After a poor turnout, at least 3 000 members of Cosatu and the South African Trade Unions (Saftu) arrived at the Union Buildings in Tshwane on Wednesday.
They marched from Burgers Park which was the starting point for the national shutdown. The striking unions want the government to address what they say is a socio-economic crisis facing South Africans. Cosatu read out its demands to Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele.
Gungubele said government has taken note of the protest and grievances by the poor, workers and all South Africans.
“I want to take this opportunity to say through you talking to South Africa to say we acknowledge the things that you have said and this is what this government is seized with,” said Gungubele.
“I did say just this year alone, based on what the president started in 2018, because we took a decision under this president that our economic recovery is going to be infrastructure led.”
However, some of the marchers crashed Gungubele’s briefing, accusing him of “lying” in their name and failing to uphold government’s commitments to workers.
National shutdown: ANC accused of failing the people
Earlier, union representatives that addressed the crowd at the Union Buildings echoed the same message. They stressed that the cost of living is too high and the ANC government is failing its people.
They lambasted the ANC government for capitalism, labelling the governing party as the enemy of the working class. Cosatu took issue with the ANC not implementing policy, including the nationalisation of the South African Reserve Bank (Sarb).
The trade union federation also highlighted other issues including rising food prices, capping the petrol prices and the “privatisation of Eskom”.
Saftu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi, who also spoke at the Union Buildings, was met with a hero’s welcome from the crowd. He told workers that Saftu wants to unite with all organisations to pursue a common purpose, after Cosatu and Saftu decided to protest separately following a disagreement.
The two labour federations told the media that they had decided to hold the protest jointly, starting at Burgers Park in Tshwane. However, a scuffle ensued and Saftu members were urged to regroup. They never returned to the protest.
It’s believed Saftu decided to hold their own protest in a different part of Tshwane. Vavi accused Cosatu of insisting on bringing its alliance partner, the ANC, to the national shutdown.
“We wanted to avoid a spectre of a disunited labour movement at such a critical moment,” he said.
Vavi says workers want an 8% wage increase across the board and that all workers need to be insourced at different government departments.
Gungubele’s office has promised that the Presidency will respond to the demands listed in the memorandum.