Zuma: Resorting to strike violence is unnecessary

President Jacob Zuma. (David Harrison, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma. (David Harrison, M&G)

There was no need for violence during a strike, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday, as the pay dispute in the metals industry continued.

“While respecting the constitutional and hard-won worker rights, let me emphasise that government will always act against those who use violence and intimidation to advance their cause,” he said at the unveiling of a vehicle assembly plant in Coega, Eastern Cape, according to a copy of his speech. 

“There is no need to resort to violence. We condemn all acts of violence that have been reported thus far,” he said. 

Thousands of workers from the metals and engineering industries began striking last Tuesday. The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) wants a 15% wage increase and a R1 000 housing allowance in a one-year bargaining agreement. Scores of people have been arrested for damage to property and public violence linked to the strike. 

On Tuesday, national police commissioner Riah Phiyega’s office said in Gauteng alone 53 people were arrested on a single day for strike-related offences. Last week, employer body, the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of South Africa tabled a three-year wage offer of between eight and 10% for different levels of workers in the first year. 

The National Employers’ Association of South Africa has offered 8%, subject to an agreement on the reduction of the entry-level wage. Zuma said government was facilitating the negotiations through the labour department. “We wish the parties well and trust that they will reach a mutually beneficial agreement without much delay. The metal industries sector needs to go back to full production as soon as possible,” he said. 

The R600-million truck assembly plant is jointly funded by China’s FAW group corporation and the China-Africa Development Fund. The plant is expected to assemble 5 000 trucks annually for the Sub-Saharan African market. – Sapa

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