South Africa: Cosatu and PSC launch Week of Action for Palestine

In a historic development for South Africa, South African dock workers have announced their determination not to offload a ship from Israel that is scheduled to dock in Durban on Sunday, 8 February 2009. This follows the decision by Cosatu to strengthen the campaign in South Africa for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Apartheid Israel.

The pledge by Satawu (South African Transport and Allied Workers Union) members in Durban reflects the commitment by South African workers to refuse to support oppression and exploitation across the globe. Last year, Durban dock workers refused to offload a shipment of arms that had arrived from China and was destined for Zimbabwe. Now, says Satawu’s General Secretary Randall Howard, the union’s members are committing themselves not to handle Israeli goods.

Satawu’s action on Sunday will be part of a proud history of worker resistance against apartheid. In 1963, just four years after the Anti-Apartheid Movement was formed, Danish dock workers refused to offload a ship with South African goods. When the ship docked in Sweden, Swedish workers followed suit. Dock workers in Liverpool and, later, in the San Francisco Bay Area also refused to offload South African goods. South Africans, and the South African working class in particular, will remain forever grateful to those workers who determinedly opposed apartheid and decided that they would support the anti-apartheid struggle with their actions.

This is the legacy and the tradition that South African dock workers have inherited, and it is a legacy they are determined to honour.

Last week, members of the Western Australian members of the Maritime Union of Australia resolved to support the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel and have called for a boycott of all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel.

Cosatu, the PSC and many other organisations salute the principled position taken by these workers.

In celebration of the actions of Satawu members with regard to the ship from Israel, and in pursuance of the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, and our call on the South African government to sever diplomatic and trade relations with Israel, this coalition of organisations has declared a week of action beginning on Friday, 6 February 2009. These actions follow marches and rallies held throughout the country over the past month involving tens of thousands of South Africans in all provinces. Activities that have already been confirmed for this week will include:

· Friday, 6 February: A protest outside the offices of the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, 2 Elray Street, Raedene, off Louis Botha. Both these organisations unquestioningly supported the recent Israeli attacks against Gaza, and supported the massacre of civilians and the attacks on schools, mosques, ambulances, and UN refugee centres. Protestors will be addressed by, among others, Satawu General Secretary Randall Howard, and ex-Minister Ronnie Kasrils. Protest starts at 14:00.

· Friday, 6 February: A picket outside parliament in Cape Town. Cosatu members and solidarity activists will be joined by a number of members of parliament. Picket starts at 09:30.

· Friday, 6 February: A mass rally in Actonville, Benoni, at the Buzme Adab Hall. The rally will be addressed by, among others, Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, South African Council of Churches General Secretary Eddie Makue, ex-Minister Ronnie Kasrils and Salim Vally from the PSC. Rally starts at 19:30.

· Sunday, 8 February: A protest at the Durban Harbour Mouth, off Victoria Embankment. Protestors will be addressed by, among others, Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini. Protest starts at 10:00.

· Sunday 8 February: A mass rally in Cape Town at Vygieskraal Rugby Stadium. The rally will be addressed by, among others, Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, and Allan Boesak. Rally starts at 14:30.

Cosatu and the PSC will inform members of the media of other activities as details are confirmed.

For further information contact:

Patrick Craven (Cosatu spokesperson)

Bongani Masuku (Cosatu international Relations officer)

Melissa Hole (PSC)

Na’eem Jeenah (PSC)

Salim Vally (PSC)

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