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Analyst warns Cosatu of more workers’ revolt actions to come

COSATU secretary-general Bheki Ntshalintshali. | Boxer Ngwenya

COSATU secretary-general Bheki Ntshalintshali. | Boxer Ngwenya

Published May 3, 2022


Durban - Political analyst Dr Ralph Mathekga has warned Cosatu to review its alliance with the ANC to avoid more disruptions like the one seen on Sunday.

The writing had been on the wall for quite some time for the federation to see that workers were fed up, he said, therefore Sunday’s incident where President Cyril Ramaphosa was booed was not surprising. Mathekga said the union must ask itself whether workers were still voting for the ANC after the incident. Cosatu’s leadership had been critical of the ANC but that was not enough to calm workers, he said.

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Mathekga viewed the incident as the last call to leadership that it must either review the alliance or lose members.

“Cosatu would have to listen to workers’ concerns if it still wants to exist. Workers have clearly demonstrated they would no longer tolerate the ANC-led government corruption and ill treatment of workers,” said Mathegka.

Ramaphosa was forced to abandon the national May Day rally, organised by Cosatu in Rustenburg, after angry Sibanye-Stillwater workers disrupted the proceedings and refused to allow him to speak. He was rejected by the workers and as the mood became more unpleasant, police were forced to intervene while the statesman’s bodyguard quickly ushered him out of the Royal Bafokeng Stadium where the event was to take place.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) – the two biggest mine unions in SA – have demanded a pay increase of R1 000 a month over the next three years, similar to the amount Sibanye’s rival Harmony Gold agreed to pay its workers last year.

Sibanye’s chief executive Neal Froneman said the company would not be revising its final offer, as it could not sustain higher wage increases. The workers have been on a three-month-long strike after the mine rejected the R1 000 demand, offering an R800 annual increase, which workers rejected.

On Sunday, workers brought their demands to the Workers’ Day rally, where Ramaphosa was to address them.

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This could be the first time in his presidency where he has been forced to abandon addressing this historic event. The May Day rally is an important event in the Tripartite Alliance calendar.

Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi tried to address the disruptive workers, calling for calm to give the ANC president a chance to address them. When the angry workers refused to yield, Ramaphosa walked across the pitch to address them. “You want your R1 000, I understand that … We’ve heard that message and we will be dealing with that matter,” Ramaphosa told the workers.

In an effort to pacify them, he promised to speak to those in power regarding their demands. But tensions rose further and he was ushered out of the stadium.

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A Cosatu member took the microphone and called for workers to remain calm. “Comrades, don’t invite something you don’t want. We don’t want anyone to go to hospital today,” he said.

Besides Sibanye workers, public service workers also raised the government’s somersault on the wage agreement it signed with workers in 2018.

Attempts to get comment from Cosatu leadership were unsuccessful.

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Meanwhile, a showdown is looming between the government and public servants as consolidation of demands by several unions show they want 7%.

The SA Democratic Teachers Union said its members want between 7% and 10%.

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