President is not your shop steward. He’s not fighting for your rights, say unions

Trade union members gathered at the Durban city hall on Wednesday to hand over a list of grievances.
Trade union members gathered at the Durban city hall on Wednesday to hand over a list of grievances.
Image: Mfundo Mkhize

Unemployment, gender-based violence (GBV), poorly performing state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and lacklustre service delivery. These were among the litany of complaints raised by Durban trade union members who heeded the call for a national shutdown on Wednesday.

Thousands painted the town red as people made their way from King Dinuzulu Park to the city hall, where they handed over a memorandum to provincial transport MEC Sipho Hlomuka, on behalf of premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, amid a strong police presence.

SA Communist Party (SACP) KZN chairperson James Nxumalo said the high cost of living, including soaring fuel prices, was concerning.

"Literally all [people's money] goes towards transport, which is unfair. These people are meant to not only feed their families but also send their kids to school," said Nxumalo.

Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said workers should be careful where they placed their trust.

“As workers we should not just say the ANC is there for us, as it is not a union,” he said, adding that party president Cyril Ramaphosa was not a "shop steward".

"We must not be lazy in taking up the fight for workers' rights,” he said.

Ntshalintshali said 10-million people being unemployed painted a bleak picture for those still at school and in tertiary institutions. He described the situation as a “ticking time bomb".

Also concerning was that 17-million people relied on social grants. Of these, 10-million were living on the R350 grant introduced to cushion the unemployed during the pandemic. He said this was unsustainable.

“This means your children and my children wouldn’t be able to venture into tertiary institutions. Poverty is growing. There are many people who go to bed without having had something to eat,” said Ntshalintshali.

Cosatu said GBV, the growing teacher-pupil ratio and similar trends in public health facilities were worsening.

Provincial secretary Edwin Mkhize read out a litany of grievances and called for the rebuilding of Transnet and Metrorail to be fast-tracked so goods and commuters could reach their destinations on time. This would also provide a reliable, safe and integrated public transport system.

They called for the privatisation of SOEs to be halted and for clarity on this regarding Transnet in Durban harbour.

Mkhize felt the municipality was not playing its role, saying township residents received abysmal service delivery, with water and power cuts common.

“The municipality should ensure every citizen is able to assess water and electricity. We also want our townships cleaned. We deserve to live in better conditions,” he said. 

“We have also witnessed the rise in crime. Our people are being killed in large numbers. People are being killed every day. We must defend our women from being raped because we know the psychological impact of someone who has been abused,” said Mkhize.


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