South African Communist Party (SACP) General Secretary Blade Nzimande has urged the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru) to take the lead in the fight against gender based violence.
Nzimande has been addressing members of Popcru at the union’s 9th National Congress currently underway at the Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban.
Nzimande said that amongst the reasons for this call was that Popcru was at the heart of the criminal justice in South Africa and that the union has a large number of women members.
“The other reason why Popcru should take a lead is that unless the trade union movement takes a lead you’re going to find any opportunist and populist they’re fighting in the struggle against gender based violence.
“Some people criticise us when we say, as the SACP, we can’t wake up in the morning and hear that there is a general strike by all the women of South Africa, what happens if those women do not go to work and they get fired? Who’s going to defend them?
“That’s why the trade union movement must be at the forefront, such that if Popcru and the rest of Cosatu and other unions called a general strike we that the strike is legitimate and will defend workers against employers who want to fire them after that,” said Nzimande.
He said that it was important for the trade union movement to close the space for opportunists by taking the lead in defending women against violence and other forms of abuse that women were subjected to.
Nzimande also added that the violence perpetrated against foreign nationals should not be categorised as xenophobia as it has widely been referred.
“Historically we know that the rest of the SADC region, our neighbouring countries, there’s always been a labour reservoir for South African monopoly capital, into endala (it’s an thing). Mineworkers from Mozambique, Lesotho, Malawi, Zimbabwe coming to work in the major mining town of South Africa.
“Before 1994 those migrant workers were largely contained in the hostels, but after 1994 that labour is no longer contained in the hostels, it’s occupying the same informal settlements in our urban areas. There is a migration informed by the economic crisis from our neighbouring countries to South Africa, ordinary workers and poor people looking for better opportunities to live,” Nzimande said.
He said that as this migration happens there is another migration happening from the rural areas of South Africa to the major urban areas leading to one section of the people being pitted against another section of the poor.
“In any such situation you’re bound to have some social conflict and that has got nothing to do with what is called xenophobia and employers, in the main, keep quiet and watch this. They’re also to blame because they want to employ undocumented migrant from the SADC region in place of employing South African workers and you’re lighting a fire there.
“South Africa’s working class has long stayed together with workers from other parts of the Southern African region, so that is how we need to understand this. Of course, government must play its role that we don’t allow this flooding of undocumented migrants into our own country because that’s a problem,” said Nzimande.