United Front set to embark on national protests


By Karl Gernetzky 17 March 2015 20:36

THE United Front, an alliance of activist and leftist forces, is due to embark on a series of national protests on Wednesday in protest of what they see as declining neutrality of the police during protests.

Organisations including the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), the Right-to-Know campaign and the Marikana Support campaign will begin by picketing outside the US consulate in Sandton on Wednesday.

This will be the start of a series of national protests against both the seeming “remilitarisation” of SA’s police service and increasingly difficulty for communities seeking to peacefully protest, the Right-to-Know’s Jane Duncan said on Tuesday.

That protest will be against police violence in that country, while a series of domestic protests will be undertaken in pursuit of 10 demands that include work to “inculcate a culture that police are workers and should not turn their guns on strikers and protesters,” the group said in a statement on Tuesday.

The issue of public order policing and a tough stance against criminality through words like “shoot-to-kill” from previous senior police officials has been under scrutiny since the death of protestor Andries Tatane in 2011 as well as the 2012 deaths in Marikana.

Further protests would include night vigils, human chains around police stations as well as the erecting of symbolic tombstone, the United Front said in a statement on Tuesday. Other demands include the removal of all paramilitary police units from public order policing, additional training along with a return to community policing, as well as, “An independent investigation into the true extent of police militarisation and substantial demilitarisation of the police”.

Prof Duncan said on Tuesday that despite a push for additional public order police resources, 86% to 90% of protests continued to be peaceful, with a concern that requirements for securing protest rights were becoming increasingly stringent.

“No doubt violence is indeed on the increase, but not in the same way and scale being presented,” she said.

The Institute for Security Studies head of the governance, crime and justice division Gareth Newham said yesterday while concerns over the militarisation of the police was valid, it was not new. It had been raised in the National Development Plan (NDP), which had been subsequently adopted by Cabinet.

The NDP had maintained that a militarised police force, with paramilitary units, was incompatible with a developmental state. Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega announced in 2013 the police would begin demilitarisation.


Numsa, UF urge state to make Eskom implement renewable power



THE National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) and its ally, the United Front (UF), have called on the government to make Eskom urgently implement sustainable and renewable power generation.

Speaking at an alternative state of the nation address on Wednesday, UF interim national secretary Mazibuko Jara said: “The irony is that Eskom’s long-delayed renewable energy strategies can deliver electricity much more quickly and cheaply than supposedly reliable coal, whose generators gum up with filth and require longer maintenance downtime; whose coal dust becomes wet like soup during the more intense rains associated with climate change; and whose silos crack.”

Numsa was expelled from its parent organisation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), in November following its decision not to support the ruling African National Congress (ANC), which is a close ally of Cosatu, in the May national elections.

The UF was formed, with Numsa as its major partner, in December with the aim of building a left-wing movement. The alliance aims to officially launch in June.

The alternative state of the nation address was among the first public analysis and policy documents delivered by the Numsa and UF that begin to articulate the new movement’s policy positions.

President Jacob Zuma is scheduled to deliver his state of the nation address on Thursday evening.

Mr Jara said what was clear to the UF was that during the past 20 years little had changed in the electricity industry aside from a paltry amount of electricity going to 50% of households previously denied connections by the apartheid government.

He claimed that capital-intensive multinational corporations and rich individuals were consuming too much electricity while poor people were consuming too little.

“The repeated claim by President Jacob Zuma and ANC leader Gwede Mantashe that the reason for load-shedding is the generosity of the ANC government in providing electricity connections to poor black people after apartheid ended defies logic,” Mr Jara said.

Numsa deputy general secretary Karl Cloete said that his union and the UF were opposed to the government’s policy of using independent power producers.

“Rather we want government to make Eskom implement these renewable power strategies,” he said.

The UF attacked the government’s commitment to shale gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking) saying that it was cause for “great concern” as stories of environmental devastation by fracking continue to emerge from around the world.

“The intense use of scarce water resources represents an environmental and social disaster. The enthusiasm for fracking in SA has more to do with possibilities for enrichment under the guise of black economic empowerment, once again at the expense of our natural environment and water resources, which are already under strain,” Mr Jara said.