Mass arrests of striking FAWU members

More than 100 protesting FAWU members have been arrested in Midland and Develand January 5 and 6. The workers have been on strike since December 22 for better wages, better working schedules, and against the increasing use of outsourcing and labour brokers at ABI, the Soft Drink division of SAB Ltd in South Africa (see South Africa: Coca-Cola ABI workers on strike).

In Midland, January 5, the police wounded three workers by Rubber bullets. After this first incident, FAWU strongly protested the heavy-handed police harassment and arrest of picketing workers at the ABI Midrand plant. According to FAWUs press-release, "for the past two weeks, workers have been gathering next to ABI premises on a daily basis for their picketing and demonstration activities. There was never a time that those police on the ground saw a need to use so-called police minimum force until some of their superiors, allegedly at the behest of some managers, instructed them to make some arrest.

In doing so, the police asked our members to voluntarily hand themselves over for an arrest but our members refused to heed such a request. Our members were about to get on to vehicles to take their trip to Plantation Farm where they were to pledge solidarity with farm workers on strike. Police officials refused to allow our members to disperse at all given their stated objectives of making arrest. The police then encircled our members and fired rubber bullets. In the mayhem which followed, 38 of striking workers were arrested, including the three with their gun-shot injuries and the other two with pre-existing medical condition of sugar diabetes.

(...) Striking workers, who are gathered in peaceful demonstration, cannot be treated like criminals." (see the full presse release here)

The injured and the diabetic were taken to hospital late at night January 5 and are out of danger from their injuries now.

Today, January 6, another 78 workers were arrested in Develand, which are at them moment of writing still behind bars.

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