Saftu’s support for an action led by the EFF threatens to sow division within the federation say critics.
The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) appealed to South Africans from all walks of life to join the national shutdown called by the Economic Freedom Fighters on Monday.
Addressing the media on Friday together with other organisations supporting the shutdown, the general secretary of the federation, Zwelinzima Vavi described this call as one especially directed to the working class community who are feeling the pinch of the current crisis facing the country. He said this is no longer about the EFF: “We’ve long passed that stage of calling this is an EFF initiative. It is now for all of us. It cannot be business as usual on Monday. We can’t fold our arms when we are living in such a state of abnormality. South Africa is a failed state,” he said and added that those against the shutdown will be exposing themselves on the other side of the class divide.
Their demands on Monday include:
- decent jobs and a living wage,
- the end of load shedding,
- a universal basic income grant of R1,500 to address the levels of poverty among the unemployed and poorly paid workers,
- rein in rampant crime,
- a just transition to move South Africa from a fossil fuel-based economy to the introduction of more renewables on the condition that no single existing job is lost,
- the re-nationalisation of state-owned companies,
- immediate insourcing of all security guards and cleaners,
- free and decolonised education for all from cradle to grave, and
- rapid land release for human settlement.
To those who are worried the protest or shutdown will descend into anarchy and lawlessness, Vavi says this shutdown is a peaceful revolution and with revolution comes sacrifices and casualties. “When the state overreacts and the employers deduct wages, that’s a sacrifice. There won’t be a storming of the Bastille in South Africa. There is a constitution that guides how things should be done. Within the framework we must pursue the struggle for fundamental change,” he said and called those opposing the shutdown counter revolutionary because they are against the liberation of the people from the yoke of exploitation. “But they too must be allowed to exercise their rights as well,” he said.
Also supporting the march was Professor Trevor Ngwane from the United Front who said the poor and the marginalised are the ones bearing the brunt of loadshedding and the rising cost of food. “Life in shacks and other poor communities is very hard. There is hunger in every township. There is no land. The ANC government is working for the bosses and not for the poor working class. We are supporting this shutdown to have a land and finally achieve a socialist government,” he said.
Meanwhile the justice, police and the security cluster issued a warning to the country and the protesters on Monday. In a statement they caution against the spreading of messages of fear, intimidation or inflammatory statements that could incite violence. They called this a criminal offence, especially messages in this regard circulating on social media.
Earlier on Friday, the national commissioner and the police minister addressed a multidisciplinary parade ahead of the planned protest on Monday in Gauteng. In his tough talk style, Bheki Cele greeted the different police units with a provocation: “Niyabasaba na?” [Are you scared of them?]. The minister of police went on to urge officers to use minimum force before going back to his tough talk again. “You have the right to fill the prisons, therefore national commissioner and provincial commissioner, all the vehicles of the police must be on stand-by. Make sure that anybody that breaks the law, you put him there. Amavan mawagcwale [Fill up the police vans]. If there is no space in the van, you put them there and if there is no space to sleep, then they must sleep while standing. Sobona phambili ukuthi badlani, sobona phambili ukuthi baselani [We will deal with whether they will eat or drink later]. I must assure you that many South Africans are on your side as they don’t want this nonsense to happen,” he said.