Mdazo. The accused were allegedly frustrated because concerns that they wanted to raise with the union were not being entertained to their satisfaction.

Medical aid schemes accused of racial profiling

SABC News reports that a group of Black and Indian private medical practitioners allege that they are being unfairly treated by medical aid schemes based on the colour of their skin and ethnicity. They say one of their biggest struggles is payment from medical aid schemes; they are exploited and harassed by medical aid schemes. The group also says that there is a national list with names of Black and Indian practitioners from the across the country that is circulated among medical aid schemes and the names on this list are often targeted.

Clinical social worker Nomaefese Gatsheni and Chairperson of the National Health Care Professionals Association (NHCPA) – Dr. Donald Gumede who are part of the group of grieved health care practitioners. Dr Gumede says, “We realised we can’t just lie down and be exploited financially by these big medical aids. We tried to engage them, went to their offices and tried to tell them that what you are doing, we believe is illegal. Morning Live invited the Council for Medical Schemes but they declined as they say they do not have enough time.

Long labour for birth of paternity leave

The Sunday Times reports that countless fathers have been left out in the cold after the government failed to make good on new legislation giving them 10 days’ paid paternity leave. An amendment to the law was ratified last November and 1 January was earmarked for implementation, but the department of labour has not activated it.  Men currently do not qualify for any paid paternity leave. Wessel van den Berg, a manager at NGO Sonke Gender Justice, said:  “Data shows that in SA, women do eight times as much unpaid care work as men.”  He added that paternity leave was “a major step forward in breaking down the stereotypes of men as breadwinners and women as caregivers”, and that the delay in implementation of the new Labour Laws Amendment Act was adding to women’s burden.

The department of labour referred The Sunday Times to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), which redirected the query back to the department. Department spokesperson, Thembinkosi Mkalilpi, said parental leave was “passed by parliament and signed into law by the president”, but the UIF was “not ready with their systems”. UIF spokesperson Lungelo Mkamba said on Tuesday:  “That falls within the ambit of the department of labour.  We cannot do anything until they say so.”  But on Thursday he updated his statement:  “We are busy finalising regulations and working around the clock to be systems-ready before we start implementation.  The matter is receiving our urgent attention and we hope to start the implementation soon.”

by Tanya Farber
Ref: SA Labour News

Vaal University of Technology staffers strike for better pay

SowetanLive reports that lecturers, cleaners and security guards are on strike at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT), bringing operations to a standstill and leaving its 22,000 students in the lurch ahead of mid-year exams. The university council, its highest decision-making body, cannot make any decisions – including about salary increases – because it has too few members for a quorum. At least nine council members, including the deputy chairperson, have resigned since October. The head of the council, Tebogo Hlapalosa, revealed in a letter to staff that the council had too few members to meet the legal requirements to make decisions.

According to VUT statute, a legal act, there should be 31 council members and of those, 60% must be external – neither staff nor students. The resignations came amid allegations of corruption at the university by senior managers. Higher education minister Naledi Pandor met the council to “discuss resignations”. Her spokesperson Lunga Ngqengelele said: “The minister and the council discussed a number of mechanisms to address challenges facing the university. Attempts to reach the university’s spokesperson Mike Khuboni have been unsuccessful since Monday.

by Katharine Child

Nine miners rescued from Free State mine

SABC News reports that nine people who were trapped underground have been safely brought to the surface at the Joel mine which falls under the management of Harmony Gold in Theunissen, in the Free State. Eight men and a woman are said to have gone underground on their night shift on Wednesday.

They were supposed to return to the surface on Thursday morning but could not because the mortar of the mine cage got burned. The cage is used to transport miners underground back to the surface. Bokoloshe says engineers managed to fix the mortar of the cage and mine workers were then returned to the surface. They have been taken to the medical station for medical attention.