NGO office that helps casual workers looted in Germiston
As the devastation of looting and attacks continued in parts of Gauteng, an NGO advising and helping casual workers in Germiston was picking up the pieces after its office was targeted in the widespread violence.
The heavy police presence and shuttered shops in Germiston illustrated the aftermath of the violence which has hit Tshwane‚ Ekurhuleni‚ Johannesburg Central‚ Jeppestown and Cleveland since Sunday.
Parts of Alexandra and Coronationville were also swept up in what was first touted as a shutdown.
Across from the usually busy Germiston station, hundreds of membership cards of the Simunye Workers Forum were strewn on the pavement outside the Casual Workers Advisory Office.
The office was looted and set alight on Monday evening. The partially barricaded, shattered office windows, torn boxes and broken printer revealed Monday's chaos.
Staff members were inside on Tuesday, packing up what had survived the night.
Before the looting the office was a safe space for casual workers, mostly employed through labour brokers and therefore a vulnerable part of the workforce.
Office spokesman Ronald Wesso described Monday's events.
He said they had learnt by about 1pm it was no longer safe for the office to be open. By 7pm a staff member called to say people had raided the premises. When other staff members arrived there were about 200 people looting the office. Files were strewn everywhere. The looters allegedly started a fire which tenants living above the office eventually extinguished.
Wesso said the biggest loss were the legal files which included court, Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) and bargaining council cases.
They would write to inform the CCMA of the setback. At least 50 cases in various stages had been affected.
Wesso said the office also lost some of its organisational and financial documents which it used to report to funders.
He said the full impact of the looting was still unclear, but the loss of a walk-in area for workers needing help was crucial.
“It’s a pretty devastating blow. This kind of organisation runs on passion and everybody who works here has invested a lot of their time and energy. It’s not just a workplace for us. We identify with this space morally,” Wesso said.
“It brings home the devastation that this kind of violence brings because I mean we have lost our office now. But many people from the rest of Africa, they lose their lives. They lose their personal possessions, their homes. We are very determined to put the fight against xenophobia and violence at the centre of what we do,” he added.