Socialist Worker

Biggest South African strike since apartheid

Issue No. 2053

What an example for British workers to follow! On Friday South African public sector workers launched the biggest strike since the end of apartheid in 1994.

Around a million workers in schools, hospitals, prisons, the civil service and other areas began an indefinite strike to win a rise of 12 percent.

“We are on strike, a permanent strike,” Willie Madisha, president of the COSATU federation told a massive rally that brought parts of Johannesburg to a standstill. “Until we get 12 percent we are not going back,” he said

Madisha added that the strike could soon be extended to the mining, metal workers and transport sectors.

Some of the groups who took action are classed as “essential” workers and are banned from striking, but they ignored the law and came out anyway.

Inflation is presently running at around 6.25 percent and on the eve of the strike the government upped its offer by 0.5 percent to 6.5 percent, but workers’ representatives vehemently refused to accept it and talks broke down.

Police fired stun grenades to disperse around 500 protesters who were protesting at one of Cape Town's largest hospitals, badly inuring a worker.

The strike has won wide public support because it focuses the feeling of millions that the ANC-led government is not delivering for the masses.

Teachers and nurses say their wages aren’t enough for basic housing, food, education and transport costs. Meanwhile top government officials were awarded rises of more than 50 percent earlier this year.

The strikes pose massive political questions for the continuation of the ANC-COSATU-Communist Party alliance.

Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the Communist Party said it was “better to get behind workers rather than hang on the aprons of the bourgeoisie.

“We cannot watch the wages of workers continue effectively going down while the elites rake in millions. We are concerned that we have not closed the apartheid wage gap in the public service.”

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Fri 1 Jun 2007, 20:29 BST
Issue No. 2053
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