Port Elizabeth - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) will next week Tuesday celebrate its main Workers' Day rally in Nelson Mandela Bay, and is expecting a far different atmosphere than the one a year ago which saw former President Jacob Zuma heckled and the event in the Free State eventually called off.
The 2018 May Day rally will take place at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium in Kwanobuhle and is set to be addressed by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The event has been talked up as a "building block" for the 2019 general elections.
Last year's May Day celebrations in Bloemfontein was cancelled amid scuffles between pro and anti-Jacob Zuma groups but Cosatu believes that this year's event will go smoothly and that Ramaphosa will be well received in the Eastern Cape.
At a press conference held in Nelson Mandela Bay on Tuesday, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the last May Day rally was held in the Eastern Cape 10 years ago, adding that it was a deliberate choice as a first building block towards the 2019 general elections.
"The choice of Nelson Mandela Bay was deliberate to liberate our people from the exploitative and suppression of the workers and communities from the chains of (Mayor Athol) Trollip and the DA (Democratic Alliance)," he said.
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte added that the alliance was working together towards the 2019 general elections, an important matter for the party to "capture and remember".
Duarte said the ANC was assisting with mobilisation in the run-up to the May Day celebrations which will kick off at Njoli Square in Kwazakhele, before moving to the Kwazakhele police station and then finally to the stadium where workers will be addressed.
"We encourage ANC members to come to the rally," she added. "Many of our members are part of the working class and this is a celebration of the gains of the working class."
Duarte did not miss the opportunity to take a swipe at Nelson Mandela Bay Mayor Athol Trollip, saying that he didn't win any election outright in the metro. "It's not so correct to declare him an outright winner and to declare the ANC-led alliance a loser...we haven't lost. What we want to do is reclaim the ground here in Nelson Mandela Bay very decisively, work for it very clearly, correct what may have been wrong."
Duarte said that Nelson Mandela Bay was defined as a "blue collar city" and could not be marketed as a city aimed to attract the rich to settle in it. "Putting up all service delivery costs so that working class people may not even in future be able to afford to live in this city and do what is happening in Cape Town, attract famous and rich foreigners to buy seafront properties and clearly that is not what the character of Nelson Mandela Bay has ever been.
"We are here all together to support each other in ensuring that Nelson Mandela Bay metro is returned to an ANC alliance leadership. That's what we are going to do and that's what we going to work for. We believe that the May Day rally will be a success."
Meanwhile, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) will on Wednesday take to the streets across the country to embark in a general strike in protest against the national minimum wage. Speaking at the briefing, Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini said it was critical for all workers to unite under the banner of Cosatu. "Our unity is going to be critical, all workers in this area come from Cosatu."
Cosatu is of the view that Saftu's strike on Wednesday is misleading workers. "The march of other people is about no to this national minimum wage. I'm not going to say it misses the point, we hear what other people are saying but we are supporting the process of a national minimum wage in this country because we have never had it before and once we have it we have something to build on," said Dlamini.
African News Agency/ANA