/ 7 March 2012

No love for Malema at Cosatu’s Polokwane protest

While the Johannesburg leg of Cosatu's national strike saw the union federation's A-listers and the ANC Youth League's top brass cosying up to each other, an ANC representative in Polokwane was rejected by Cosatu supporters, who accused him of being a friend of youth league leader Julius Malema.

Supporters said they would not be spoken to by "the ANC of [premier Cassel] Mathale, and Malema, who are thieves".

Most people in the crowd, gathered in support of Cosatu's protest, wore ANC badges and emblems.

South African Students Congress representative Themba Masondo, who spoke to marchers, said students would always back workers.

"We say no to modern slavery because if you earn R100, labour brokers give you R30 and they get R70. Students will always be with workers and please support us in our campaign for free education. We believe that through education we can earn decent salaries in [the] future when we will be workers," he said.

The crowd was expected to deliver a memorandum to Absa and Nedbank offices later on Wednesday.

Durban delays
In Durban, flights were delayed as workers arrived late.

The Airports Company of South Africa (Acsa) asked travellers to arrive early for their flights on Wednesday as the effect of Cosatu's protests took hold.

"The company that supplies the fuel, Sky Tanking, has advised [us] that its employees did not report for work on time as a result of the planned national strike by Cosatu," Acsa said of the delays at King Shaka International Airport.

Acsa asked passengers to arrive early — two and four hours before scheduled departure times — for domestic and international flights respectively.

The situation improved as Sky Tanking and Acsa helped get staff to work but passengers could expect delays throughout the day on flights at that airport.

Cosatu's protest in Durban started an hour behind schedule on Wednesday.

There were numerous police officers along Dr Pixley ka Seme street — formerly called West street — and the crowd was under control.

Most shops were open prior to the march but many of the usual informal traders who sold fruits and sweets were absent.

'Worrying' reports
Metrorail said it had a slight reduction in services in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, with "worrying" reports of protesters assaulting and intimidating commuters in the Leralla corridor and Kaalfontein areas.

"Incidents were reported at Elandsfontein, Kempton Park, Leralla and Kaalfontein," Metrorail said.

Services on the Leralla line were temporarily suspended as a precautionary measure. Metrorail asked police to help protect commuters and their trains.

The company asked commuters who experienced intimidation or violence to report it on 0800 127 070.

Metrobus in Johannesburg asked that commuters make alternative transport arrangements on Wednesday because it seemed some drivers had joined the strike.

In an apology to commuters, they asked that their call centre 011 375 5555, option six, be called for further queries.

Taxi exemption
South African National Taxi Council general secretary Philip Taaibosch said they had made it clear drivers should not be penalised if they decided to participate in their personal capacity.

Taxis and other forms of registered public transport are exempt from paying toll fees.

Riot police had to be summoned to the Natalspruit Hospital, east of Johannesburg as a group of people tried to stop school children boarding their taxis to school.

"There were people who were trying to prevent scholar vehicle transport," said Ekurhuleni metro police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Wilfred Kgasago.

But when public order police arrived the group disappeared, said Kgasago.

The children proceeded to school unhindered and nobody was injured.

"There were no more reports of intimidation," Kgasago said.

Meanwhile, passengers were prevented from entering the Kempton Park station but this also passed and groups were allowed to board the trains to Johannesburg to join the swelling ranks of protesters in the city.

Cape Town lady sings this song
Cosatu's march in Cape Town got underway before 11am, with protesters braving blistering heat to take part.

Earlier, the crowd — which stretched about two city blocks — took shelter under the trees to avoid the direct sunlight. Others were singing and dancing on the street in circles carrying knobkerries.

A woman also drew the crowd's attention when, standing on the back of a Cosatu truck, broke into the controversial song Bring Me My Machine Gun — a trademark tune of President Jacob Zuma.

The crowd started converging on Keizersgracht around 8.30am.

Children on the march
Some school children in uniform also joined the gathering's ranks.

Members of a number of Cosatu affiliate unions had come out in support of the march and included the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa and the South African Municipal Workers' Union.

A strong police contingent kept watch.

As the protesters moved towards city hall, a 47-year-old Athlone school teacher — who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation — said he was concerned that the number of teachers in schools was diminishing.

"I am here primarily because of teachers being given letters of dismissal with very little warning. These are experienced teachers leaving us with a void."

A Cosatu marshal, who also asked not to be named, said he was optimistic that the march would get the attention of government.

"According to me, we think there will be an answer from government. The agents [labour brokers] are using our people," he said. — Sapa