The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) condemns in the strongest terms the action of the South African Police Service (SAPS) for victimizing and attacking the organizers of #TheTotalShutDown. Two of the organizations Gauteng conveners will be charged in relation to the Gatherings Act of 1993. According to a statement issued by the organization, they will be charged with violating the permit, intimidating the president, and violence at the Union Buildings.
Thousands of women and gender non-conforming people gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on the 1st of August to protest against gender based violence. Gathered outside the Union Buildings, they waited until late into the night, stubbornly refusing to leave, demanding the President receive their memorandum.
We reject this act of intimidation by the police. We view this as an act of intimidation by the government against its own people, and in this case, the direct attack against members of this movement. This is an attempt to silence and intimidate the organizers and participants of this peaceful and just march. We are familiar with these brutal tactics. They were used by the Apartheid government against a powerful Women’s movement of 1956, when they marched to the very same Union Buildings demanding an end to the humiliating Dompas system.
The ANC government and its President Cyril Ramaphosa finally addressed the #TheTotalShutDown gathering. In his message, the President stood in solidarity with the plight and struggles of women who are victims of gender based violence and femicide that affects both women and children. But he cannot be allowed to double speak where, on the one hand, he and the ANC support the cause of the women, and on the other hand, they enforce the draconian, untransformed Gatherings Act of 1993 whose main mission is to undermine a democratic right of people to gather and to express themselves against all forms of oppression and attacks on human rights. In this case, it is women who continue to be the victims of the triple oppression, that of race, class and gender with patriarchy being the order of the day. NUMSA is dismayed and angered by this backward and primitive act by the SAPS. We want it to be on record that this action carried out overtly and covertly by the SAPS is rejected with the contempt it deserves, especially being executed under the leadership of what is supposed to be a democratic government.
NUMSA has noted, over time that slowly but surely the ANC government is becoming a political axis in reversing all the hard won gains of the people in a country that is supposed to champion the Bill of Rights. It is the ANC government that had refused to ban the exploitative labour brokers; it is the ANC government who have imposed austerity measures through tax; it is the ANC government who are dilly dallying in addressing the land question instead of expropriating land without compensation; it is the ANC government that has taken measures to take away the Constitutional right of workers to strike; it is the ANC government that massacred workers at Marikana; it is the ANC government that is becoming a police state in that it has the guts to charge women organizers who have taken a stand to say,  “no to violence against women”, which is happening daily!
Women are killed and violated with absolutely no security or protection from this government. This reminds us of the harshest reality of the system of capitalism in that under this system, a state is but nothing but an organ of oppression. We demand that both the President and the Minister of Police must with immediate effect withdraw the contemplated, trumped up charges against the organizers of the #TheTotalShutDown march, as such an action reminds us of the dirty tactics employed by the racist, apartheid regime. Failure to do so will leave us with no option but to embark on rolling mass action, which will be nothing less than #TheTotalShutdown of our economy in defense and advancing of the noble objectives and demands that were championed across the length and breadth of our country. This action by the police is nothing less than a declaration of war and it will be treated as such. We will make South Africa completely ungovernable again, lest the ANC government forget.
We demand that the charges against the organizers be dropped immediately. We urge all progressive organizations to support the call to defend #TheTotalShutDown and its leadership. Hands off #TheTotalShutDown!
Aluta continua!
The struggle continues!
Issued by Irvin Jim
NUMSA General Secretary
For more information, please contact:
Phakamile Hlubi-Majola
NUMSA National Spokesperson