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Strike at Eastcape Midlands College: union calls in the big guns

Eastcape Midlands College's striking workers are bringing in the big guns in a last-ditch attempt to put an end to the six-week strike that has turned ugly, with the homes of non-striking staff damaged.
Strike at Eastcape Midlands College: union calls in the big guns
The national office of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union is hoping to meet ECM management tomorrow to try to iron out their long-standing differences.

If nothing comes of it, the union is threatening a province-wide strike that could see the Eastern Cape's eight FET colleges brought to a complete standstill.

This comes as widespread violence and intimidation have been reported in what was initially touted as a peaceful strike.

Non-striking staff say they are being targeted, with eight incidents reported to police, including a vehicle being torched and a house partially burnt.

Nehawu national spokesman Sizwe Pamla said they were sending a delegation from the union's head office to speak to college management.

"We have explored political and department intervention but nothing has helped. The delegation will do its best to get an audience with them but, if need be, we will explore a solidarity strike."

Pamla said the union's head of legal matters, Stuart Marshall, and national organiser Sibusiso Lekhuleni would be part of the team sent down.

The college has been hit by protests and campus closures since last year as staff put pressure on management to hike their salaries.

Illegal protests in January saw 66 lecturers fired for failing to attend their disciplinary hearings.

Students also threw their weight behind the protests as they started fighting college management for more bursary allocations.

There were at least eight incidents of petrol- bombing and stoning in Khayelitsha, KwaNobuhle and Uitenhage reported to police. Six people were arrested at the college's KwaNobuhle campus for alleged possession of petrol bombs.

While Uitenhage police said they could not link the arrests with the eight incidents, Charles Goodyear campus manager Mthetheli Twala, 43, who lives in KwaNobuhle, said striking workers were behind the attacks.

"When the protest started, a group of people came to my house," he said.

"They found my wife, Yoliswa, and started insulting her and making all kinds of threats.

"They told her they would come back and burn my house."

Last Saturday, he was woken up by a loud noise.

"Something broke our bedroom window and that is when we realised a petrol bomb had been thrown inside our house." Parts of the bedroom were scorched.

"This will not stop me from going to work. It was not my decision for them [the lecturers] to be dismissed, but the institution's. I don't understand why we are victims."

Charles Goodyear lecturer Siya-kudumisa Tshefuta, 38, who stays in Khayelitsha, had his Audi A4 burnt on Thursday. He parked his car outside as he was painting the garage. He was later woken by his brother.

"I rushed outside and the fire had already spread to the house," Tshefuta said.

EMC spokeswoman Elmari van der Merwe said there had been threats made to non-striking workers.

The college's Nehawu branch chairman, Kenneth Fotoyi, distanced the union from the attacks.

Police confirmed the eight cases and said six people appeared in the KwaNobuhle Magistrate's Court on charges of public violence and being in illegal possession of explosives last week. They were released on bail and the case was postponed to 30 March.

Source: Herald


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