S. Africa Police Seize 11 in Raid at Union Offices
Police using masked informers raided the headquarters of a black union Wednesday, apparently looking for suspects in the killing of four railway workers, while riot police circled the 11-story building.
A police spokesman, Lt. Pierre Louw, said 11 people, ages 12 to 49, were arrested in the seven-hour search of the downtown building, the South African Press Assn. reported without giving other details.
Jay Naidoo, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, or COSATU, said “police systematically searched” 400 workers in the main hall, then “proceeded to search the building from top to bottom.”
More than 75 policemen stood guard with shotguns, pistols, dogs and whips in front of barricades of police cars and iron gates.
Officers used dogs to push back hundreds of pedestrians and journalists trying to observe the entrance to the building, headquarters for the union federation and its affiliates.
Workers Discuss Strike
The police sweep took place as hundreds of members of the South African Railways and Harbor Workers Union were inside the building discussing their seven-week strike, which led to the mass firing of 16,000 workers last week by the South African Transport Services.
Tuesday night, the bodies of three black men and one of mixed race were found under a pile of burned tires at a train station, according to a police statement. It said the victims “had been brutally assaulted with knives and pangas (sharpened sticks) and their bodies set alight.”
The statement said the four victims “were forcibly removed from their places of employment to (the union building) where they were violently assaulted . . . and thereafter butchered, for no other reason than that they chose not to participate in COSATU’s actions.”
State-run radio said a fifth man escaped by throwing himself out of a van being driven to the place where the four others were subsequently killed.
Dirk Hartford, editor of the union federation’s newspaper, said in a telephone interview that the union had no knowledge of the four deaths.