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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:

Urgent call for solidarity!

WASP will not be Intimidated by Spineless Capitalist Tactics

Last week we released a statement in solidarity with striking workers employed at frozen vegetables and chips manufacturer Nature’s Garden in Alberton. Since 12 August, more than 300 members of the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) have been engaged in a protected strike with the company’s management over a living wage and an end to outsourcing.

Two days later, we received a letter from the company’s lawyers demanding that we immediately take down our statement, which we refused.

Nature’s Garden is now seeking an urgent interdict against the Workers and Socialist Party, as the first respondent, along with GIWUSA and SAFTU, as second and third respondents. They claim that our statement of solidarity is defamatory. In other words, the company says we are damaging their brand by publicly supporting the striking workers. The bosses would rather hide behind expensive lawyers and lawsuits than come to the negotiation table with their employees. It is clear that they prefer the classic capitalist tactic of intimidating the working class to silence us rather than face the reality of their super-exploitation of workers.

There is no doubt that we will fight this.

It is not only to defend our own words as WASP, or to continue garnering support for the GIWUSA workers fighting for better conditions; it is to defend the voice of the worker in the class struggle itself. If this interdict is granted, it would be a level of censorship of the labour movement unprecedented in post-Apartheid South Africa. It would be censorship of the values that underscored the mighty struggle against Apartheid by the labour movement. Even worse, it could mean that any comments on the legacy of Apartheid and the structure of capitalism would be open to suppression. Language used by workers, trade unions and community activists in protest would fall under ‘defamation’ and be brutally silenced.

WASP statements claimed as defamatory by Nature’s Garden

The court hearing is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday 25 August (more details will be communicated). We are calling on the solidarity of the movement as a whole to support WASP, GIWUSA, and SAFTU. We also appeal for financial support for our defense fund.

This is a serious political opportunity to raise our banner high as workers, not only defending the rights of the working class that were won through struggle in the past, but also to draw people to the fight we still face moving forward. It is clear the bosses are using every tool in their arsenal to repress the brewing revolt from the working class. When the increasingly pro-employer Labour Relations Act changes are exhausted, they move to these tactics to silence and intimidate. We have to be organised to fight back. 

We will not bow down to the bosses’ dirty tactics and repressive efforts! If they have resources to waste on aggressive SLAPP suits like this, they have money to pay the workers a living wage and insource those who are labour brokered!

So once again, and we shout it from the rooftops:

We stand with workers striking for the conditions that they deserve.

We stand with the working class as it continues to shake the chains of capitalism.

We will not stop fighting until we see the birth of a socialist world, free from exploitation.

And we will not be intimidated. 

#BoycottNaturesGarden

#SolidarityForever

Please contact us at legal@socialist.org.za for further information about the case as well as enquiries regarding financial support for our defense fund.

Documents regarding the case can be found here.

BOYCOTT Nature’s Garden

WASP Supports Boycott of company’s Products in Solidarity with Striking Workers

On Wednesday, 12 August more than 300 members of the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) employed at frozen vegetables manufacturer Nature’s Garden in Alberton embarked on strike action to demand a living wage.

Despite the fact that the company has been reaping the rewards of increased food prices and demand during the lockdown period, it has made the conscious decision to ignore the issues and demands of the workers on whose shoulders their profits are made. This wealth is going to waste, to a few individuals who hoard it in banks for future investment, instead of improving the lives of its producers. In addition, Nature’s Garden has embarked on a ruthless campaign of retrenchments, throwing workers into the ever-growing pool of the unemployed and hungry with no lifeline. While workers have been striking peacefully, the company bosses employed their own private armed militia as well as calling on the police to intimidate and harass the picketers. 

Workers demand the following:

  • 18% wage increase
  • R10 000 minimum wage for all employees
  • Immediate insourcing of all labour broker workers 
  • 15% increase in day shift allowance
  • 25% increase in night shift allowance
  • 4 weeks severance pay for each year of service for retrenched workers (including those outsourced to Phakisa)
  • Retrenched workers be given first priority upon new vacancies opening up

WASP is calling for all trade unions and trade union federations to support and amplify the call for a boycott of Nature’s Garden products. Furthermore we call for lunchtime pickets at workplaces, and for members of the public to take pictures of themselves in solidarity with banners in solidarity with the campaign and post them on Facebook and Twitter under the hashtag #BoycottNaturesGarden .

A solidarity action like this, in addition to the militant strike action, will hit the heartless bosses where it hurts – their pockets – and force them to the negotiation table. We also call on supporters to leave 1 star reviews on Google Reviews as well a comments on their Facebook page exposing Nature’s Garden for their callous treatment of workers and encouraging all to #BoycottNaturesGarden. The reality faced by these workers is not unique to them. We can expect many more workers to face the same or worse conditions due to the coronavirus crisis on top of an economic recession. Now is the time to stand in solidarity and ensure the working class fights back against the ruling class’s opportunistic  attacks. Nature’s Garden workers must prepare to occupy the factory if bosses refuse to come to the negotiation table. Under democratic workers control, workplaces will be transformed to give workers dignity. The food products manufactured could be utilized to feed the starving and the poor, instead of fueling the profits of the elite. The bosses will do everything they can to refuse the demands. The fight must continue

Aluta continua!

The following is the original statement from GIWUSA:

Over 300 GIWUSA members have embarked on a protected strike action at Natures Garden. The food company which was in operation throughout the lockdown period now wants to shift the whole burden of the pandemic on to the shoulders of the workers. This is indicative of a disdainful and arrogant attitude towards workers, that is harbored by Natures Garden’s heartless bosses. Despite the company’s soaring profits as result of the sharp rise in food prices as well as the increase in demand arising from the pandemic, the management continues to stubbornly persist with unreasonable refusal to address the workers issues and demands. GIWUSA is therefore calling for members of the public to boycott all Natures’ Garden’s products, this is a plea for solidarity and is the only language that can understood by Natures’ Garden’s management.

Despite the deepening inflation which has ravaged workers’ wages, widespread starvation and entrenchment of poverty Natures’ Garden’s bosses continue to insist of a zero % wage increase for years to come. GIWUSA will not allow this to happen. In response GIWUSA has served two strike notices to the company. The first strike notice concerns with GIWUSA’s demands for wage increases. We demand 18% wage increases across the board, with a minimum wage of R10 000 for all employees and we demand all labour broker workers under Phakisa to be made permanent with immediate effect and to enjoy the same conditions of work and as permanent employees. We demand 15% increase in the day shift allowance as well as 25% increase for night shift allowance. We further demand a service allowance R100 for each year worked and for it to be adjusted 8% annually.

The second strike notice relates to Natures’ Garden’s rampant and vicious retrenchment of workers. This is becoming a trend as this year alone the greedy company has already carried out sinister retrenchments affecting a quarter of its employees at its Alrode plant. Instead of manufacturing food for the starving population, Natures’ Garden is converting workers into paupers. Even when it continues to wreck havoc and devastation on workers livelihoods, Natures Garden continues to give workers crumbs as retrenchment packages as they ruthlessly discard workers who have spent a great part of their lives toiling and sweating for the company.

We will not allow this atrocity to take place. We are demanding 4 weeks’ severance pay for each and every completed year of service and part thereof. We demand all the deemed employees, currently under Phakisa to form part of those affected by the retrenchment so that they may also be given severance pay. We demand that the period of employment prior to being ‘deemed’, be factored in when counting the years of service as well as any period in respect of fixed term contract. We further demand all the retrenched workers to be given first preference in the event of vacancies arising in the next 4 years after retrenchments.

As workers embark peacefully on a protected strike and picket, management has employed the services of a heavily armed militia that is busy intimidating and harassing the picketers. We therefore send a third notice to Natures’ Garden’s bosses, that their Marikana fetish will not materialize. This flagrant violation of binding picketing rules by the company will not be tolerated and invite the consequence of the law. The strike and picketing continues at Natures’ Garden plant located at number 24 Beryllium Street, in Alrode/ Alberton.

Marxism and the Changing Climate

SYSTEM change, not CLIMATE change!

Written by Ndumiso Ncube

Featured in our uManyano lwaBasebenzi publication

Worldwide, science shows that climate change is speeding towards a point of no return; tipping points from which damage will be irreversible. Despite the wealth of scientific evidence, world leaders are doing nothing of value to act against this disaster, with COP25 in Madrid the latest example. To address climate change effectively, a united working class must lead the way to change the system.

Humanity is part of nature and depends on it for survival. Marx used the term “metabolism” to describe the necessary exchanges between humanity and our environment. He observed how the development of capitalism had opened up a “metabolical rift”, which today has grown into a gaping chasm that threatens our very existence.

Research shows the concentration of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is increasing rapidly: in the past 19 years it has increased by 10%! In 2000, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was 367 ppmv (parts per million by volume). Today is is 407 ppmv. The loss of polar ice, higher temperatures globally, rising sea levels, and drought are only some of the effects. The rate at which floods occur has increased 15-fold since 1950. Africa is the highest on the Climate Change Vulnerability Index, which measures the negative impact of climate change on human populations and the ability to cope with these changes. If business as usual continues, parts of Africa could be uninhabitable by 2100.

As Earth’s temperature rises rapidly, scientists are concerned for human survival – with a mere increase of 1,2°C we already witness devastating cyclones such as Idai, drought such as in the Northern and Western Cape, and forest fires in Australia, the Arctic, Central Africa and the Amazon.

Industries continue harmful practices like deep mining, fracking, fertilisers, etc, even with green alternatives in existence, because spending on new machinery and technologies would impact their profits. 800 000 people die annually from breathing contaminated air. Millions of farmers worldwide are struggling to adapt to changing weather patterns, diminishing grazing fields, and decreasing crop yields, resulting in famine, drought, malnutrition and starvation.

The challenges confronting humanity require a coordinated global effort to shift the production of energy, agriculture, food, metals, textiles, as well as transport, construction and forestry – in short, every aspect of the economy.This is impossible under the capitalist logic which subordinates everything, including people and planet, to the profit motive. Marx explained, capitalism will remain in conflict with nature; to continuously expand it exhausts natural as well as human resources. Therefore, it is bound to come up against natural limits as resources are depleted.

Marx argued that the socialised human must actively manage the relationship between human and nature, taking rational measures to ensure the sustainability of life on earth. Only an international socialist society, run by the working class will be able to take the necessary steps in dealing with climate change.

 Global protests against climate change, sparked by the Fridays for Future movement, are taking place. In many countries, youth strike from school every Friday and millions have taken part in strikes calling for climate justice and system change.

Marxists need to stand with young people fighting for their future. As the workers movement awakens to the devastating impact of climate change, we must clarify that capitalism itself must fall, remaining resolute in our call for the working class to join and lead the struggle for system change – for a socialist alternative!

Transpharm Workers March Against Climate Change

Written by Ndumiso and Phemelo

Last week on Thursday morning about 150 workers from the pharmaceutical company Transpharm marched to the Department of Energy in Pretoria. The workers led a lively demonstration, singing energetically and toy-toying for hours. Most of the workers had come in support of the Union campaign on Climate and exhibited a high level of interest in the speeches that were delivered.

A company like Transpharm represents the state of medicine in South Africa where it is for-profit rather than matching the needs of people, which is why workers often complain that they cannot afford it. And with South Africa having serious health endemics of TB, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, heart diseases etc. it means the government has to use tax-payers money to purchase these medications. Also, the damage that these medications do the environment is hidden from people and workers are not educated on the impacts. The meat industry puts animals under heavy medication, such as hormones and antibiotics, and even animals that are not genuinely ill are put in horrible and unhealthy conditions to produce a lot of meat fast and cheaply. This builds the potential for superbugs, or antibiotic resistant bacteria that could potentially cause widespread epidemics. All this is happening while humans who are in need of medicine cannot afford them.

Workers singing and toyi-toying at the Climate change March at the Department of Energy

It was clear that marching workers, already frustrated by their employer’s unfair labour practices, were disappointed with their bosses’ utter disregard for the well-being of the planet. Additionally, it was obvious to the workers that the foul labour practices of reckless polluting and evading safety regulations are a way for the bosses’ to secure their profits. The workers easily made the link between the way the bosses treat the workers and the way they treat the environment. There was an apparent shock at the state of the world climate and its current and possible future effects on weather patterns, food production, increasing sea levels, and increasingly frequent natural disasters like floods and droughts throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.

Many workers, having experienced cruel treatment at the hands of capitalists and their government, also understood the disastrous implications of privatizing Eskom. This reassured their support of trade union opposition to these privatization plans. Furthermore, the workers found that profit-driven motivations of the big corporations come naturally, meaning electricity tariffs will continue to escalate while wages continue to stagnate, or even decline, leading to electricity becoming unaffordable for much of the working class. This will inevitably lead to more people resorting to the cutting of trees and burning wood for fuel thus adding more CO2 to the already fragile atmosphere.

As much as the march was a demonstration of trade union opposition to privatization of Eskom and climate change, it was also an open school for many workers who are frequently denied information and education on the science of climate change by the media and schooling system. By the end of the march, it became clear to workers that our planet is in danger for the same reasons they are on low wages. Capitalism is being exposed as the true force behind the exploitation of both the working class and the natural environment. The same relentless pursuit of profits that butchered the miners at Marikana leads us to a planet brimming with greed-induced disasters that threaten food supplies and render our homes unlivable. The workers were convinced of how big business treats the environment, that the instinct to preserve profits comes naturally with capitalists, and that this cannot go on.

The Department refused to accept the memorandum saying they were not notified in advance. The spirited demonstration of the workers, however, could not be ignored and clearly impressed the staff of the Department who came out to take pictures of the posters, banners and to listen to the chanting and toyi-toyi songs.

Mametlwe Sebei, WASP memeber, addressing Transpharm workers at a March in Pretoria at the Department of Energy, against Climate change and the impending plans to privatize Eskom.


The power of big businesses must be stopped and workers need to take control of the economy. Only the workers can guarantee that businesses transition to renewable energy, to sustainable agriculture, and to an economy were the wealth produced by society serves the needs of society and not the wealth of the few. We can build more ambulances and we can certainly have decent wages, proper green housing plans, free education, shorter working hours and essential services for all.

WASP stands in solidarity with the Transpharm workers and workers worldwide in combating climate change and saving the planet from corporate greed. The demonstrations, if combined with many more mass education programmes on a more systematic basis, can lay a concrete foundation for a more organised mass intervention of the trade union movement in the Climate Change strikes and working class campaigns for a just transition to environmental justice worldwide. The trade union movement needs to organise the working class on a wider scale for a more organised mass intervention. An international revolutionary working class movement in communities must be built to campaign against climate change and force big business to transition to green technology and encourage small businesses to get government assistance for a just transition too. The only way to reverse climate change is through system change!