A testing time for SA
THE sight of a frightened man fleeing his work bakkie in the wake of a violent attack by men wielding an assortment of weapons and missiles during the truck drivers strike is clearly etched in the minds of millions of South African TV viewers.
The nation is surely holding its breath, hoping that a tragic repeat of the Marikana violence - that has claimed more than 40 lives, scores of injuries and spawned a high-level commission of inquiry - is not on the cards.
While the jury is out as to whether the attackers were union members - with the leaders vehemently absolving their members - it is disturbing to see the lives of ordinary citizens and unaffected workers being adversely affected.
While empathy is with the 20000 reportedly underpaid truck and freight drivers in the second week of their strike, the violence that seems to be tagging along is disconcerting.
What is worse is the potentially severe threat to the economy as the strike has started putting pressure on fuel, medical and food supplies. This is likely lead to panic buying by rattled consumers, despite assurances by suppliers.
Averting a potential disaster requires cool, mature heads in the impasse in which workers are demanding a 12% pay hike, and the employers - represented by the Road Freight Employers Association- offering 6%.
The workers - represented by the Transport and Allied Workers Union, the Motor Transport Workers Union, the Professional Transport and Allied Workers Union of SA, and the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union - are seemingly being led astray by faceless warmongers, if the standard denial by leaders of the involvement of union members is to be believed.
While Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was on record at the weekend warning warring ANC factions to be mindful of tainting the country's image in the eyes of the world, the same cautioning should be directed at the violent fringe among the protesters.
Already, analysts are predicting SA's credit rating downgrade by global rating agencies Moody's, Standard & Poor's and Fitch over policy uncertainty ahead of the ANC elective conference in December.
All the parties involved in the wage negotiations should start putting the nation first and giving priority to the lives, food, shelter, safety and security of all South Africans.
At such a fraught period in the country's social, political and economic history, it is the right thing to do.