JOHANNESBURG, April 26 – SA Federation of Trade Unions secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi on Wednesday, warned the South African government to prepare for a two-day general strike should workers’ rejection of the proposed R20 hourly rate minimum wage not be heeded.
“We will not allow anybody to touch our right to strike…if they do not listen to us today comrades…we will come back for two days… we are going to take buses, taxis, trains ad come here. We will not leave town until our rights are guaranteed…the normal will not help us comrades, we need a practical response, because they are taking our rights away practically,” Vavi told workers.
A sea of red engulfed the Johannesburg CBD as marchers made their way to government departments, the Chamber of Mines and Gauteng Premier David Makhura’s office to hand over memorandums of demands, top of which was a higher minimum wage. Saftu affiliates labelled the proposed R20 hourly rate as an insult and are demanding an R12,500 minimum salary for all workers in the country.
Marchers, who included supporters of the Economic Freedom Fighters, took over major towns in South Africa, handing over memorandum of demands at various government departments and offices of provincial premiers. They had arrived in buses and taxis earlier in Newtown and waited for their leaders whilst singing revolutionary songs.
Shortly after handing over the memorandum at around 1pm at Makhura’s office — received by Infrastructure Development MEC Jacob Mamabolo — Vavi announced that more workers were arriving in Newtown to join the march.
Numsa spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi said the march was delayed as workers had to find other modes of transport due to the ongoing bus strike.
President Cyril Ramaphosa was not spared as workers mocked him through placards, accusing him of short-changing workers. Some of the marchers hoisted up replicas of the buffalo, one of South Africa’s big five animals, a snide indirect attack on Ramaphosa, a wealthy former businessman who once purchased a multimillion rand buffalo in 2012. He later apologised for the widely criticised purchase, calling it “a mistake in the sea of poverty”.
Saftu’s rival Congress of the South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) distanced itself from the strike, saying that it supported the proposed minimum wage. Another union federation, the Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) accused Saftu of “grandstanding”.
“Fedusa remains fully cognisant that the proposed R20 per hour, translated to R3500 monthly, is not a living wage, but a minimum wage, recommended for 47 percent of workers currently earning less than R20 per hour. This alone means that half the workers will directly benefit from the national minimum wage that has further been recommended to be subjected to an annual review, to ensure that its value is not eroded over time and that it addresses inequality,” said Fedusa.