Jean-Jacques Cornish

Canada asks striking South African firemen to leave

Canada’s asked South Africa’s so-called singing firefighters to go home after they went on strike while battling an out of

control wildfire near the oil city of Fort McMurray in Alberta.

President Jacob Zuma’s got involved in the matter assigning the Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa to intervene in resolving the matter.

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The 301 firefighters were mostly unemployed young men trained by an organization called Working With Fire as one of the projects of the South African government’s expanded public works program

The Ottawa government called them up along with a group of American firemen.

Their supervisor Johan Heine,who’s a veteran firefighter of 30 years, says the South Africans will  face internal disciplinary action over the sudden strike.

The Canadian authorities have asked him to get his team out of the country as soon as possible.

He says people in emergency services are paramount and are not supposed to strike.

The firefighters won hearts when they arrived singing.

Then they downed tools over a pay dispute.

Heine says the team has indicated that they will not leave until they receive confirmation that their pay demands will be met.

Heine he refutes claims that Working With Fire was skimming from the $170 a day the Canadians were paying, and only paying firefighters $50 a day.

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Jean-Jacques Cornish is a journalist and broadcaster who has been involved in the media all his adult life.

Starting as a reporter on his hometown newspaper, he moved briefly to then Rhodesia before returning to South Africa to become a parliamentary correspondent with the South African Press Association. He was sent to London as Sapa’s London editor and also served as special correspondent to the United Nations. He joined the then Argus group in London as political correspondent.

Returning to South Africa after 12 years abroad, he was assistant editor on the Pretoria News for a decade before becoming editor of the Star and SA Times for five years.

Since 1999 he’s been an independent journalist writing and broadcasting – mainly about Africa – for Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape
Talk, Radio France International, PressTV, Radio Live New Zealand, Business Day, Mail & Guardian, the BBC, Agence France Press,
Business in Africa, Leadership, India Today, the South African Institute for International Affairs and the Institute for Security Studies.

He has hosted current affairs talk shows on Talk Radio 702 and 567 Cape Talk. He appears as an African affairs pundit on SABC Africa and CNBC Africa.
He lectured in contemporary studies to journalism students at the Tshwane University of Technology and the University of Pretoria.

He speaks on African affairs to corporate and other audiences.
He has been officially invited as a journalist to more than 30 countries. He was the winner of the 2007 SADC award for radio journalism.

He’s been a member of the EISA team observing elections in Somaliland, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, Egypt and Tunsiai.

In October 2009 he headed a group of 39 African journalists to the 60th anniversary celebrations of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

In January 2010 he joined a rescue and paramedical team to earthquake struck Haiti.

He is immediate past president of the Alliance Francaise of Pretoria.

Jean-Jacques is a director of Giant Media. The company was given access to Nelson Mandela in his retirement years until 2009.
He is co-producer of the hour-long documentary Mandela at 90 that was broadcast on BBC in January 2009.