/ 22 August 2022

Saftu calls for a national shutdown on Wednesday to protest against high cost of living

Zwelinzima Vavi also warned of the implications to the recent amendments to the LRA
Zwelinzima Vavi. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) plans to lead thousands of workers and activists in a nationwide strike on Wednesday against high unemployment,  increased electricity tariffs and steep increases in fuel and transport costs.

The trade union federation has asked all unions to join the strike but only a handful have agreed to down tools on 24 August, Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told a news conference on Monday.

“24 August has to be the beginning of mobilising the working class, not an isolated incident that aims at maximum publicity for anybody. We declare that we must seek to work together, in solidarity, with other trade union federations, unions, and other worker- oriented organisations to protect workers. We need unity in action — on the ground — not just simply declared”,” said Vavi.

Rival federation Cosatu last week also detailed plans for a nationwide protest.

Saftu has a membership of about 7 000 and incorporates major private sector unions such as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union. Vavi said Numsa had signalled that it could not afford to take part in Wednesday’s strike as it was recovering from the expenditure of its congress in July.

“They have just come out of a congress which they have spent millions of rands on and are not in the position to lure out buses, trains, and other financial support for its members to partake in the shutdown. We respect this decision,” Vavi said.

“In fact it is not only Numsa facing financial challenges … the policing union has also written to us in which they alerted us about their upcoming regional congresses which have put limitations on their expenditure.”

Vavi said the shutdown was also to protest the high levels of crime and violence in the country. He spoke days after Police Minister Bheki Cele released quarterly crime statistics showing a 11.5% increase in the murder rate

“We know that because of police handling of rape cases, the latter figure is tragically a vast understatement of the crisis of domestic violence and sexual abuse,” Vavi said.

“Some of the unemployed are blaming immigrant workers for the lack of employment, and even for crime. But hard facts have proven that migrant workers are not stealing our jobs, and are not the majority perpetrators of crime. Demographics of inmates in prison demystify this myth that essentialise crime on immigrants,” said Vavi.

The union federation detailed meeting points for the strike across the country:

  • In Limpopo the march is expected to take place in Polokwane with members gathering at SABC Park in Polokwane and marching to the Office of the Premier.
  • In Mpumalanga the march will take place in Witbank. Comrades will assemble at  Broadway in Witbank at 9am and start marching to Eskom Park from 10am. 
  • In Gauteng the march is expected to take place in Pretoria with members assembling at Burgers Park in Pretoria at 6am. The march will end at the Union Building at 10am.  
  • In the Free State the march will be held in Bloemfontein starting at 7am from Batho Location Hall in Mangaung and ending at the Office of the Premier(OR Tambo Building) at 10am.  
  • In the Easten Cape the march will take place in Bhisho. It will start at 8am at Fort Hare Grounds and end at the Provincial Legislature at 10am.
  • The march will take place in the Western Cape in Cape Town. It will start at Keizersgracht at 8am and end at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the Provincial Government buildings and Parliament at 10am. 
  • The organisation has not planned a march in Kwa-Zulu Natal but is calling for members to  observe a general strike in support of the shutdown by staying away from work.