Ports & Ships Maritime News

May 25, 2006
Author: P&S

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  • Escalating security strikes threaten ports

  • DRC: 32 "mercenaries" arrested in Kinshasa

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    Escalating security strikes threaten ports

    Durban, 24 May 2006: South African port terminals and railways face the very real prospect of further crippling strikes from the end of next week after the SA Transport & Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) served notices yesterday of a secondary ‘sympathy’ strike among other industries served by the union.

    SATAWU has been involved in an ongoing strike since 23 March involving security workers over salaries and work conditions. The strike has left sections of some ports unprotected and a number of fatalities and injuries have resulted from lawlessness particularly on commuter trains.

    The companies likely to be affected include a cross section of transport related industries including Transnet and its subsidiary companies.

    Delays are still being experienced at the Durban Container Terminals after last week’s one day strike, say port users canvassed yesterday. They warned that a further strike or series of strikes could have a devastating effect on productivity levels and the cost of doing business in South Africa.

    The serving of notice to strike gives the affected companies seven days to appeal to the labour court against this decision, with Friday, 2 June given as the deadline. After this all nine sectors serviced by SATAWU will be shut down, says the union.

    SATAWU said the labour law provision allowed related industries to go on a sympathy strike in support of colleagues in another industry. The companies served are in the Contract Cleaning Sector; Transnet and all its business units; aviation (SAA and Nationwide); Road Passenger sector (taxis and buses) road freight and toll gates. SATAWU can mobilise from among 110,000 members.

    DRC: 32 "mercenaries" arrested in Kinshasa

    Kisangani, 24 May 2006 (IRIN) - Security agents in Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), arrested 32 foreigners on Tuesday for plotting a coup against the government of Joseph Kabila, Interior Minister Theophilus Mbemba said.

    "They came from Iraq, where they had worked as soldiers," Mbemba said on Wednesday from Kinshasa. The 12 South Africans, 10 Nigerians and three Americans - all of whom the government described as mercenaries - were working in Kinshasa for a private security company called Omega. Mbemba said the men were caught with military equipment but would not specify the nature or number of the equipment that was seized because the case is still under investigation.

    Some of those arrested were without passports. The South African ambassador to the DRC, Sisa Ngombane, said 19 of the men held South African passports, which needed checking. "We would rather send passport details to our security services for verification of the holders' South African nationality," he said.

    map courtesy IRIN

    South Africa has a law prohibiting its citizens from engaging in mercenary activity.

    Mbemba said the United States and Nigerian embassies had not yet confirmed the nationalities of the detainees.

    Some people in Kinshasa have expressed doubts about the veracity of the government's claim that the men are mercenaries. "It is a joke," said a Roman Catholic priest on condition of anonymity. "Which foreigner can try a coup in this country at a time when the international community is here with the 16,500 United Nations mission troops? This is, perhaps, a ruse to stop people exercising their vote on 30 July."

    The mercenary charge coincides with another call by DRC's leading opposition party, the l’Union pour la Democratie et le progres social (the Union for the Democracy and the social progress - UDPS) of Etienne Tshisekedi, for a demonstration on Wednesday.

    "We will be in the streets this Wednesday to tell the government that the (political) transition ends 30 June and that it cannot organise elections after this time without dialogue," Raul Nsolwa, the head of the UDPS Youth Wing, said.

    (This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations)

    Omega International Associates has denied that any of its employees arrested in the DRC were plotting to overthrow the government, saying that its activities in the country were legitimate and confined to a cement factory and the provision of port security on behalf of the DRC National Transport Authority.

    A spokesman for the company said Omega was contracted to assist the DRC National Transport Authority with upgrading its ports to comply with the International Ships and Port Security code (ISPS). In addition the company was assisting with personal security for one of the contestants in the forthcoming presidential elections

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