Durban dockworkers refuse to offload Israeli ship in solidarity with Palestinians

Durban dockers boycott Israeli ship
South African Transport and Allied Workers Union
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South African workers angry protest over slaughter in Palestine

Members of the South African BDS Coalition, its affiliates and other partner organisations and trade unions will converge on the Durban Esplanade and Durban port on Friday, 21 May, to protest the docking of an Israeli ship, and in celebration of the decision by members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) to boycott the offloading of the ship.

The decision by SATAWU and the BDS Coalition follows a call by the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) on workers and trade unions to “refuse to unload [Israeli] ships and goods from sea and airports”.

The PGFTU call is one of many actions of boycotts, divestment and sanctions called for by Palestinians – a consequence of the barbaric Israeli onslaught on Gaza, the killings of Palestinians in the West Bank, the pogroms in Haifa Lyddia, Haifa, Jaffa and other town and cities and the ethnic cleansing in Occupied Jerusalem.

More than 230 people have been killed, most of them civilians, including about 70 children, as well as the wholesale destruction by Apartheid Israel of infrastructure in Gaza, and a 14-year medieval-like siege of the territory.

The Zim Shanghai, owned by Israeli state-owned company Zim Lines, docked in Durban last night, 19 May 2021. The action against the ship is part of a global set of actions against Zim Lines. The protests also target Transnet, demanding that the parastatal not allow goods to or from Israel to pass through South African ports.

Earlier this week, workers in the Italian city of Livorno refused to load an arms shipment onto the Asiatic Island, another Zim Lines ship. Their union, L’Unione Sindacale di Base (USB) said, “The port of Livorno will not be an accomplice in the massacre of the Palestinian people.”

The cargo, USB said, contained “weapons and explosives that will serve to kill the Palestinian population”.In the port of Oakland, USA, trade union and Palestinian solidarity activists are preparing to prevent the offloading of another Zim Lines ship that is due to dock there soon, in a campign called “Block the Boat”.

In 2014, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union refused to offload a Zim Lines ship in Oakland, and this will be the first Zim ship to dock in the port since then.

South African workers are not newcomers to action against Zim Lines. In February 2009, SATAWU members in Durban refused to offload a Zim Lines ship in protest against the 2008-2009 Israeli attack on Gaza.Workers and solidarity activists have planned two actions in Durban this week in response to the docking of the Zim Shanghai:

Workers will refuse to offload the ship and handle the ship’s cargo, which is due to start on Friday, 21 May.

SATAWU has already informed Transnet of their refusal to offload the cargo.Activists will hold a protest on the Durban Esplanade at 7am on Friday.

The trade union federations, unions and other organisations that have pledged their support for these actions are:


The Coalition of the Poor
Ubunye BamaHostel
aAbahlali Base Mjondolo
KZN Subsistence Fisherfolks
Market Users Committee
South Durban Community
Environmental Alliance
Assonet (Migrant Communities)
People Against Oppression
Friends of the Earth South Africa.

For more information or interviews, please contact:Jihaan Haffajee: 083 391 6243Martin Jansen: 082 870 2025Roshan Dadoo: 082 816 2799