South Africa port workers refuse to offload Israeli ship's cargo
South African port workers have refused to offload cargo from an Israeli ship in protest against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, the South African Trade and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) announced on Thursday.
Satawu members refused to offload cargo from the Zim Shanghai docked in Durban harbour, following similar action by Italian dock workers last week. Workers in Livorno reused to unload an arms shipment from another ship owned by the Israeli state-owned company Zim Lines.
The union’s deputy general secretary, Anele Kiet, announced that members will also hold lunchtime pickets in solidarity with Palestinians.
"We received a request from the SA BDS Coalition that as part of showing solidarity with Palestine, Satawu members who work in the Durban port need to boycott the shipment," said Kiet, referring to the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. "Indeed we have contacted our members at the Durban port, who have confirmed they will not be offloading the shipment. We will be picketing every day at lunchtime and engaging in demonstrations."
In a statement, the South African BDS coalition said it was responding to a call to action by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU).
“The PGFTU’s call is one of many actions of boycotts, divestment and sanctions called for by Palestinians - a consequence of the barbaric Israeli onslaught on Gaza, the killings of Palestinians in the West Bank, the pogroms in Haifa Lyddia, Haifa, Jaffa and other town and cities and the ethnic cleansing in Occupied Jerusalem,” the organisation said in a statement.
Workers have scheduled two days of protests in the port city against Israeli aggression in the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian cause has long enjoyed support from South Africa, particularly among key figures in the anti-Apartheid movement, including the late president Nelson Mandela.
On Monday, President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote: “we stand with the Palestinian people in their quest for self-determination, but also in their resistance against the deprivation of their human rights and the denial of their dignity”.
Speaking of the forced expulsions in the Sheikh Jarrah region of East Jerusalem, he said:
“It was a pain and humiliation faced by my own family, and by many South African families. My family was forcibly moved to different parts of the country on two occasions.”