Cosatu: Protests a response to inequality

The recent service delivery protests are in part a response to the levels of inequality in society, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Friday.

“Some of you may not see the link but how do we explain that elsewhere in Africa there is far greater poverty, yet we do not see the same amount of social unrest?” spokesperson Patrick Craven asked the South Africa Reward Association’s annual conference.

He said poverty in these other countries was more widespread and general.

“People in surrounding communities are seen to suffer from the same poverty and lack of service delivery and it is thus accepted reluctantly as a fact of life,” he said.

On the other hand, communities such as Alexandra and Diepsloot were next door to Sandton and Fourways, communities which lived “in a different world entirely”.

Arguments about of a lack of resources for service delivery carried no weight among people who were living in shacks but who encountered people with seemingly limitless resources living only a few kilometres away.

“The situation is made even worse when their own local representatives move into the wealthy suburbs and adopt a capitalist lifestyle,” Craven said.

Most councillors and mayors continued to do good work often under difficult conditions, he said.

However, the recent protests were in part a revolt against people elected by the community who had become corrupt, moved out of the community, lived a life of affluence at the people’s expense and did nothing to help those they had left behind.

South Africa’s levels of inequality were unparalleled, Craven said.

He pointed out that in the last financial year Brett and Mark Levy of Blue Label Telecoms were South Africa’s top-earning executives, taking home R50,4-million and R49,5-million respectively.

In the financial sector, First Rand’s chief executive, Paul Harris, made R27,8-million, Sanlam chief executive Johan van Zyl R27,1-million, former Absa chief executive Steve Booysen R18,2-million and Standard Bank chief executive Jaco Maree R14,1-million.

“My opponents in this debate therefore need to justify why South Africa should have such unparalleled levels of inequality.

“They may argue that these individuals deserve these obscene salaries and perks, because they have earned them through hard work, which has created wealth for their shareholders who took a risk by investing their money.”

However, Craven said that in South Africa these bonuses were paid to the top managers regardless of how hard they had worked or the performance of the companies they were managing.

“The best example is Eskom, which has increased its CEO’s salary by 26,7% despite its manifest failure to deliver an efficient and affordable service,” he said.

“These same companies which pay out these first-world salaries to their CEOs expect their employees to accept third-world wages.”—Sapa

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