Thousands march in South Africa’s nationwide union strike
A nationwide general strike Wednesday in South Africa drew thousands of protesters, with marches in at least six cities including Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban.
The strike, coordinated by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), meant to “bring South Africa to a standstill” over the country’s economic plight, its high unemployment rates, and the persistence of poverty and inequality – including a proposed 20-rand national minimum wage.
“The scandalous fact that so many employers currently pay employees even less than this poverty wage in no way justifies the government agreeing to a statutory minimum which will still leave workers trapped in poverty,” the SAFTU said in a statement.
Organizers targeted President Cyril Ramaphosa with criticism because he supports the wage plan. Despite sporadic reports of vandalism, the marches remained peaceful.
The unions and their workers also object to new labor laws currently considered by the South African parliament they say would weaken unions, limiting their ability to negotiate or go on strike. SAFTU also opposes tax increases – including fuel, road accident and VAT taxes – at a time when so many struggle.
“The South African economy is in free-fall, with no sign of recovery, and, as always it is the working class and the poor who suffer most as a result,” they said. Add to that the ongoing anger over corruption at the highest levels of government and it’s a “colossal human tragedy,” they added.