The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) are set to launch a nationwide strike against rising cost of living on Wednesday morning, 24 August.

Unions have received the necessary certifications to pass in all nine provinces and will gather at various times this morning at a number of meeting locations.

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has warned that workers in the essential services category are barred from participating in the national strike.

In a media statement to the public, the department said a no-work-no-pay policy would apply if employees chose not to come to work.

The DPSA further said that government departments that do not affect monthly salary deductions are in breach of the Public Finance Act.

“You cannot give leave to participate in strikes/protest actions. Leave should be granted only in accordance with leave rules,” the DPSA added.

The DPSA said the strike fell under section 77 of the Labor Relations Act. This allows workers from all sectors of the economy, including public utilities, to participate.

Despite this, the law prohibits essential service workers from participating in scheduled working hours.

Solly Pheto, Cosatu deputy general secretary, said: “The whole country, all 9 Cosatu provinces will be participating in this action. We hope that the workers in the country, whether they belong to Cosatu, Saftu or any other union. They are invited, they are given a certificate to participate in the strike. The strike will be protected.”

Unions are particularly keen to express their anger and frustration at the rising cost of living and lack of government action.

The strike is aimed at the following:

  • Limit price for fuel – Four years ago, Cosatu proposed to introduce a limit on fuel prices. At the time, the government promised to study the proposal and publish a report – nothing has been delivered since. Cosatu wants to publish the report.
  • RAF vs RABS – Cosatu said a huge part of the fuel price goes to service the 300 billion rand debt in the Road Accident Fund. As an alternative, a road accident assistance scheme was introduced, but the bills came to nothing. The union wants the bills re-introduced.
  • Unloading – The union put forward an “Eskom Social Contract” to address load shedding and power issues, but little has been done in terms of policy implementation.
  • Price gouging by retailers – Cosatu said that over the past two years there has been evidence that prices in the pharmaceutical sector and in the retail sector are increasing. The trade union believes that retailers are now using inflation as an excuse for further price increases.
  • Investment strike – Cosatu said that it believes that private companies are participating in an “investment strike” and are taking money out of the country.
  • Xenophobia – finally, Cosatu said the strike would force South Africans to collectively focus on directing their frustration at the right target – the government and politicians – rather than each other and foreigners in the country.

Cosatu has shared details of the timing and assembly posts for the strike.

In Tshwane, protesters are set to meet at Burgers Park on Vander Walt Street and march to the Trade Union Buildings to hand over a memorandum to President Cyril Ramaphosa. In KwaZulu-Natal, protesters will gather at King Dinuzulu Park and march to Durban City Hall, where they will also hand over a memorandum.

In Mpumalanga, the march will start on Broadway in Witbank and continue to the Eskom Park offices “to address issues of energy security, supply and cost of living”, while in the Western Cape protesters will demand more “functional, timely, affordable, accessible and integrated public transport”. .

Saftu, the second largest of the country’s main trade union confederations, also detailed its rally points.

“We are calling for a general strike, stay away and a national shutdown of all workers – ordinary and middle class, as well as those in the areas where we will be marching, to join us,” it said.

“We must be joined by the unemployed and all other people who care about the future of ordinary people in this country.”

Here are the meeting locations in the various provinces:

  • Limpopo: The march takes place in Polokwane from SABC Park at 08:00, with a walk to the Prime Minister’s Office from 10:00.
  • Mpumalanga: The march takes place in Witbank from Broadway at 09:00, with a walk to Eskom Park from 10:00.
  • Gauteng: The march takes place in Pretoria from Burgers Park at 06:00, with a walk to the Union Buildings from 10:00.
  • A free state: The march takes place in Bloemfontein from 07.00 at the Bato Accommodation Hall with a walk to the Prime Minister’s Office (OR Tambo Building) at 10.00.
  • Eastern Cape: The march takes place in Bichau from 08:00 on the grounds of Fort Hare, with a walk to Bichau Legislature at 10:00.
  • Western Cape: The march takes place in Cape Town from Kaisersgracht at 08:00, with a walk to the City of Cape Town, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, Provincial Government and Parliament from 10:00.
  • In KwaZulu-Natal, the union called on workers to comply with a call for a walkout, a general strike, and a nationwide shutdown. SAFTU is not planning any events in KwaZulu Natal.

“SAFTU calls on all members to unite with other workers regardless of the different logo and should unite in action in all those provinces where our location coincides with their location. We are calling on black women and youth who are the face of the crisis we are facing, small black businesses, including taxi associations and truck owners and drivers, to get involved.”

Saftu Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi said on Monday (August 22) that unemployment remains the main grievance.

“We want jobs, specifically for black youth and black women, and that can only be achieved if the government restructures and completely rebuilds the economy,” he said.


Read: Good news for South Africa’s unemployment rate

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