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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor


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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements


Issued by: COSATU

30 April 1996


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.


North West:


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.

Western Cape:

About 15 000 marchers went to parliament. Tony Leon wanted to address the marchers but was refused. The DP refused to accept the memorandum.

Northern Cape/OFS


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.


Secunda Stadium

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.

Piet Retief

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 attended by +- 1000. About 40% people did go to work.

Northern Transvaal:


There were plus minus 10 000 - 15 000 marchers. The DP received the memorandum but they also wanted to issue theirs to the marchers but the marchers refused.

The march ended peacefully.


The march started at 11:00hrs. There were about 5000 - 10000 marchers. The memorandum was submitted to the NP.


Attendance was exceptional. Estimation is 96000. No violence has been reported, the atmosphere was calm.

Marchers changed the venue, they no longer went to the DP Offices. They marched to the Union Building to submit the memorandum to DP Offices because the NP was not prepared to read it. They had a problem because DP wanted to allow only 500 people in their offices.

Two people from NP received memorandum and the marchers are going back to Brown Street where the march started.

Eastern Cape:

King Williams Town

2 500 people gathered at the gathering point of Town Square in front of the Offices of the Magistrate at 12:00hrs.

Port Elizabeth

Estimated more than 5000 workers participated, the march was peaceful.


March took place to the Transkei Chamber of Commerce. No estimate figures supplied.


March took place to the Chamber of Business. No estimate figures supplied.


A march to the Town Hall of Grahamstown where NP and Business representative received the memorandum.


A general meeting was held and attended by 150.


A march took place, no estimate number available.


A march to the Chamber of Business took place, Les Hollbrook refused to accept the memorandum delivered by Alfred Mtsi.


Plus minus 800 people marched on the offices of business representatives to deliver a memorandum. The memorandum was received.



March took place, memorandums submitted to DP, NP, JSE. Estimated 80 000 people attended.



People marched to the NP Offices, no estimated figures available.


There were barricades this morning and people monitoring them. They have been taken down now and the roads are open. SAHRWU members are still in Teyhuis Hostel. Shots have been fired from the hostel opposite Teyhuis Hostel. The town is quiet. They estimate 80% absenteeism in Durban. No serious injuries.


100% stayaway - no buses or trains.


March planned but cancelled because of misunderstanding of the call.


Total stayaway. No incident reported.


Total stayaway with no incident.


Total stayaway. No incident reported.


Total stayaway. No incident reported.


Total Stayaway. No incident reported.



Estimated support for the strike among clothing, textile and leather footwear workers were as follows:

Natal: 75 000 workers (85%) Eastern Cape: 20 000 workers (75%) Western Cape: 43 000 workers (57%) Gauteng/NW Prov 22 000 workers (85%) Free State/NCape 11 000 workers (70%)

In all, about 171 000 textile, clothing and footwear workers took part in the strike. This equals 76% of the combined employment in the industry.

Below we set out some details. Note that the information covers only clothing, textile and footwear (CTF) workers, and is based on the latest available information.


In Pinetown, 100% of members in the CTF industry took part in the strike.

In the Durban clothing industry, the participation rate was 80 - 90%. All the key factories closed down, including Frame, Romatex, Seardell and David Whiteheads.

We estimate that the overall participation rate in the strike in the province for the CTF sectors was 85%. Accordingly, at least 75 000 workers from these sectors were on strike today.

Eastern Cape:

In Port Elizabeth, 80% of the CTF industry took part in the strike, while in the greater East London area, it was 70%.

We estimate that the overall participation rate in the strike in the province for the CTF industry was 75%. Thus abut 20 000 workers from the three sectors supported the strike.

Western Cape:

Participation in the strike varied greatly, from support of 10% up to 100% being registered.

The textile workers largely supported the strike, and a number of large factories in the Boland, South Cape area and Epping closed down for the day. Support in the clothing and footwear industry was more mixed. In the Atlantis area, about 80% of clothing workers supported the strike. In areas such as Salt River, support was much lower, with many factories reporting 30% support for the strike. Some workplace in Parow had less than 10% absenteeism. There were on the other hand a number of clothing factories in the Cape Peninsula area, including a number of small and medium enterprises, who closed down completely for the day and where support for the strike was 100%.

Given these large variations, we compiled figures from a sample of 75 companies covering all three sectors, and the clothing retail sector. We estimate that the overall participation in these companies was 57%. The earlier rate, released at noon today, based on a sample of 63 companies, was 65%. Based on the lower 57% participation rate, a total of 43 000 workers in the textile, clothing and footwear industry supported the strike.

Gauteng and North West Province:

In Johannesburg, a 90% support was registered for the strike. In some of the decentralised areas, all workers observed the strike.

We estimate a participation rate of about 85% for the two provinces, and thus 22 000 workers in the three sectors were on strike.

Free State and N Cape:

Support for the strike was strong in Qwa Qwa, Kimberley and Botshabelo.

We estimate a participation rate of about 70%. Thus about 11 000 workers in the three sectors were on strike.

Preliminary figures released by SACTWU head office at 16h00 on 30 April 1996.