On 21 October, 2014: African Human Rights Day, a group of ex-strikers planned to commemorate twenty-seven years since the 1987 SASOL strike with a picket at the SASOL plant in Sasolburg. They applied to the police for permission to demonstrate, painted banners, and brought in members from around the country for this event.
But when the ex-strikers' representative went to the police station to collect the permission at 2 pm on the 20th, they discovered that Sasol management was there already, meeting the police. Police then refused permission for the gathering, on the grounds that SASOL management had expressed willingness to negotiate outstanding demands – 27 years later. Apparently the demonstration might jeopardize these "negotiations".
The backstory: On 1 October 1987 workers at SASOL and Natref plants in Sasolburg voted to strike for better wages – for "a lousy 115 rand" more a month.
"We were beaten by the police and bitten by their dogs. As the strike goes on SA Police started shooting workers. The first victim who was shot dead was Mr Ndiko; Mr S. Nxhitho was shot and lost an eye. They used the National Key Points Act against the striking workers; that led to the death of 77 workers who had been shot dead by SA Police riot squad called by SASOL's management." (Letter from Ex-SASOL 1 and NATREF Employees to Dept of Justice, 2012)
In six months 77 strikers were killed. 2400 workers lost their jobs , and their company housing. Livelihoods and families were smashed. Sasol refuses to this day, 27 years later, to give certificates of service to the ex-workers, so they still cannot claim pension and benefits. 22 workers had more than 30 years' service; 40 had 26-30 years' service, 121 had 21-25 years' service, 150 had 16-20 years' service.
The ex-strikers took the case to the labour court, which found in their favour; but Sasol appealed the decision and it was reversed. The ex-strikers could not afford to continue the case. The ex-strikers gave a statement to the TRC; they were given a TRC number, but heard no more about it. None were given TRC reparations.
Today, as an organized branch of Khulumani Support Group in Zamdela, ex-strikers are still demanding redress. Yet the police in Sasolburg, at the urging of SASOL management, denied them a peaceful picket and the space to present their demands publically on African Human Rights Day.