Getrude Makhafola, Nkosana Lekotjolo, Alex Matlala, Sapa
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi yesterday lashed out at government ministers as tens of thousands of workers downed tools in four provinces.
If ministers could not deliver they should "pack their bags and follow those who also could not deliver" he said to loud applause in Johannesburg.
"There must be no tax on basics such as bread, cooking oil, mielie meal and paraffin," Vavi said.
"This must be implemented just as the alliance agreed in Limpopo," he told nearly 25000 cheering supporters.
Among those mentioned were Finance Minister Trevor Manuel, who "refused to implement the zero-rate on staple foods".
"We warn you that you are not indispensable. If you don't listen we'll ask you to stand aside and allow others, who will implement the resolutions, to take over," he said.
The protests drew thousands of marchers in Johannesburg, Eastern Cape, Limpopo and North West.
"Together we have formed a broad coalition of organisations prepared to register their disgust at the spiralling cost of living affecting people," Vavi said.
Memorandums were handed over at Eskom's regional office in Braamfontein and another to Gauteng government officials.
But not everyone was happy with the protests and saw them as an inconvenience.
Commuters were left stranded and the mining industries and essential services ground almost to a halt as the Congress of SA Trade Unions flexed its muscles across the country.
Hundreds of commuters were left stranded at Noord Street taxi rank in Johannesburg.
Sina Nqcobo, who works in Randburg, said she had waited since 6am to board a taxi.
"Not every worker wants to be part of the march," she said. "Why should I suffer because of my choice?"
Noord street taxi drivers said they had decided to park their taxis after they received threats that their taxis would be burnt.
On Gandhi Square some pupils were left stranded since their buses to school did not arrive.
In Polokwane, Limpopo, business came to a standstill and protests also took place in Tzaneen, Groblersdal, Thohoyandou and Lephalale .
Government departments, including the education departments, were affected by the strike and children had a day off school.
North West Cosatu spokesman Solly Phetoe said there was an excellent response from workers in the province.
Eastern Cape spokesman Xola Phakati said workers could no longer tolerate the high cost of living.
"In most cases the meagre earnings of workers are just spent on food and nothing else," Phakati said. "How can we live like that?"
Police said there were no incidents and that all the marchers had dispersed peacefully.
l See also pages 14 and 16