A Cosatu member holds a placard during a march against job losses in Durban. File picture: Reuters
A Cosatu member holds a placard during a march against job losses in Durban. File picture: Reuters

Coronavirus restrictions call for ‘apartheid-style’ worker revolt, warns Cosatu

By BONGANI HANS Time of article published Mar 19, 2020

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Durban - Trade union federation Cosatu has warned the government and private-sector employers that in the wake of coronavirus restrictions, it would resort to an “anti-apartheid-style” of fighting for workers’ rights, which was to call for stayaways, instead of holding mass gatherings.

Cosatu KwaZulu-Natal also said it had been given a directorate to cancel its provincial May Day commemoration, which was due to take place at Pietermaritzburg’s Harry Gwala Stadium on May 1.

This is to comply with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement that public gatherings must not exceed 100 people to avoid the possible spread of Covid-19.

The federation’s provincial secretary, Edwin Mkhize, said the union would fight tooth and nail against the government’s indication that there would be no salary increase for public servants this financial year. He said the union would, however, avoid large gatherings that would compromise the health of its members.

“Remember that during the Struggle against apartheid we would conduct strikes through stayaways and sit-downs at home.

“We can also gather and protest in numbers that are less than 100 in different sections across the country, and there are many ways that we will find to mobilise workers,” he said.

The provincial union on Wednesday cancelled its press briefing, which was supposed to be held in Durban, and opted for telephonic interviews with individual journalists.

Mkhize also said the provincial leadership had received a national directive that the national shop steward councils, which required larger gatherings, would also discontinue across the country in the coming months. He said the cancellations were in the interest of the members.

“But they (cancellations) are going to be communicated properly,” he said. He added that the cancellation of the May Day events would be made up for with other major events “once we are clear of the virus”.

“We can use those events more effectively than May 1 by taking up the issues of workers through big rallies or marches,” he said.

He said Ramaphosa and Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi had been scheduled to address all Cosatu members in the country through live streaming from the main event in North West province.

Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla confirmed that the May Day rally and other big events had been cancelled.

“We have cancelled those (shop steward councils) because of the state of disaster we are in, and we are unable to commit to May Day,” said Pamla.

He said the three-day congress of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union, which was due to take place in Mafikeng, North West province - which was going to have a gathering of 600 delegates between Monday and Thursday next week - had also been cancelled.

“After May Day, we were also planning to have a conference in August where all our unions were supposed to discuss issues of bargaining and sectors of the economy.

“Logistically, this virus has just inconvenienced us,” said Pamla.

Political Bureau

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