Cosatu to picket Helen Zille's house over Walmart deal

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is to picket outside the houses of Pick n Pay chairperson Raymond Ackerman and Western Cape premier Helen Zille over the Walmart-Massmart merger.

General secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Monday that the Congress of South A Trade Unions wanted to target “those shareholders who can sway opinion on the boards”.

Zille was a “very prominent” shareholder in Pick n Pay, which planned to retrench 3 000 workers as a result of Walmart’s entry into South Africa, he told reporters.

Cosatu also planned a nationwide strike to draw attention to the harm it believed the deal would do to jobs and local manufacturing in South Africa.

“We are ready to mobilise our members in the streets and in strike action,” Vavi said.

Cosatu had taken action under section 77 of the Labour Relations Act to legitimise its planned protest, he said.

This section gives workers the right to take part in protest action to promote or defend their socioeconomic interests.

The R16.5-billion Walmart-Massmart merger was approved by the Competition Tribunal in May, subject to certain conditions.

Last week, three government departments filed their heads of argument in the Competition Appeals Court.

The departments of agriculture, forestry and fisheries; economic development; and trade and industry want the deal sent back to the tribunal for proper consideration and more effective conditions to be imposed.

Cosatu supported the government’s call for more stringent conditions to be attached to the merger, although first prize would be the prohibition of the deal.

The government argued that Walmart-Massmart would increase imports and could potentially lead to the loss of tens of thousands of local jobs.

It could also lead to the closure of many small and medium-sized enterprises and firms owned by historically disadvantaged individuals.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said there was no evidence that Massmart would create 15 000 jobs through the merger, as it had advertised.

The country’s manufacturing base could be further eroded and, once lost, would take many years to win back, said Davies.

The review and appeal was expected to be heard in the Competition Appeal Court on October 20 and 21.

The South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers’ Union also appealed to the Competition Appeal Court against the Competition Tribunal’s approval of the merger.

This would also be heard in October.—Sapa

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