Taxi industry snubs looming 'national shutdown'

Protests over high cost of living, load-shedding, joblessness – Saftu

Cosatu and other unions and civil society groupings, will stage a national strike against the rising cost of living, fuel costs and load-shedding on Wednesday. File photo.
Cosatu and other unions and civil society groupings, will stage a national strike against the rising cost of living, fuel costs and load-shedding on Wednesday. File photo.
Image: Kabelo Mofokeng

As trade unions plan to shut down the country on Wednesday, Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi says the strike will be about enforcing the economic rights of workers and the rest of civil society.

Losi says part of this means putting pressure on government to end corruption, while pushing business to reinvest into the economy.

She said being in alliance with the ANC does not stop them from holding the ruling party to account.  “We are an independent organization that derives its mandate from its constituency. We represent workers who are members of society. It will always us who will go out into the street to call the ANC government to be accountable to people of South Africa,” she said.

Losi said this also did not take away from the fact that the ANC government had achieved major milestones such as introducing minimum wage to benefit domestic and farm workers.

SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says one of their demands is an increase of the R350 grant for the unemployed to R1,500.

Lowering of prices, stepping aside of leaders of Eskom and the ANC, and land distribution are some of the key demands. Vavi said the national march dubbed National Day of Action is a start of the total emancipation of the working class from poverty, inequality and oppression.

“We’re not aiming at just having a one-day strike.” He echoed former president Thabo Mbeki and EFF leader Julius Malema’s warnings of a “civil war” if living conditions of South Africans did not improve and their issues were ignored.

Cosatu's spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the strike was legally protected and it is meant to pile pressure on both government and the private sector to fix the economy. "For this to change, decision-makers will have to first acknowledge that poverty is not accidental, but it flows from the logic of the capitalist system. This capitalist system has been propped up by government policies for over a quarter of a century," said Pamla.

Meanwhile,the SA National Taxi Council (Santaco) has snubbed the national protest saying its members will continue with their normal operations.

“Santaco is not part of that shutdown. We distance ourselves from it,” Santaco's Bongani Magagula said.

He said they were not necessarily in disagreement with the reasons behind the strike, but that its national executive committee did not see it necessary for them to participate in the action at this time.  

Yesterday, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) announced detailed plans for the national shutdown whose activities are expected to take place across different provinces. 

The mass protest is against the high cost of living, load-shedding and the high unemployment rate and is expected to draw more than 5,000 people. More than 200 civic groups and political parties including the EFF, the PAC, Azapo and others have endorsed the strike action. Saftu and Cosatu are also encouraging workers not to report for work on Wednesday as part of the protest. 

The strike action has been called in terms of section 77 of the Labour Relations Act which makes provision for no work, no pay.

The National Clothing Retail Federation of SA (NCRFSA) also said it expected the day to be business as usual for its members. Executive director Michael Lawrence said companies will have to decide on how best to manage the absence of staff or any disruptions in their respective areas of operation. Lawrence said there was no way of telling whether revenue losses would be experienced as a result of the strike.

People are expected to meet at Burgers Park in Pretoria and march to the Union Buildings.

In Limpopo, people will assemble at the SABC Park in Polokwane from 8am and start marching to the premier's office from 10am.  In Mpumalanga, protests will take place at Broadway in eMalahleni.

Marches are also expected in other parts of the country.

Vavi said the aim of the protests was to have workers from different political formations across the country come together to fight for the same cause.  

“The decision to call a general strike comes as a result of the worsening socioeconomic conditions of the working class and the marginalised poor communities,” Vavi said.

He said the strike action will be followed by a series of activities including meetings with working-class formations to assess whether the government was responding to their demands.

The marches will happen just a day before Stats SA releases the Quarterly Labour Force Survey. Vavi said South Africans should brace themselves for a rise in the unemployment number, adding that women and youth should be at the forefront of the national shutdown because they faced the worst marginalisation.  

Additional reporting by Bulelani Nonyukela TimesLIVE

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