Sapa, 26 May 2008

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A high-ranking member of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has been killed in the xenophobic violence, the union said on Monday. Shop steward Walter Ntombela, a Mozambican national was stabbed to death during the weekend in his shack at the Madelakufa squatter camp, outside Tembisa near Germiston, spokesperson Mziwakhe Hlangani said. He had been a union member for the past 10 years. Ntombela was stabbed with pangas. His wife and three children narrowly escaped after their shack was set on fire. They had since taken refuge in a local community hall and were waiting to be taken back to Mozambique. "An exceptionally gifted shop steward... has been killed by prowling mobs, the latest victim of ongoing xenophobic violence against foreign nationals," said Hlangani. Paying tribute to Ntombela, Numsa Wits Central West regional chairman Motsamai Ponya said: "It is unfathomable grief to lose a talented son of the metalworkers' union and the most creative worker leader." He described Ntombela as a humorous, light-hearted person, a guitarist who always joked about being a foreigner and a union activist. Ntombela was a team leader at a tools manufacturing engineering firm in Jet Park, south east of Johannesburg. Although he was an immigrant from Mozambique the union regarded him as a workers' struggle champion. "He has been at the forefront of Numsa campaigns in the Ekurhuleni region. He was a chairperson of the shop steward's campaign's committee," said Ponya. Numsa has launched a national education programme against xenophobia and tribalism at workplace. It would continue until the end of June. Part of the campaign would see the union meeting the national housing department to pursue the conversion of single sex hostels into family units.