HUNDREDS OF thousands of workers went on strike across South Africa against the policies of the ANC government last week. Bosses and the government claimed the strike was a flop but the Cosatu union federation, which called the action, disputed their figures. Cosatu leaders said that up to 60 percent of their members had taken part in the strike.
Rallies in all the major urban centres saw thousands, in some places tens of thousands, of workers take to the streets. Cosatu called the action against privatisation, job losses and the rising cost of living. Around 100,000 jobs have been lost since the mid-1990s because of privatisation. The ANC is ready to launch joint ventures and full privatisation of a string of services including electricity and telecoms.
The strike has led to a bitter political row throughout the country. After the strike ANC president Thabo Mbeki said that the Cosatu leaders' aim was to 'objectively seek to defeat the ANC and the revolutionary masses of our country'.
Workers are quite right to fight back against policies which have worsened unemployment, impoverished communities and tied the provision of basic services to the profits of the multinationals. Union leaders reacted angrily to Mbeki's assault. Cosatu president Willie Madisha said, 'You may call us whatever you like - ultra-left, ultra-right.
'All we know is that we are ultra-hungry. 'If those who are ultra-rich do not respond to the people who put them in that position, there will be political instability in the country.'
Anti-Privatisation Forum leader Trevor Ngwane was one of those witch-hunted by ANC leaders last week. He goes on trial on 22 October in Johannesburg with 86 others.
The charges relate to a demonstration against privatisation and cut off services. A solidarity protest has been called in London.
Demonstrate, Tuesday 22 October, assemble 5pm, South Africa House, Trafalgar Square.