By Matthew Jabby
An aspirant in the race to become president of the Sierra Leone Dock Workers Union (SLDWU) has told Concord Times he fears for his life due to threats from unknown dock workers.
Alpha Sulaiman Bundu, who is also Manager at Bollore Logistics Company at the Queen Elizabeth II Quay at Cline Town, Freetown, told this reporter last week that he fears for his life after being subjected to sustained physical and verbal attacks by dock workers opposed to his candidacy.
Bundu also showed our reporter a copy of a letter written to him, ostensibly to cow him into dropping out of the race. The letter reads thus: “Sir, it is our greatest concern to inform you that your behaviour in our Union affairs is as if you are undermining the operations of the Committee and inciting workers to go on the rampage. Your spider works in between our cause are [through] manipulation of selfish interest. For the sake of peace and stability, we want you to stay away from our Union affairs.
“We want you to be aware that your membership in the Union is only to protect your right but as a manager, you cannot hold any Executive position in the Union except you resign your job now. This is part of the bye-laws of the Management and the Union. All holding managerial positions are part of the Management. Surely speaking we are going to meet you in your office at any time to give you our final warning. Allow the Port and the Union interim body to peacefully operate as we are looking forward to a speedy review of the Constitution and selection for our president. You have been warned to stay away from our Union Mr Manager.”
Bundu claimed that another letter was addressed to the Human Resource Manager of Bollore, his employer, with an ultimatum that he should decide on whether to work for the French logistics company and avoid leading the Dock Workers Union or resign from the company to serve the Union.
He said the authors of the letter also threatened to use violence if he fails to pay heed to their ultimatum, and that if that action fails to subdue him, they would embark on an industrial action against the company as well as burn down property owned by the latter.
The gripe against Mr. Bundu’s candidacy seems to emanate from suspicion that as Manager of a leading company at the Freetown harbour, he cannot effectively serve as leader of a pressure group which advocates for workers’ rights, most of whom are casual workers and are poorly paid.
The anonymous letter further reads: “To be precise, Alpha Bundu is part of your management, with management responsibility. He cannot advocate for workers whilst serving the Union. There will be conflict of interest and this will not convince us to consider him any position in the Union. Please ask Alpha Bundu to decide now or we take on the rampage. We have warned him. We urgently want to hear from you.”
According Mr. Bundu, both letters have left him in a state of fear for his personal safety and security as he would not know the petitioners’ next line of action.
However, he has refused to step out of the race because he is convinced his position as Manager does not disqualify him from vying for any position in the Union.
Dock workers have been restive since late last year when elections for executive positions in the Union were cancelled after rival factions threatened to cause mayhem over the disqualification of some aspirants. The elections have since been postponed many times, and are still yet to be conducted, while police have had to intervene on many occasions to restore peace and order at the quay, sometimes making arrests.