Pregnant strike victim speaks of terror

The woman was hospitalised after striking Numsa members struck her on the stomach with a metal rod.

Over 200,000 Numsa members are on strike for better wages. Picture: Sapa.

JOHANNESBURG - A heavily pregnant woman, who was assaulted by a number of s triking members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), has spoken of her terror during the attack.

The woman was hospitalised after a crowd of people in Numsa regalia struck her on the stomach with a metal rod after they found her working at a plastic factory in Boksburg.

The woman and her manager have refused to be identified for fear of further intimidation.

Around 200,000 workers downed tools in the metals and engineering sector on Tuesday.

The union is demanding a 12% wage increase, a R1,000 housing allowance, career and training opportunities for all workers and the banning of labour broking and has vowed to cripple the metal and automotive industries if their demands are not met.

Employers say the action will cost the economy over R280 million a day in lost output.

Hundreds of people in Numsa regalia stormed factories in the Apex industrial area on Thursday and looted computers, laptops and other office furniture before intimidating and assaulting non-striking workers.

Speaking to Eyewitness News from a hospital bed, the woman says she was assaulted even after telling the strikers she's pregnant.

Her boss, who has stitches on his head, hands and body, has described the attack as barbaric.

"I don't have the words to describe it. We were basically in fear of our lives."

Factory owners have described Numsa's violent demonstrations in the area as brutal.

A man who was assaulted by workers at his plastic factory says he's terrified to reopen his business.

"They basically ransacked the place, they stole anything they could. I was busy with an angle grinder and they made me unplug it so they could take it. They took my wedding ring - I said I couldn't get it off and they were standing over me wanting to beat me- I eventually got it off. They also took my wallet, cellphone and laptop."

The Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa (Seifsa) says many employers represented by the federation had reported "serious incidents of violence" by strikers, including damage to property and assaults on those reporting for work.

Eyewitness News has been inundated with calls from frightened non-striking workers and factory bosses, claiming to be intimidated by union members.

#NumsaStrike This factory owner was assaulted inside his business premises yesterday. @Ngobeni007 reporting pic.twitter.com/s5jpDpSMEc

#NumsaStrike This factory owner was severely assaulted. @Ngobeni007 reporting pic.twitter.com/ARSANFKXMs

GRAPHIC #NumsaStrike This factory owner declined to be identified fearing further victimisation. @Ngobeni007 reporting pic.twitter.com/yc4rBJzhvk

Gauteng police will continue monitoring industrial areas this weekend, specifically on the East Rand.

The police's Lungelo Dlamini says acts of violence won't be tolerated.

"There is a high police presence in areas we believe there is a high level of intimidation."

Police on Friday arrested 26 strikers for acts of violence, intimidation and malicious damage to property.

The metalworkers union's strike in the sector in 2011 was also marred by incidents of intimidation and violence.

STRIKE EXPECTED TO CONTINUE

Seifsa says although it has put its best offer on the table, Numsa's is expected to continue next week.

Seifsa offered the union a three-year wage deal of between 8% and 10% but this offer was rejected on Thursday night.

Seifsa chief executive Kaizer Nyatsumba says the employer body has exhausted its mandate.

"We don't have any new mandate. We went as far as we could with regards to the offer we made on Thursday, so we will wait and if Numsa's leadership would like to see us, we will make ourselves available. But for now, we don't have any meetings scheduled."

Numsa's wage strike has dealt a further blow to an economy damaged by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu)'s crippling work stoppage in the platinum industry that only ended on 23 June.

Credit ratings agency Moody's said this week the labour unrest would consign South Africa to a third consecutive year of sub-par growth and posed risks for its rating.