Hundreds of members of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) gathered at Burgers Park ahead of a planned national stoppage.

A truck with loudspeakers continues to play music, while union members dressed in their union regalia sing struggle songs and buses carrying protesters continue to drop off marchers.

The two largest labor federations called on workers to join the march in their numbers, regardless of their union affiliation.

The protesters are protesting high unemployment, high fuel prices and the high cost of living.

Mugwena Maluleke, secretary general of the South African Democratic Union of Teachers (Sadtu), says it is time for the government to listen to the people.

He says the government is not doing enough to address the problems facing workers in the country.

Maluleke says the government is quick to listen to business but slow to address the plight of workers.

“That’s why we say to our government: lead us, we voted for you. If laws need to be changed, then they need to be changed. If the SARB can intervene, it should. Because we cannot have a Reserve Bank that will be an observer,” he adds.

He urged the government to help reduce the burden on its citizens.

“We cannot continue with this high cost of living … electricity, fuel and food prices have gone up and our people are suffering,” Maluleke adds.

Cosatu First Deputy President Mike Shingange has criticized the government for refusing to give salary increases to the civil servants of the agreement.

“The workers are not responsible for the intransigence of the government. The employees agreed and signed a contract on payment of work with conscientious people, and today they are leaving. It cannot be the responsibility of the workers. It is the employer’s responsibility and that is why we are fighting,” Shingange adds.

Meanwhile, a heavy police contingent is leaving nothing to chance as they maintain a heavy presence in and around Burgers Park.

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