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South Africa: Union demands justice for woman worker murdered at electricity sub-station

28 June, 2018In May last year, power utility Eskom worker, 29-year-old Thembisile Yende, was murdered whilst at work at an electricity sub-station in Ekurhuleni near Johannesburg. On 28 June, the court said that the director of public prosecutions has provisionally withdrawn the charges against her alleged killer, David Ngwenya, a technician at Eskom.

There are fears that the case might be dismissed for lack of evidence as critical information from surveillance cameras has disappeared. The court heard last year that before the murder, Yende wanted to expose a criminal gang involved in stealing copper cables from power lines for sale to scrap metal dealers.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers (NUMSA), where she was a member, demands justice and says Eskom is complicit by not assisting in making the evidence available to law enforcement agencies. Says NUMSA in a statement:

“Her body was found in the workplace. It is virtually impossible for outsiders to access the sub-station on their own. She did not kill and lock herself in the office. Therefore, the only logical conclusion is that her killers are either employees or were assisted by employees of Eskom.”

The union wants the case to be treated just like other high-profile cases, and for the South African Police Services and the National Prosecuting Authority “to take gender-based violence seriously by prioritizing investigations into the case.”

In a tribute to Yende, NUMSA says it will not rest until the truth is known.

“She was a hard-working ambitious young woman whose life was senselessly cut down in her prime. Her young son will have to live the rest of his life without the love and care of his mother.”

NUMSA has signed the IndustriALL Pledge in which unions make a commitment to fight all forms of violence against women at the workplace and in the unions.

South African workplaces continue to be unsafe as women face sexual harassment, rape and murder. According to the Statistics South Africa report Crime Against Women in South Africa 2018, the murder rate for women in the country increased by 117 per cent between 2015 and 2016/17 while rape was more than five times the global average.