Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele has assured demonstrators that government will respond to their demands.
Gungubele received the memorandum of demands from the marching South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) affiliated members.
Asked whether the governing party is worried about losing power in the 2024 national elections, Gungubele says they are focusing on providing services and improving the lives of the poor.
“Whether we stay in 2024 or not, we will not deal with that if our basis is fear of loss of power. The only way we can stay in 2024 is only when we restore the historic intentions of the ANC of working hard until we turn the economy around,” explains Minister Gungubele.
The Minister assures that the government will go to every length to reduce the burden on the shoulders of the citizens.
Responding to requests to reduce the fuel price, he says the government is looking at the fuel price structure.
“Anything that can make us assist our people to afford life is going to be done. We have demonstrated it with the temporary fuel price reduction. Fuel is going down next months and we are looking at the structure of the petrol price.”
Gungubele has also promised workers that the government has no intention of privatising Eskom.
“There is no plan to sell Eskom. The government does not intend on selling Eskom.”
He repeatedly reminds the union members that the government would not ignore their struggle, saying that their memorandum will be sent to relevant departments and that government will soon respond to it.
The workers are demanding that government addresses issues of the high unemployment rate, the rising cost of living, and the high fuel price.
In the video below, Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele addresses a media briefing:
‘Don’t ignore workers’
South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco)’s Greater Tshwane regional chairperson Abram Mashishi has warned the government that if it continues to ignore workers’ demands, the governing party will continue to govern in coalitions instead of winning the elections with an outright majority.
“It is us who have put you there. You are there because of our votes. Listen to our people, listen to the workers,” warns Mashishi.
Sanco has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to fire Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan. “We call on President Matamela Ramaphosa to fire Minister Gordhan because he has failed in his portfolio.”
They have warned the government against privatisation of government entities. The workers have lambasted the government for always having money for disasters but ‘cry poverty’ when employees demand salary rises.
Cosatu first deputy president Mike Shingange has told demonstrators that government should stop bailing out struggling SOEs. He says despite numerous government bailouts, SOEs continue to retrench workers.
Shingange has also told the union members that government should have a fuel price cap. “Fuel is expensive, electricity is expensive and food is also expensive. Workers are struggling, workers are suffering. People can’t even afford to go look for employment,” adds Shingange.
He has called on workers to unite and reject divisions, warning that if they allow divisions to thrive, they won’t able to archive anything.
General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA) president Mametlwe Sebei has called for nationalisation of banks and mines.
Unity among workers
South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi started his address by urging all workers to demonstrate tolerance.
His comments come after earlier disagreements between union leaders, which saw two stages being erected separately.
After several meetings, both federations agreed to address their meetings from one stage. Vavi has called on all those who are against the capitalist system, tribalism, sexism and xenophobia’ to stand together.
He says both federations have done little to improve the lives of ordinary citizens.
The Saftu leader has told a cheering crowd that they must stop fighting against one another, but rather fight against the government. He claims that it is unacceptable that 45% of people in the country are not working.”
“For black people, that unemployment rate is already at 50%. For black women that unemployment is already at 53%. For the young people between the ages of 15 and 24, that unemployment is at 75%. Basically, in our country, of all the young people, 46% of them, are not in any form of employment. They are not in any training, they are not in any education, they are roaming the streets of our country,” says Saftu secretary-general.
Vavi argues that because of the current high living costs, workers are unable to buy basic food. “Electricity has increased by over 500% since the advent of democracy. We say no to the privatisation of Eskom.”
Saftu has lambasted the government for refusing to give public workers salary increases, while ministers and the President have received salary increases.
“We say no to this nonsense. We say no to hypocrisy. Workers must unite. Don’t allow your leaders to divide you. We demand a living wage, we don’t want peanuts,” adds Vavi.
He says if the government is unable to meet the demands of the workers, they must leave the office.
The video below is reporting more on the story: