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Unions’ national socio-economic strike kicks off across SA

Protests are taking place across SA over corruption, the failing economy, gender-based violence, and government’s non-implementation of this year’s wage hikes for public servants.

Cosatu members taking part in a socio-economic strike in Pretoria called by the country’s trade union federations on 7 October 2020. Picture: Abigail Javier/EWN

JOHANNESBURG/ CAPE TOWN/ DURBAN - Workers were yet to gather at different assembly points across Gauteng on Wednesday morning to take part in marches and motorcades as part of the national strike by the country’s main four labour federations.

The protests are over corruption, the failing economy, gender-based violence, and government’s non-implementation of this year’s wage hikes for public servants.

LIVE BLOG: Operations grind to a halt as unions around SA strike

Despite the call for workers to stay home on Wednesday and plans for a few to protest in line with the lockdown regulations' limitations, the country’s capital was abuzz with activity as people made their way to work.

Municipal employees continued with business as usual with street cleaners seen working in Tshwane.

The workers who were expected to take part in the action included teachers, health workers, public transport operators, among others. They planned to protest outside different institutions in the country’s capital.

While the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu), and the Federation of Trade Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) members were taking part in the strike, the organisations organised different activities across the country.

Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi was expected to lead a motorcade to the Department of Employment and Labour in the city, while Saftu leaders would form a human chain at the Union Buildings.

However, it remained to be seen whether workers would come out en mass given the overcast weather in the morning.

COSATU KZN PROTEST

At the same time, Cosatu in KwaZulu-Natal said the majority of its workers in the province had listened to the call to stay at home.

The labour federation said it would ensure Wednesday’s events adhered to COVID-19 regulations when its members hand over their memoranda to five public institutions.

Cosatu provincial secretary Edwin Mkhize said they had planned motorcades in various parts of the province to raise awareness about the plight of workers.

“Some comrades are travelling as far as Port Shepstone, some from Pietermaritzburg, and others will be travelling from the Empangeni, Richards Bay, and Mandini,” Mkhize said.

Mkhize said later on Wednesday they planned to meet at the KwaZulu-Natal police provincial headquarters.

“We will be handing over five memorandums to different institutions. The government memorandum will be collected by the premier,” he said.

He said they also planned to stage pickets outside companies that failed to comply with safety regulations, and those refusing to pay workers Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) money that is due to them.

SITUATION IN WESTERN CAPE

Meanwhile, protesting workers started gathering in Langa in the morning.

The demonstrators were expected to form a motorcade driving from Langa to the Cape Town city centre.

They were not just satisfied with withdrawing their labour. The protesters wanted to bring traffic to standstill to make their point.

Vehicles joining the motorcade protest started arriving at the Langa multipurpose sports centre.

They would load protesters before taking to the N2. They would then hand over a memorandum to government representatives in the city centre.

Cosatu’s provincial secretary, Malvern de Bruyn said: “We can see now that there is movement in terms of government dealing with corruption, but we are of the view that they’re not doing enough. We want people to be arrested.”

Demonstrators were expected to converge on the provincial legislature and Parliament.

PUBLIC SERVICE WAGE INCREASES

Dozens of Cosatu affiliated workers protested at Burgers Park in Pretoria ahead of their march to the Department of Employment and Labour.

Some of the workers who are employed in the public service told EWN this was the final straw in what has been a difficult year for them financially following government’s failure to hike their wages by up to 5.4% in accordance with a 2018 agreement with labour unions.

This was among the issues workers were protesting over across South Africa as countries across the world commemorate World Day for Decent Work.

Mogau Letsoalo, an assistant director at the National School of Government, said she had to compromise on her quality of life after making financial plans based on the wage agreement, which government backtracked on.

“It has affected us a lot because we don’t know how we are going to survive because we know that inflation has gone up,” she said.

However, her struggles did not stop there.

She explained she also decided to take this stand amid the COVID-19 pandemic because as a South African woman she felt the needed to protest against the continued scourge of gender-based violence and femicide.

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