A general strike over the lack of jobs won wide support in South Africa on Thursday of last week. It was best supported in the mines, car plants, the metal industry and schools.
Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), told a crowd of some 10,000 in Johannesburg, “Out of every ten people, only four are able to find a job. We did not make all the sacrifices in prisons and elsewhere so that, even in a democratic country, there should be so many inequalities.”
The National Union of Metalworkers said strike action by its 216,000 members targeted car manufacturers Daimler Chrysler, BMW, Ford and component manufacturers, including tyre companies.
The strike provided a focus for the frustration with President Thabo Mbeki’s neo-liberal policies. There has been a wave of revolt in townships over poor housing, lack of services and privatisation.
A bitter 12-week strike by security guards has also seen violence and repression.
There is increasing political debate. Johannesburg’s Star newspaper last week published what it said was a leak of a discussion paper prepared by the Communist Party which was highly critical of Mbeki’s policies.