About 2 000 Cosatu members and supporters chanted ”Viva ANC” outside Parliament on Tuesday as they delivered a demand on government to halt privatisation and job losses.
They were led in the chants by SA Communist Party deputy secretary general Jeremy Cronin, who explained to them that it was not ANC policy that was the problem but the way it was implemented by government.
”We are marching to defend the policies of the ANC,” he said.
ANC policy was that restructuring should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, and in terms of the national framework agreement which provided that workers should be consulted.
Cosatu and the SACP wanted government to implement this policy and mandate.
Cosatu president Willie Madisha also used the occasion to hit back at President Thabo Mbeki for his claims last week that the socialist ”ultra-left” was mounting a sustained attack on the ANC and its policies.
”There is no measure of labelling that will ever stop Cosatu,” Madisha said.
Whether Cosatu was called ultra-left or anything else ”the fact remains we are ultra-hungry… we will only be fed if our resources remain in our hands”.
ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe has said the strike will not serve any useful purpose, while the party’s Western Cape leader Ebrahim Rasool has dismissed it as ”posturing”.
The Cape Town march was one of what Cosatu said would be 31 held round the country to mark the start of its two-day anti-privatisation strike.
In a statement released afterwards by its Western Cape office, the union federation reckoned the size of the crowd outside Parliament at 7 500.
However a police inspector monitoring the march put the figure at 1 500, while the consensus of journalists was about 2000.
Madisha dismissed suggestions that the turnout for the march, which started off in intermittent drizzle, was disappointing.
”This is great, where do you get such a turnout?” he said, gesturing at the crowd. ”It’s quite big.”
He said government ministers would be lying if they said the strike was not successful. ”That is a tactic by that particular class,” he said.
However the strike would have been a success even had only ten people participated, because it was about a message, not numbers.
He told the protesters that they were marching against
unemployment, poverty and hunger.
”We are right to be angry and to march as much as it is possible… prepare yourself for a very long struggle against privatisation,” he said.
”Until such time this problem is resolved, until such time as privatisation is reversed in our country, we shall go on.”
The memorandum, which was accepted by the labour ministry’s parliamentary officer, George Matloporo, also urged government to act on soaring food prices and interest rates, and to institute a basic income grant to bring relief to the very poor.
The Cosatu Western Cape office said there had been 60% support for the strike ”on average” in ”most” industries in the Cape Town area, despite what it claimed was intimidation from many employers.
It expected even greater support for the strike on Wednesday, when it holds a rally at the city’s Good Hope Centre.
Cape Town unicity representative Charles Cooper said less than five percent of the municipal workforce of 27 000 were absent on Tuesday, and the impact on service delivery was minimal.
Some 11 500 council workers are affiliated to Cosatu through membership of the SA Municipal Workers Union. – Sapa