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Saftu unhappy with ’heavy-handedness’ of cops during their Cape Town protest

Police used stun grenades and arrested two SAFTU members, Andre Adams and Nadine Adam after their march to Parliament was stopped by police. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Police used stun grenades and arrested two SAFTU members, Andre Adams and Nadine Adam after their march to Parliament was stopped by police. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 25, 2021

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Johannesburg - The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) leadership and members took to the streets on Wednesday to voice their socio-economic concerns.

The nationwide strike came before Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s Budget speech for the year.

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However, things turned chaotic in Cape Town, where police had to use stun grenades to disperse protesters.

It was confirmed that two Saftu members were arrested for allegedly trying to make their way into Parliament.

In a statement, the union revealed that its provincial secretary in the Western Cape, Andre Adams, and Nadine Simons, the chairperson of the Democratic Municipal and Allied Workers Union of South Africa in the Western Cape, were being charged at the Cape Town central police station for an alleged breaking of the regulations.

“Saftu had taken all steps to comply with the regulations. We asked the workers to stay at home, and only a few activists were to form part of the demonstrations in Cape Town, as was the case throughout the country. All our members had masks, sanitisers and observed social distancing.”

The union argued that the police surrounded the protesters with a double-line of barbed wire, and ordered them to disperse. As law-abiding citizens, they said they complied and went to their cars to drive off.

“Compare this heavy-handedness and use of brute force to how the police treated thousands of the rich who descended on Cape Town beaches, defiantly wearing no masks and not maintaining social distancing. On that occasion, the police did not bring barbed wire, batons, guns and pepper sprays.”

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The protests were supported by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and Cosatu.

The Young Nurses Indaba Trade Union was among the unions demonstrating their support for the strike, stating that workers in South Africa were hard-pressed by a crumbling economy, poverty-level wages and poor working conditions.

In a statement, the union said the Covid-19 pandemic had wreaked havoc in health-care facilities and worsened existing problems, such as staff shortages, lack of resources and overcrowding.

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The union demanded that the government pay all health-care workers their Covid-19 and danger allowances, and that every front-line worker be provided with sufficient PPE of the highest quality.

Kagiso Makoe, of the National Union of Public Service and Allied Workers (Nupsaw), said they had reached a point where they couldn’t tolerate the government’s attitude towards their members, and workers in general.

“The government reneged on the third leg of a wage agreement with the public servants, freezing wages on the argument that the increase was not affordable. As we know, the public sector is understaffed when compared with the country’s population,” Nupsaw said.

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The union said it was aware that Eskom was expected to increase its prices by over 15% for the 2021/22 financial year.

“This is despite its incompetence to provide reliable power to South African citizens, which is a massive obstacle to investment, economic growth and job creation. The increase is a further blow to cash-strapped South Africans, without ignoring that Eskom is over R400 billion in debt and is owed R31.5bn in overdue debt by several municipalities.”

The union added that it was paying for years of mismanagement of a bloated and wasteful operation and there would be no improvement until competent people were appointed in all positions to run a strong and effective organisation.

It demanded a R12 500 minimum wage for all workers, a change of economic policy and decolonised and high-quality public education.

The Star

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