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By Beauregard Tromp
Attempts to promote ANC Deputy-President Jacob Zuma during the massive public service strike fell flat at the 10 000-strong Johannesburg march.
Striking workers brought much of Johannesburg to a standstill as they made their way to Premier Mbhazima Shilowa's office where they implored the former Cosatu Secretary-General to influence his colleagues in government to meet worker demands.
The public sector unions are at an impasse with government, demanding a 12 percent pay hike while government is offering 7,25 percent.
At Beyers Naude Square, where marchers convened after marching almost the length of the city, marchers were addressed by union leaders.
Some union leaders took the opportunity to vent their frustration at the ANC led government, sounding a warning to government that the workers would not be deterred from making ANC Deputy-President, Jacob Zuma, the next President of the country.
This declaration received a rather docile response with only a small section of the crowd cheering.
Cosatu Secretary-General Zwelinzima Vavi is a staunch Zuma supporter, a stance which has seen him cross swords with President Thabo Mbeki on a regular basis.
Most of the crowd's anger and derision was aimed at Minister of Public Service and Administration, Geraldine Fraser-Moloketi, with derisive and vulgar comments on posters and screamed by marchers.
These posters were shown to Shilowa as a sign of the unions' frustration.
At the head of a section of the crowd 57-year-old Boikie Mohlamme was in full voice waiving his knobkierrie. His red hard-hat declared: "Born to suffer."
"We are intertwined with these people. They are our wives, our brothers, sisters, neighbours," said Mohlamme, the deputy President of the Creative Workers Union of South Africa.
Many in the crowd berated the fact that there was a proposed 57 percent salary increase in government while public sector workers were being offered 6 percent. The proposal by the Moseneke Commission recommends that President Thabo Mbeki receive a 57 percent salary increase.
Many of the health sector workers took aim at Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msmimang, in particular, her liver.
"The workers want their liver back!" "Dr Beetroot, Garlic we gave yo our liver with love, now you we demand it back by force," read some of the placards on show from the marchers who included municipal workers and other Cosatu affiliates.
"Manto rose from grave to talk s***t", read yet another poster.
"We are very sorry for the patients who are suffering in hospital but we have been suffering all our lives," said Henry Mazibuko, a supervisor at Johannesburg General Hospital.
He and his wife, a fellow worker at the hospital, earn an accumulated salary of R5 000, which he says makes it difficult to provide for their four children.
Shiela Sibeko, a 55-year-old colleague, manages to save R50 every month from her R1 400 salary. With this she is the sole provider for her two children after her husband passes away nine years ago.
"I'm 55 now but I don't think I can ever retire because the pension is even smaller," said Sibeko.
Contrary to earlier fears, the march went off without a hitch with marchers displaying great discipline amidst a heavy police presence.
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