151007. Cape Town. Police patrol Adderley street ahead of the Cosatu march. Businesses and vendors in the CBD closed their doors for business as the protesters moved towards parliament. Picture Henk Kruger/Cape Argus

Cape Town - Cosatu’s nationwide march on Wednesday was “disruptive and damaging to the economy”, the president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said.

Janine Myburgh said the chamber supports freedom of expression, but did not believe that “a mass strike action” was the best way to communicate concerns over government policies.

“Cosatu should fight its battles with the government and at party gatherings and not on the city’s streets,” she added.

Myburgh said most of the demands listed in the Cosatu pamphlet were complaints about government policies.

She questioned why Cosatu had not shared the responsibility with government as it was “part of the same government it was protesting against”.

“If Cosatu was unable to influence the government in caucus, it should leave the alliance and stand for election under its own banner.

“We agree with many of Cosatu’s criticisms, such as its opposition to e-tolls, concerns about Eskom and corruption… but we don’t think that a national strike is the best way to make views known.”

When the Cape Argus asked for a detailed analysis of the economic impact of the protest action, chamber spokesman Dean le Grange said that at this stage it was “difficult to quantify”.

“It is very difficult to quantify the damage without a detailed study, but fortunately the turnout was very low and that probably means the march was not as disruptive as we feared.”

On Wednesday, about 3 000 people participated in the city march, aligned with the international campaign, World Day for Decent Work that was started in 2008.

The campaign was launched to bring attention to the issues faced by workers throughout the world.

City marchers called for the introduction of a national minimum wage, subsidised transport, an end to the electricity crisis, better health facilities and the scrapping of e-tolls.

Speakers at the march included Cosatu’s regional secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, who spoke about a better public transport system for the poor.

Ehrenreich called for “a safe, reliable, affordable, accessible and integrated public transport system”.

He said: “We want to be able to buy one ticket and with that one ticket take a taxi from where we stay to transport interchanges for a bus or train. We need a system that will work for us.”

Other marches were held in Johannesburg, Rustenburg, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.

CAPE ARGUS