Durban: SINCE South Africa publicly berated the Israeli government for the ongoing strife in Palestine and Israel, organised labour expected Transnet to tow the line and not undertake any punitive action against workers who are set to boycott work on Israeli ships.
This is according to Anele Kiet, the Deputy General Secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (Satawu), when asked if the planned boycott would not be deemed a dereliction of duty.
The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) slammed the plan to snub work connected to the Israeli Zim Shinghai vessel which was said to have already gained entry into the Durban harbour this week.
The organisation said such action, including proposed sanctions and disinvestment against Israel, would not resolve the ongoing conflict, which has reportedly claimed more than 230 lives.
Heeding a call by the Palestinian BDS Committee-affiliated SA BDS Coalition, Satawu said their members had confirmed they would refuse to offload cargo from the vessel, and in addition the union, together with civil society organisations would stage lunch time pickets in solidarity with the call for Israel to move out of Palestinian territory.
“We received a request from the SA BDS Coalition that as part of showing solidarity with Palestine, Satawu members who work in the Durban port need to boycott the shipment. Indeed we have contacted our members at the Durban port, who have confirmed they will not be offloading the shipment. We will be picketing everyday at lunchtime and engaging in demonstrations,” said Kiet.
“We don’t anticipate any action (against union members) that can be taken by management because as you will know, the SA government has taken a stance in relation to Israel and Palestine and therefore Transnet is a parastatal that also subscribes to the decisions of our country. But as the union, we are on standby for any case that can be reported as a result of the action that has been taken by our members,” he added.
The SA government issued a statement earlier this week condemning Israel for the violence. It said the “continued escalation of attacks by Israel on Palestinians in Gaza is totally unjust and shameful, particularly the targeting of the most vulnerable section of the Palestinian community, children, women and the elderly.”
The Coalition said it would be joined by unions and civil society bodies in protests to be held on the Durban Esplanade from this morning (Friday).
“The decision by Satawu and the BDS Coalition follows a call by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) on workers and trade unions to ’refuse to unload (Israeli) ships and goods from sea and airports’,” it stated.
“The PGFTU’s call is one of many actions of boycotts, divestment and sanctions called for by Palestinians – a consequence of the barbaric Israeli onslaught on Gaza, the killings of Palestinians in the West Bank, the pogroms in Haifa Lyddia, Haifa, Jaffa and other towns and cities and the ethnic cleansing in Occupied Jerusalem,” the organisation said.
More than 230 people had been killed, said the group, adding that most of them were civilians, including about 70 children. There had also been a wholesale destruction of infrastructure in Gaza, and a 14-year medieval-like siege of the territory, it said.
A request for comment was sent to Transnet and its affected divisions, the Transnet National Ports Authority (ports landlord) and the Transnet National Port Terminals (ports operator), but responses had not been received by the time of publication.
The SAJBD said: “Actions like this would have little if any impact on resolving the situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The only people who can find a solution to this conflict are the Palestinian and Israeli people themselves.”
“Our government has a role to play in encouraging the parties to return to the negotiating table with a view to finding a way to peace. We know the importance of dialogue and negotiation and are ideally placed to play a role in facilitating this,” said National Director Wendy Kahn.