Strike struck dumb

We’re on strike at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. The university is offering a 4% salary increase for staff – not a penny more- but management is taking 12%. Negotiations have deadlocked, and we’re taking it to the streets, or as near to them as the restrictive industrial action legislation will allow us to get. We were on strike almost the same time last year – but for the 2006 round, the four unions that represent staff on campus have assured their members that they’re not going to sell us out. In 2005, we were on strike for barely a day, after which the ANC instructed NEHAWU and NTESU to settle, which they did. This didn’t go down too well with the rank-and-file.. Promises have been made, this time, to bring all decisions to a mass meeting. I’ll believe it when I see it.

The biggest source of worry, as ever, is management. Yesterday, we were sent a number of emails about how our strike would disrupt the students (don’t we care about students?) and then, Dasarath Chetty, our censorship czar, sent out these velvetted instructions:

Public Affairs and Corporate Communications would like to request that all staff who receive any media query related to the impending industrial action refer these calls to Jennene Singh 260 2386 or Bhekani Dlamini 260 7115. We appreciate your assistance in this regard.
Professor Dasarath Chetty
Executive Director

Like Fight Club, the number one rule about the strike, apparently, is that one doesn’t talk about it. Jimi Adesina, one of the continent’s most thoughtful and engaged scholars, has written a lacerating response. Read it in full here, and study this example:

I have before me a copy of the ban order that the Government of the Republic of Transkei issued against Clarence Mlamli Makwetu on 7 December 1976; it carried the signature of KW Matanzima. CM Makwetu was asked by Matanzima to “immediately withdraws (sic) together with your wife, children and household effects from the said area in the said district [Tembuland] and proceed to NYANDENI AREA… And there to take up residence at a place to be pointed to you by the Magistrate, Libode.” All nice and orderly, isn’t it? “Proceed”, “take up residence”, etc. KW Matanzima could argue that he never used the word “ban” or “restriction”, as I suspect you would argue that your e-mail to the staff of UKZN never used the word “gag” or said that UKZN staff could face disciplinary action if they flout your instruction. You could argue that it is an “injunction,” an “advice” not an order or even an instruction. But Matanzima fooled no one; neither will you…

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