Mhambi has been redeployed.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

SATAWU makes us proud

Viva Satawu Viva
Long live international solidarity
Viva Rubin Phillip Viva!
Panzi lamsak Mbeki panzi
Viva Afriforum Viva!
Amandla ngawethu!

Mhambi feels so pround of Satawu (The South African Transport and Allied workers Union) today. But not only them, but plaudits go to Rubin Phillip, the Anglican archbishop of KwaZulu-Natal, and Gerald Patrick Kearney, ably assisted by the Southern African Litigation Center and Judge Pillay.

Consider the evidence. When the Chinese 'gun' ship An Yeu Jiang's deadly Zimbabwe bound cargo was exposed, our president Mbeki was asked if he knew:

"Well, ask the Chinese ambassador," he said. "Durban harbour handles goods for many countries on the continent. If you say there are weapons that have arrived from China in the Durban harbour, I think you should ask the Chinese. There might be a consignment of coal that is being exported to the Congo or something; it is a port, those weapons would have had nothing to do with South Africa. I really don't know what Zimbabwe imports from China or what China imports from Zimbabwe."

Cue Randall Howard, general secretary of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union. He said the dock workers had no intention of allowing the cargo to be unloaded. “If they bring in replacement labor to do the work, our members will not stand and look at them and smile,” he said.

Very refreshing and to the point. Not a little Macho. On the side of right. I like it. Bravo!

“For the South African government to actively facilitate the transfer of arms in these circumstances is a violation of its constitutional obligations and an abdication of its regionally mandated role to bring about a peaceful resolution of the crisis,” said Nicole Fritz, who heads the litigation center. Say it again sister.

The government had not only approved the shipments, they had arranged for their transport. And one Sydney Mufamadi, one of the mediators in the crises was involved in approving the shipment.

It's almost a pity that the arms was never allowed to leave port. Because Afriforum, the Afrikaner civil rights organisation had promised to make life hard for it all the way to the border. What a tantalising visual spectical that would have been.

As rugby has shown, theres nothing like a bit of controlled violence for a good cause to bring South Africans together.


This was an important victory for civil society in this country and more proof of how strong it is. Sociologist Andries Bezuidenhout has said before that it was a blessing that the ANC 's Mk was such a poor military force, and that the UDF was forced to make the case against apartheid internally and did so successfully.

Compare with Zimbabwe, where Mugabe won power by military means, and not by the people. How seductive that military instrument became.

Power through the people tends to be a bit harder to control. It has a mind of its own.

As Frederik van Zyl Slabbert says, we don't even know who is head of the SA army is today. We are not a militarised society. Were a society where citizens can have their say. So say it loud and clear.

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Anonymous said...

It makes me wonder what other victories are now possible for civil society.

Mike said...

I agree, the action by civil society in this instance is encouraging indeed. It will be to the country's benefit if this kind of thing happens more often. Now, if we can only do more to fix the Zimbabwe situation. What a tragedy!

Anonymous said...

I used to work for COSATU and it is great to see the unions defining their role so well in our country. We lost it a bit in the late 90s when we had to define our new struggle. But this can only be good news.
But you think you have problems. I broke the cardinal South African rule. The rule of all rules. This isn’t politics. That’s for the weak. This isn’t even about rugby or cricket or soccer. No. It is much more than that. It goes to the very foundation of our society. The very thing that holds us together as a nation. And I broke the chain that keeps us connected. I sold out my countrymen. I am a traitor. And it isn’t easy to admit. I will never be forgiven. Not for this. All because I bought a gas griller. The braai will never be the same. The shame. Oh the shame. More on my blog at

Wessel said...

Alleman I agree. I can think of a few candidates. The Scorpions come to mind, if handled correctly its one where civil society can make a difference.

Mike, I really have this funny feeling that before the end of this SA winter Mugabe will be no more. It's just a hunch, but I can feel it in my bones.

Angryafrican is this a genuine comment or just very sophisticated comment spam? I'll let it pass ;)

Mike said...


I'm desperate to believe your prediction, but I don't see Mugabe relinquishing power easily. It would be the rational thing to do for someone in his position - but we're talking about Mugabe and Zim's army and police here (minus the international press & observers). These guys have a history of only serving their own interests and have everything to loose should their grip on power slip.

I'm quite depressed about Zim after the hopeful breakthrough in the elections. But I suspect Mugabe & Co will approach it as a mere nuisance to be put down with brute force.

I fear Zim's political troubles are far from over (not to mention economic problems). If Mugabe keels over and dies tomorrow things may move a bit quicker, but even then it will be a terribly messy affair.