Thousands of South African workers took to the streets on Wednesday to protest against rampant corruption, high unemployment and the poor handling of the country’s economy.Grouped under the banner of the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), the workers said they would not allow the government to use Covid-19 as an excuse not to pay frontline workers, or companies to retrench workers under the pretext that the pandemic has affected their viability.
In a statement issued ahead of the protests, dubbed the National Day of Action, SAFTU said it “is encouraging workers to exercise their right to challenge and contest this rigged economic system.”
“We are targeting government, private sector employers, and law enforcement agencies. The only way to undo this corrupt system is through disruption and non-cooperation and obstruction,” the federation said.
It added: “We need to take a stand and push back against this flagrant theft of taxpayers’ funds and the disgraceful abandonment of the working class by policymakers and decision-makers.”
The union representatives said they blamed the government for failing to keep its promises to the workers, lack of protection of frontline workers and failure to respect them as servants of the people.
According to public sector workers, the government had neglected and betrayed them by not honouring a wage deal agreement signed two years ago.
If implemented, the accord would have increased their pay starting in April this year but the government failed to keep its side of the deal, the public sector workers claimed.
The strike has disrupted government services, transport and schools as placard-carrying workers took to streets nationwide, while at the same time urging others unable to come out to stay home to minimise the risk of contracting Covid-19.