Cape Town - Levels of hostility are growing among the unemployed, Cosatu Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich warned on Thursday.
This was apparent in recent strike actions around the country, he said during a public dialogue in Cape Town on the future of trade unions, organised by the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR)
“We see it on the farms in probably the most glaring way, where close on two million farmworkers have been put off farmland... and we've seen the tensions in the protests and the strike actions... showing us a glimpse of the levels of hostility.”
It had also been apparent in other strikes.
“The security guard strikes, or the strikes of motor workers and metal workers a few months ago; there (are) deepening levels of tension, partly around the growing levels of inequality in our society,” he said.
The CCR is an independent African think tank, established in 1968 by the University of Cape Town. Its stated aim is to promote “constructive, creative and co-operative approaches to the resolution of conflict”.
Earlier, Ehrenreich said levels of inequality were rising in many “advanced capitalist” countries, such as the UK, US and Japan.
They were rising in South Africa too.
“The reality is that the levels of inequality have risen in South Africa; and, if anything, we have a society that is more unequal now than what it was in the days of apartheid.”
This was “the clearest indication yet” that the policies being pursued were not working.
“We've seen levels of unemployment rise from 15 percent in 1994, to close to 35 percent now.”
He said the country was not putting in place the right industrial and economic strategies to absorb unemployed workers.
Despite the many achievements since 1994, and the roll out of houses and health care, “we've seen the levels of absolute poverty rise in many of our communities”.
Ehrenreich said there was “a growing sense of protest, a growing sense of social dysfunction, and, to a large extent, a loss of hope” among many communities.
This was “palpable” in areas where protest was escalating.
“All of these things represent a time bomb... for our country as a whole,” he said.