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South African general strike against privatisation

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COSATU leader Zwelinzima Vavi

General strike against privatisation

COSATU leader Zwelinzima Vavi

afrol News, 28 September - South African trade unions react to the growing trends of privatisation of public companies and services. Privatisation aims were against the goals of "job creation and poverty eradication" and unions therefore have announced a two-day general strike 1-2 October.

The countries main trade union, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is now mobilizing all its nearly two million members, other working people and the whole South African community in a general strike and a massive demonstration of protest. 

The strike is to "express our anger at the levels of poverty and unemployment and to oppose the government's policy of selling off essential services to private investors," said COSATU spokesman Vukani Mde yesterday. 

- We are determined to stop a privatisation policy that will slow down the provision of services to poor communities, price these services out of the reach of millions of the poorest and lead to even more retrenchments, Mde added.

Privatisation has taken on speed in South Africa, despite the leftwing orientation of the ANC government, which traditionally cooperated closely with COSATU. Local and central water, energy and tele providers have been privatised, on some occasions leading to the exclusion of poorer population segments. In most occasions, privatisation has led to the loss of jobs.

Now, other proud state companies and parastatals are on the privatisation list. This includes the nation's port authorities, South African Airlines (SAA) and others. COSATU fears these privatisations will lead to equal job losses as the privatisation of South Africa's telecoms.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) is especially concerned about the new round of privatisation, and the 100,000-members union has been one of the principal initiators behind COSATU's general strike. Half Satawu's members are employed by the transport parastatal Transnet, many of whom are directly threatened and affected by privatisation.

Satawu has issued a strong statement, supporting the general strike. Privatisation was "only adding to poverty and misery in our country," the union says, "and must be stopped. The strike is an expression of the seriousness of the situation."

As well as a total general strike, COSATU is organising marches and pickets throughout the country. Protest marches are mainly planned for 1 October, while the 2 October programme is a "Total Stay-away". 

Sources: Based on COSATU and afrol archives


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