NATIONAL NEWS - The leader of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) Zwelinzima Vavi has condemned an Eastern Cape based food manufacturer for using the law to bully a local civic organisation and union rallying behind a worker who lost their hand last week from a freak accident at one of the factory’s machines.
Eugene Jali was injured by a maize mixer machine at Truda Foods factory in Komani, Eastern Cape, last week.
According to Independent Komani Residents Association’s (IKORA) Roger Xalisa, Jali’s accident was a result of the “poor health and safety conditions at Truda Foods”.
“The workers have consistently been informing the management of the poor health and safety standards.
"They have been pointing out the hazardous nature of their working environment but because in their majority, they are black Africans and females in particular, it seems to us that their cries had always reached deaf ears of white male management,” Xalisa said in a statement shared on social media.
Truda Foods’ chief operating officer (COO) Steven Edwards, however, said it was “absolute rubbish” that the health and safety standards at the factory were poor.
Edwards said after Jali’s accident, the department of labour conducted an audit of the factory and was satisfied with the health and safety standards at the factory and that similar audits have been previously conducted by the department.
Edwards added that the department expressed that Jali, who he said has a year of experience at the factory and has received training, had been extremely careless.
Xalisa said IKORA intends to open a criminal case of attempted murder against Truda Foods for Jali’s accident and that the organisation was calling for the department of labour to investigate the accident, failing which IKORA would view the department as an “accomplice”.
Edwards said Jali’s accident was “very unfortunate”, adding that the machine which injured him has clear signage cautioning that hands should be kept clear and has a safety switch.
Edwards further said Truda Foods has approached the courts to interdict Xalisa from publicly making allegations against the company.
The 31 injuries of the factory’s workers in 2020, which Xalisa alleged were revealed by the company during a meeting with IKORA and a local union, were minor ones, bruises and “literally little scratches”, Edwards said.
Edwards said Jali’s accident was the first of its severity he could recall occurring at the Queenstown factory.
Vavi, who took issue with the court interdict, accused the company of operating in a democratic country “like we are still in 1971”, saying “basically workers are being slaughtered, literally”.
The department of labour could not be reached for comment.