|Inkonjane FM: Workers fight petty-bourgeois brutality|
|News - Latest|
|Wednesday, 02 May 2012 10:00|
The short existence of Inkonjane FM, a community radio station established in 2009 at Flagstaff to serve the Mpondo section of the Eastern Cape population, has been full of hardship for its workers. Wages are R1000 per month, but workers go for months without being paid. Several times, workers tried to bring their plight to the attention of the employer, but to no avail. Since May 2011, workers have not been paid. This has led to an industrial conflict between workers and the chairperson of the Board of Directors, Mwelo Nonkonyana, which is still unfolding.
Suspension and court interdict
Nonkonyana – himself a combination of a feudal relic (a “chief”) and a representative of capital as ANC Member of Parliament – is hell-bent on resolving this conflict by means of cruel punitive measures.
Realising they were flogging a dead horse as the employer was not prepared to listen to their grievances, workers decided on industrial action – a go slow. Nonkonyana then ordered workers to attend a disciplinary hearing on December 4, 2011. Arrogantly, he did not even turn up for the hearing. Instead he had gone to court to get an interdict to the effect that workers should not enter the premises of the station, and that they should appear in the Magistrate’s court to show cause why they should not be dismissed and be ordered to pay costs. Such is the meanness of the black petty bourgeois class; rescued from the clutches of apartheid by the working class!
In court workers argue, advised by the Commercial, Services and Allied Workers’ Union (Cosawu), that a Magistrate’s court does not have jurisdiction to preside over this matter. Still the court interdicted the workers from entering the workplace for having gone on what the chief described as an unlawful strike – an effective dismissal couched in legalistic terms.
According to sections 68 and 157 of the Labour Relations Act a Magistrate has no jurisdiction over strikes. The chief claims that the workers “having been suspended, invaded the studio of the applicant and occupied it.” By a stroke of his pen, the striking workers have become an army of invaders, who have committed a criminal offence that warrants a life sentence of poverty and joblessness.
The case has now been postponed for the fourth time (to April 30). It appears the judges are trying to avoid ruling on the case as this would force them to admit it is not within their powers to do so. Two magistrates have taken turns in postponing the case with lame excuses; one claiming he cannot preside because he is in partnership with the employer’s lawyer.
Illegal Board of Directors
When workers wrote to the National Community Radio Forum (NCRF) to raise the mismanagement of the station, it responded by noting several irregularities. For example, the Board not meeting according to the stipulations of the constitution, an AGM not having been held for a long time, the chairman being a politician and MP, as are (or were) most board members.
The employer, not the workers, is at fault. With the illegal Board under his thumb, Nonkonyana runs the station with dictatorial conceit. He alone has refused to pay workers and interdicted them. He has been selective in victimising workers. Without explanation he suspended and interdicted only 12 of the 26 workers; yet all of them had decided on the go-slow. The other Board members condone his behaviour. It is generally believed that Chief Nonkonyana is feared by the educated middle class as a bully.
Leading members of the communities covered by Inkonjane FM are disgusted by the way the station is run and treats its workers. They have now written to the NCRF demanding its intervention in resolving the mess. They want an audited financial report; no member of the Board to be a member of a political organisation; an end to nepotism and also complain that workers have been suspended and that the matter is in court without them knowing.
Community members also want an urgent meeting with the Dept of Communications along with its sub-institutions, the Inkonjane FM Board and the suspended workers. If the matter is not resolved through such a meeting, community leaders are prepared to mobilise for a march.
The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Cosawu support the dismissed workers and the intervention of the community. The problems facing the Inkonjane workers are symptoms of the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, which turns what should be a public good owned and controlled by workers and communities, into someone’s private turf. Bourgeois “justice” having revealed its spinelessness, the community action is encouraging. The lasting solution is the transformation of society from capitalism to socialism.