Nature’s Garden security shoots at striking workers

On Wednesday, 9 September, WASP received reports from workers that the private armed security employed by Nature’s Garden, without any provocation, chose to raise their guns and fire indiscriminately at nearly 100 picketing workers. Ten workers required medical attention for the wounds inflicted by rubber bullets and another type of ammunition that remains unidentified. 300 workers, who are members of GIWUSA, have been on a protected strike action since 9 August. 

Workers have complained of ongoing harassment by the police and Piquant Security ever since the strike commenced. In another example of this, workers explained that on Tuesday a worker walking towards the picketing area was also randomly shot at by security. On Wednesday two workers were also arrested on alleged charges of violence. Both of these workers were supposed to testify at the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for another unfair dismissal matter currently in arbitration. In addition to the arrests, the police and security have been circling the pickets, intimidating workers with large armoured vehicles and carrying what looks like semi-automatic weapons, as well as chasing the picketers away from their designated picketing area with dogs. Striking workers have also faced verbal harassment and racism, reporting to us that a white security guard referred to them as “monkeys”. 

Left: Piquant Security’s Facebook post proudly documenting their assault on striking Nature’s Garden workers
Right: wounded striking worker

Furthermore, the wounded workers described being sent from pillar to post by the police before being able to get the help they needed and to open a criminal case, after which they received no case number. No arrests have been made and workers have to face the same trigger-happy security every day on the picket line. This is in stark contrast to the immediate arrests of the two workers as soon as the company opened a case. The actions of both police and private security serve as a clear example that these entities do not primarily exist to protect lives, but are employed by capitalists and the bourgeois state in order to protect private property (capital) first and foremost. 

These attacks come after attempts by Nature’s Garden to interdict and silence WASP and SAFTU for our calls for solidarity, and GIWUSA for predicting that the bosses would employ Marikana tactics. It is clear the bosses are becoming more impatient and that they are willing to rely on this kind of violence to protect their profits. Nature’s Garden, which has an estimated revenue of R800 million in 2020 ($55 million) and supplies the biggest chain supermarkets and fast food companies in South Africa with frozen vegetables and potatoes, is using every tool in the book to break the strike and avoid negotiation with their employees. 

While the bosses go to extreme lengths to protect their “reputation” and claim it is defamatory to call them “callous” or “heartless”, their hired help at Piquant Security proudly display their “counter strike” services on their Facebook page, including their vast array of militarized vehicles, use of dogs, ‘military trained’ mercenaries, and multiple photos of them brandishing semi automatic weapons. In the field they are even worse, putting those guns and dogs to use against peaceful picketing workers while shouting racist slurs. If this is not the type of reputation Nature’s Garden’s bosses want, then it is up to them to immediately disassociate with a company employing these tactics, instead of hiding behind their violent methods to avoid addressing workers’ legitimate grievances .

In spite of receiving no pay for a month and the extreme intimidation from the hired militia and SAPS, the brave striking workers continue to hold the line, determined to fight for better working conditions. The strike is led by many militant women workers, some of whom are paid as little as R4000 ($240) a month. We salute these workers for standing strong against the heartless bosses; they are an inspiration to the entire working class movement. 

We appeal to working class communities, civil society and trade unions to support workers with:

  • Food
  • Transport
  • Sanitation
  • Support in terms of bail money for the arrested workers

Please contact Tino from GIWUSA on 064 988 2681 for more info on how you can assist.

WASP will continue to campaign in various ways for the continuation and escalation of the boycott against Nature’s Garden products. We call on all working class organisations, especially trade unionists, to protest attempts by Nature’s Garden to break the strike through brutal force, as well as expose their refusal to negotiate with the union in good faith. In addition to spreading the call for the boycott, we urge everyone to: 

Warning stickers on Nature’s Garden products
  1. Intensify the boycott by continuing to not buy these products and letting others know not to buy them. Many activists have placed stickers on these products to indicate to shoppers that there is an ongoing boycott. Nature’s Garden products include Nature’s Garden, Greens, Golden Harvest, Pick n Pay, Pick n Pay No Name, Makro M Brand and Spar; and in the fast food and restaurant trade, Nature’s Garden supplies KFC, Spur, Captain DoRegos, Nando’s, King Pie, Bidfood and Barcelos.
  2. Post negative reviews on Nature’s Garden Facebook page explaining the callous treatment of workers: www.facebook.com/naturesgardenfrozenveg
  3. Post negative reviews on Piquant Security’s FB page exposing their Marikana like tactics towards strike breaking: https://www.facebook.com/Piquant-Security-357759381620349/reviews/
  4. Send letters of protest to Nature’s Garden CEO: bruce.sanday@naturesgarden.co.za
  5. Call Nature’s Garden on (+27) 011 864 5000 and complain that we have received reports that they’re intimidating workers on strike and spending money on frivolous lawsuits and armed mercenaries when they could be meeting workers at the negotiation table.
  6. Join the picketing workers in solidarity at 24 Beryllium Street, Alberton. 

#HeartlessBosses #BoycottNaturesGarden

For more information on the strike and legal battles, check out WASP’s previous statements: