Cosatu strike empties Mpumalanga schools

SCHOOLING in Mpumalanga came to a virtual standstill on Wednesday as thousands of teachers joined protest actions by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Education spokesman, Peter Maminza, confirmed that almost all township and other predominantly black schools in the province failed to open when teachers boycotted classes on Wednesday morning. A small number of racially integrated former Model C schools in major centres such as Nelspruit, Witbank, Middelburg and Secunda were also affected, said Maminza.

“We expected problems and planned accordingly. We will implement the no work, no pay principle and school managers are keeping detailed records about who attended and who stayed away from work today,” said Maminza. He stressed that no reports of pupil unrest, damage to schools or other incidents had been received by 2pm on Tuesday and said the department expected schooling to return to normal on Thursday.

Major private sector companies and the government departments meanwhile also reported widespread staff stayaways in both Nelspruit and the province’s industrial heart of Witbank / Middelburg. Mpumalanga provincial spokeswoman, Joy Letlonkane, confirmed that civil servants had participated in the strike but said it was still too early to gauge the exact impact.

“We’re still busy evaluating the extent of the stayaway. Government had plenty of forewarning though, so we all made contingency plans and don’t expect services to have been seriously disrupted,” said Letlonkane. A more detailed statement would be released either on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning, she said. Mpumalanga Chamber of Commerce representative, Buks Badenhorst, described protest marches by Cosatu members through Witbank as the largest in recent years.

“We estimate at least 15 000 participated in the demonstration but are unable to say how many were actual workers and how many are unemployed people,” said Badenhorst. The largest contingent seemed to be from local mines but we will only be able to give an overview of the economic impact of the strike later this week” The strikers were scheduled to hand over a memorandum of demands to organised business in Witbank and to Premier Ndaweni Mahlangu in Nelspruit.

—African Eye News Service, April 4, 2000.

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