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Protest

Down Rats!

by Samora Chapman / 12.09.2013

The morning air was cracked open by a riot of angry voices screaming: “Phansi amagundane, phansi! Amandla kubantu, amandla! Amagundane uyasebenza, asihambe!” Now my isiZulu isn’t too good… but here goes: Down with the rats! Power to the people, power! Rats you are working, lets go!

I poked my head out of my car bubble, and spotted the source of the bantu ruckus. A group of about 30 people were toyi-toying, chanting and wielding knobkieries outside the Engen garage on Essenwood Road.

Sounds like revolution. Sounds like fun! So I hopped out of my vehicle and went to investigate.

A three week strike by car workers has just ended, bringing the motor industry to its knees. The strike was a major victory for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), with five of the seven global vehicle makers operating in SA agreeing to a 11.5% wage increase this year, followed by 10% increases in 2014 and 2015.

This week, thousands of petrol attendants are putting down their pumps, picking up their kieries and going to war for the same reward.

Strikers

Back to the action… I strolled down the road and got some pics, which wasn’t received all too well as the protesters turned on me like the enemy.

A vicious young guy with missing teeth and hateful eyes held a kierie in my face, sinews in his arms bristling, begging to smash my brains in. His name was printed on his overalls: Wiseman.

“Where’s your permit to take photos! Who do you work for!” spat Wiseman.

“Fuck you!” I shot back like a silly young fool. In moments I was face to face with an angry mob, as people joined Wiseman, shouting and taunting.

“You have the right to strike and I have the right to take photos. This is a public area!” I argued.

Luckily a grizzly old numzan came to my rescue before blood was shed. He brought me back down to earth with a thud.

“Why you get angry so quickly son? You are a journalist, you must get used to this.”

The strikers left me to be scolded by the numzan and started marching up the road. After our talk I fell in line and vowed to be a wiser man.

The old numzan’s name was Mr Ngubane and he gave me the rundown.

“We are marching to make all the other petrol attendants join the strike,” explained Ngubane. “This is a NUMSA strike. It is happening all over South Africa. We want a 30% increase.”

At that moment we passed an old age home full of wrinkly old white people clutching their teacups, quivering. The volume of chanting rose to new heights of excitement at the site of the ‘oppressors’ of yesteryear.

The Look

“Amandla! Viva comrade, viva. Abantu bafuna imali manje!”
Power! Viva comrade, viva. The people want money now!

As the protest reached a crescendo, the vicious, toothless Wiseman ran into Essenwood Park and tried to murder a couple hadedas with his knobkierie.

The march hung a left, up a particularly affluent road, passing mansions, beamers and racist barking dogs. A fleet of cop cars had caught on and began tailing the march.

The cops soon decided to step in and a combi screeched to a halt, cutting off the march. Out spilled five or six men in blue.

Cops

“Ya’ll can strike all day if you want,” said the main ou amiably as he double clutched a cigarette.

“But we wont stand for aggressive threatening behaviour… so please hand over your weapons – sticks and knobkieries. You can keep your umbrellas.”

He then turned to me and asked if I got a good picture of the cops trailing the protesters.

“Yes sir,” I said.

The protesters refused to hand over their weapons, citing ‘cultural reasons’. They had rats to bliksem, after all.

So the whole show continued up to the Ridge Road Shell Garage, where a couple of petrol attendants in plain clothes were seen fleeing for their lives. The toyi-toying became wilder and more fervent than ever at the site of the rats… it seems they had long forgotten who the real enemies were.

Discussions

A middle aged Indian lady and her son were manning the petrol pumps. “I am the owner,” the lady told me. She wished to remain anonymous. “Me and my son and my aunty are pumping petrol… just trying to keep business going.”

“How money of your staff are on strike?” I asked.

“The majority… but not all of them. Some want to work but they are scared for their lives. They have been threatened and pressurized for months leading up to this.”

“How much do your petrol attendants earn?”

“R18 per hour. We are open minded and ready to discuss the wages… but the demands they are making are unreasonable. At the end of the day, it’s up to the Fuel Retailers Association, not us. We don’t set the wages.”

Phansi Amagundane!

After 15 minutes of heated protest, the strikers pressed on down the road and I bailed. At the end of the day the strikers will return home to their dusty townships with hungry bellies and tired legs.

The question is – would you fight for the right to put clothes on your kids back and send them to a decent school? I know I would. So when you are inconvenienced by the motor industry strikes, spare a thought for the people that put your Toyota together, pump petrol and fix your rust. Cos chances are, they’ll never earn enough to own a car themselves.

It would help, of course, if the strikers could differentiate between the rats and the fat cats.

*All images © Samora Chapman.

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RESPONSES (17)
  1. oolifant says:

    Samora is the ballsiest man on the website.

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  2. VisRat says:

    I empathise, I really, really do. I’ve been a petrol attendant and the pay is kak for a single student, nevermind a family man. Sadly, the job of ‘petrol attendant’ is redundant though.
    All over the world you ‘pump’ your own gas and either pay inside or with your card there and then.
    Just like our traffic flag wavers who could be replaced with a flashing lightbulb, the sad truth is that wage increases for redundant positions is not a long term solution and the demands being made are woefully unrealistic.
    The way they bully people who don’t want to strike is also terrifying and says a lot about our countries toy-toy culture.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    “How money of your staff are on strike?” I asked.
    “How money of your staff are on strike?” I asked.
    “How money of your staff are on strike?” I asked.
    “How money of your staff are on strike?” I asked.
    “How money of your staff are on strike?” I asked.

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  4. Samora says:

    Wow great contribution to the discourse Anonymous. Excellent point.

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  5. Bring da ruckus says:

    “bantu ruckus”?

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  6. Pascal says:

    it’s sad that mob mentality takes over so quickly and the ‘end’ is so forgotten – chasing Hadedas, waving Knobkerries – makes good sensationalist news but not a dias to create support. :/

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  7. Very says:

    Excellent!

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  8. click this link says:

    Is it possible to get off renal system dialysis? Aussie specialist claims it is.
    click this link https://twitter.com/giulia33smith/status/375023236561395712

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  9. Rofhiwa says:

    Bantu ruckus? Come on!

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  10. DK says:

    @VisRat. I agree – I totally get how R18 an hour is simply not enough to live on. But there’s a machine out there that will do it for far less. And as I understand people are now looking into technology that will allow South Africans to pump their own petrol. Then these people are completely out of jobs.

    It’s horrible that your choices are R18 per hour or nothing.

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  11. Mbusi says:

    “Bantu ruckus” Why would you write that?

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  12. Rofhiwa says:

    Samora you still haven’t answered our question. Why would you say “Bantu ruckus” when you know the term “Bantu” has a historically derisive connotation?

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  13. Nahboet says:

    Did the old white people really clutch their tea cups and quiver? Did the policeman really say Y’all? How racist were these barking dogs? Were they Afriforum level racist or full on Broederbond bullmastiff racist? This is the shittest piece of writing I have seen “professionally” published. Quit.

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  14. What Evs says:

    Firstly, no one cares what you think NahBoet. Secondly, why is it that everyone who comments on your articles always act like they have sense of entitlement and superiority over your pieces? Clearly the articles are grabbing your attention or else you wouldn’t be following the author or the site. Thirdly, okes need to take a chill pill and indulge a little bit in the idea of creative license and literary artistry. Sometimes its not always about what your fancy pants lecturers taught you at some stuck up tertiary institution (and before anyone gets defensive, I too attended one of those ridiculous universities where students were taught to be stiff and stifled journalists who are over critical and pompous.) Don’t live life so seriously, try being nice today, you might actually come to like that warm and fuzzy feeling.

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  15. Nahboet says:

    What Evs you’re right, I took it too seriously and feel quite kak about that comment, but can’t delete it now. I still think the article isn’t up to scratch but I was wrong to get woes. It’s easy to be a prick when you’re anonymous. Sorry Samora, don’t quit, just try harder.

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  16. What Evs says:

    Big ups Nahboet!

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  17. Blah Blah Tshabalala says:

    Its kinda damaging that Samora doesnt anwer the bantu ruckus query.

    Im guessing he thought it was clever word play, shows that he is non-racist enough to use the word bantu, and afterall, abantu means people, so it was just a ‘people ruckus’, right?

    Ya, eish, I like the piece, but still want to see an answer..

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