‘The struggle for a living wage is still on’ – Ramaphosa

“The struggle for a living wage is still on. The struggle for a living wage is what you as workers must wage,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa (Reuters)

“The struggle for a living wage is still on. The struggle for a living wage is what you as workers must wage,” said President Cyril Ramaphosa (Reuters)

President Cyril Ramaphosa hit back at critics of the national minimum wage, saying that the proposed R20 an hour is just a baseline towards establishing a living wage for workers in South Africa.

Addressing workers at trade union federation Cosatu’s main May Day event in Nelson Mandela Bay on Tuesday, the president admitted the minimum wage is not a living wage.

“That is much higher than R20 an hour, but we said we need to form a foundation,” Ramaphosa said.

He called the national minimum wage a victory for all workers and congratulated Cosatu for fighting the ANC to institute it, as per the Freedom Charter.

He added that the struggle for a living wage must continue, “but we must start somewhere”.

“The struggle for a living wage is still on. The struggle for a living wage is what you as workers must wage.”

Last week Wednesday, thousands of workers and community organisations marched in cities around South Africa against the proposed national minimum wage and other amendments to the Labour Relations Act.

The national strike was led by the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).

In a statement preceding the nationwide protest, Saftu released a press statement slamming Ramaphosa for advocating for the “poverty wage” of R20 per hour.

“South Africa is the most unequal country in the world, in which 10% of the population earn more than 50% of the household incomes while 20% earn less than 1.5% … Yet these grossly overpaid tycoons, together with their new champion in Union Buildings, multi-billionaire President Cyril Ramaphosa, want workers and their families to survive on just R20 an hour, something they would never dream of accepting for themselves,” the statement read.

At the Johannesburg march, a number of workers wielded signs of Ramaphosa’s likeness, including one with the president’s mouth dripping blood — under his face the words “bloody agent” written in red and black.

(Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Felix Dlangamandla)

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit

Sarah Smit both subs and writes for the Mail & Guardian. She joined the M&G after completing her master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Cape Town. She is interested in the literature of the contemporary black diaspora and its intersection with queer aesthetics of solidarity. Her recent work considers the connections between South African literary history and literature from the rest of the Continent. Read more from Sarah Smit

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