DURBAN, September – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) was not interfering in the work of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) by taking to the streets to protest state capture, according to Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini.
Speaking at Durban City Hall on Wednesday during the trade union federation’s national shutdown, Dlamini told well over 3,500 marchers that Cosatu had a “direct interest” in how the leadership of the ANC was elected.
“People are asking us why we are interfering. We are not interfering, we have a direct interest in how the leadership of the ANC is elected because we are also affected by those issues,” he said.
The shutdown started at 10am nationwide in protest of state capture, corruption and job losses. Thirteen marches were coordinated to take place across all nine provinces.
Dlamini led the Durban march amidst a strong police presence. Before he started speaking, the crowd began singing “We are ready for Ramaphosa”. Cosatu has stated publicly it is backing deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to be elected ANC president in December.
“Cyril Ramaphosa must be given a chance to lead the ANC,” said Dlamini to whoops and cheers from the crowd. Dlamini had previously taken flak for being close to president Jacob Zuma, who is backing Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the position of ANC leader come the party’s December conference.
“We are saying, as workers, that we are tired of corruption. Corruption is a cancer that destroys the fibre of our society. Cosatu has said that if we stand and watch corruption would go away, but it did not go away, and it is the workers who suffer,” Dlamini told the cheering crowd.
He said there were examples of workers who had raised corruption issues as whistleblowers, but that they had been dismissed.
“The president of the republic must take immediate steps to institute a judicial commission of inquiry that must investigate state capture, and it must go deeper… it must deal with state capture by the Guptas, but it must go beyond that. We must know who has been capturing our Treasury in South Africa. We must know who is responsible for the Treasury to fail to advance a developmental agenda in South Africa,” he said.
The national shutdown was also targeting big business, rogue employers and those in government who were misusing and mismanaging government entities, he said. “We are also saying, ‘do not divide us, don’t divide the workers’. We know what we stand for. No one should come with his money or her money to divide workers so that they can have their interests advanced.”
Cosatu would not stop fighting until labour brokers were “totally banned” he said. The federation was also seeking the scrapping of outsourcing.
Amongst its list of demands, Cosatu wants a judicial commission of inquiry immediately implemented and for President Zuma to decide on a date for such.
It was also seeking that state institutions cancel commercial dealings with the Gupta family and that the Guptas’ assets be seized by the asset forfeiture unit. Ministers who had been implicated in allegations of state capture also needed to be urgently investigated.
Furthermore, Hundreds of workers have gathered at the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) head office in Braamfontein in Johannesburg to march and hand over memorandums to government institutions and companies in protest against rampant corruption and state capture.
The workers wore signature red Cosatu garb and sang songs calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down. They carried placards on which was written “Zuma Must Go” and “State Capture is a Criminal Offense”. Some of them wore African National Congress (ANC) colours as they ran up and down the street next to Cosatu offices, whiling away time ahead of the march.
Cosatu said it expected thousands of workers to take part in the nationwide protest against rising unemployment, corruption, state capture, likely bringing the country’s major cities to a standstill. At least 13 marches are set to take place across the nine provinces, including one to Parliament in Cape Town. The protest has received support from organisations such as the SA Communist Party (SACP) and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA).
The section 77 strike action was given the go ahead by the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). Cosatu secretary general Bheki Ntshalintshali said all workers, regardless of union affiliation, can join the march and are protected by section 77 of the Labour Relations Act.
In Johannesburg, marchers would be led by SACP secretary general Blade Nzimande and Ntshalintshali. Memorandum of demands would be handed over to Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office, the Department of Labour, FNB and other banks, the Chamber of Mines and the City of Joburg.
The country’s biggest union federation and the SACP, who are both part of the tri-partite alliance with the governing ANC, have repeatedly called on Zuma to step down in the face of damning allegations of corruption and looting of state resources by the controversial Gupta family and their associates. The family enjoys close ties to Zuma and are business partners with his son Duduzane.
Police have urged protesters to behave and respect other people’s rights.
”No criminality, including intimidation and any form of lawlessness will be tolerated. We are confident that this call will be adhered to. It is in the best interests of all parties to work together to avoid unnecessary conflict situations. People who do not follow the correct procedures and the rule of law will be held accountable,” said police spokesman Brigadier Vishnu Naidoo.
Meanwhile, Striking workers in Cape Town delivered what they called “a present” to President Jacob Zuma on Wednesday — calling on the State to stop dragging its feet in establishing a judicial inquiry into state capture.
Some of the city centre’s busiest streets were turned into a sea of red as members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) protested against state capture and corruption.
The most prominent placard on display read: “Zuma must go”.
“We didn’t fight apartheid to replace a white devil with a black devil,” Cosatu Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich said while addressing the crowd at Parliament where a memorandum was handed over to representatives of the national legislature and big business in the Western Cape.
In the memorandum, Cosatu demanded, among others, that Zuma immediately set a date to establish a judicial inquiry into state capture.
“The state and state institutions must refuse to deal with the predatory elite, and in particular cancel all commercial dealings with the Gupta family with immediately effect,” the memorandum said.
In addition, the Asset Forfeiture Unit should seize all the assets of the Guptas because Cosatu did not believe the “enormous” resources accumulated by the family — who are close allies of Zuma — were legitimately secured.
Deputy Public Works Minister, who relinquished his position as South African Communist Party (SACP) first deputy general secretary, Jeremy Cronin joined protesters.
He told workers some R27 billion rand was being looted per year from the State — money which could have been used to create 75,000 jobs.
“People are making lots of money but the services are getting worse and worse,” said Cronin.
Cronin and other leaders made it clear that they would fight tooth-and-nail to prevent government from using state pensions to bail out struggling state-owned companies.
Earlier, the protesters also visited the provincial legislature, calling on Premier Helen Zille to immediately address violence in schools.
South African Democratic Teachers’ Union provincial secretary Jonovan Rustin said 60 teachers were assaulted in Western Cape schools in the first three months of this year.
“Our learners are being killed in schools, our teachers are being assaulted,” he said.
Referring to allegations that Zille applied pressure on officials to help her son’s business receive 150 new tablets from the provincial government, Rustin said: “Zille and Zuma are exactly the same.”
Metrorail was also not spared during the protest as workers made their way to the Cape Town train station to protest the dismal failure of the state-owned entity to transport workers to and from work.
“We want the bosses of Metrorail to go to jail for endangering our lives,” Ehrenreich said while handing over a memorandum of demands to Metrorail regional manager Richard Walker.
Ehrenreich said Cosatu was demanding at least three security guards on every carriage, while it also wants Metrorail to slash their prices in half to compensate workers who often have to pay for alternative transport when trains don’t arrive on time or are too full to board.
The march to Metrorail formed part of a wider countrywide protest against corruption and state capture.
– African News Agency (ANA)