Put job-creation ahead of name changes — Saftu leader

Members of the SA Federation of Trade Unions staged a march from New Brighton to the Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) City Hall on Wednesday, demanding that the government create more jobs
GET PRIORITIES STRAIGHT: Members of the SA Federation of Trade Unions staged a march from New Brighton to the Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) City Hall on Wednesday, demanding that the government create more jobs
Image: EUGENE COETZEE

Instead of prioritising the changing names of cities and airports, the government should focus on saving  and creating more jobs.

This was the view of South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) Eastern Cape co-ordinator Andile Bloko, who led about 80 workers in a march from New Brighton to the Gqeberha City Hall on Wednesday.

They picketed outside as part of a strike in urban centres across SA, demanding the creation of more jobs.

The protest took place just a day after Stats SA revealed that 7.2-million people were without jobs in the fourth quarter of 2020, pushing SA’s official unemployment rate to 32.5%.

In the Eastern Cape, the figure rose to 47.9%, while the expanded unemployment rate in the province was at 52.4%, up from 51.2% in the third quarter.

Also on Tuesday, it was gazetted that Port Elizabeth had been renamed Gqeberha and that the Port Elizabeth International Airport would now be known as the Dawid Stuurman International Airport.

Uitenhage is now Kariega while the East London Airport is King Phalo Airport.

King William’s Town will henceforth be known as Qonce.

Addressing the crowd, Bloko said renaming cities should not be a priority.

“The very airport in Port Elizabeth has retrenched workers — there is no economy recovery plan, there is no stimulus package, all that we see is people who are busy enriching themselves through tenders.

“As workers we are not saying decolonisation is not a priority.

“They should have done that in 1994 when the national anthem was [changed].

“When the flag was changed, they should have renamed these towns then.

“Priority must be focused on the poor, create job opportunities,” Bloko said.

Workers sang struggle songs as they blocked a number of intersections in the centre,  including Govan Mbeki Avenue, causing a minor traffic jam.

Police, metro police and traffic officers monitored the protest.

Saftu’s Eastern Cape provincial convener, Mziyanda Twani, said the government should raise taxes for the wealthy.

“We need more nurses, police, correctional service workers.

“These workers are overworked because there is a shortage of workers and the shortage is affecting service delivery.

“This rate of unemployment is a ticking time bomb in the country — we are going to see things we have seen in other countries, where people implode onto the streets,” Twani said.

 

Bay petitions and council support manager Thembekile Mngwanqa received the Saftu memorandum, with the workers saying mayor Nqaba Bhanga should forward it to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

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