THE Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and its alliance partners announced that unemployment remained the most difficult challenge for government, as more workers lost their jobs and more people faced poverty.
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and National Union of Mineworkers (Num) president Senzeni Zokwana identified these problems while addressing Workers Day celebrations.
Vavi spoke to crowds at the North West provincial legislature in Mafikeng, while Cosatu president Willy Madisha addressed a celebration at the Polokwane Nirvana Hall in Pietersburg and Zokwana addressed workers at Thaba Nchu in the Free State.
While saluting the government for their achievements, Cosatu leaders said: ”unemployment has now reached alarming proportions. More and more workers are losing their jobs. The latest Labour Force Survey shows a frightening five percent increase in the unemployment rate. This results in a situation where families lose their dignity and self-esteem, and face degrading poverty”.
Meanwhile in other celebrations, Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon said South Africans should stop declaring war on the United States, as they needed Washington as an ally to turn their own and the continent’s situation around.
Addressing a Workers Day rally in Rabie Ridge, Midrand, north of Johannesburg, Leon said the US had the most powerful economy in the world and was the home of companies creating the most jobs globally.
In Cape Town, a Cosatu rally in the Company Gardens in the city centre was poorly attended. Proceedings were billed to begin at 10am, but started three-and-a-half hours late after a power failure.
The delay resulted in organisers cancelling speeches by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel and National Assembly Speaker Dr Frene Ginwala.
South African Municipal Workers Union general secretary Roger Ronnie told the small crowd that judging by the attendance the trade union movement appeared to be in crisis.
”There’s not only an absence of electricity, but workers are also not here.”
Ronnie repeated calls for the introduction of a comprehensive social security network, beginning with a universal basic income grant of R100 a month.
A Western Cape project aimed at improving relations between farmers and farmworkers should be emulated in the rest of the country where there were high levels of farm attacks, New National Party leader Marthinus van Schalkwyk said.
Addressing a rally in Paarl attended mostly by farmworkers, he said the time of ”baas and klaas” (master and servant) was gone forever.
The Pan Africanist Congress on Wednesday chose Workers Day to launch its economic status campaign, which it said was aimed at ensuring that Africans were no longer doomed to be perpetual third class citizens in their own country.
Speaking at a rally at the Balfour Stadium, PAC deputy president Motsoko Pheko said many promises had been made to improve the lives of Africans.
However, the rich were getting richer and the poor, poorer.
In a statement, the Department of Health said Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang was to address the Workers Day rally organised by Cosatu in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal.
Tshabalala-Msimang was to address the gathering together with representatives of Cosatu, the SA Communist Party and the National Association of People Living with Aids.
Meanwhile, KwaZulu Natal’s transport MEC and provincial chairman of the African National Congress, S’bu Ndebele, saluted the role Cosatu has ”successfully played as a unifying workers federation in South Africa.”
Ndebele also mentioned President Thabo Mbeki’s plan to develop Africa and improve the lives of the people.
”We call on our alliance partners to support the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).”
Ndebele also pledged support to the Palestinians, saying ”Sharon’s policies are a threat to peace not only in the Middle East, but also to the entire world.” – Sapa