SEEING RED: Thousands of strikers marched down Oxford Street protesting the use of labour brokers and electronic tolling . The crowd was addressed by Numsa boss Irvin Jim at the North End Stadium
Picture: MARK ANDREWS
THOUSANDS of strikers took to the streets in the Eastern Cape yesterday as part of a Cosatu-led national protest.
More than 200000 people against electronic road tolling (e-tolls) and labour brokers marched simultaneously in 32 protests around the country.
City centres around South Africa were brought to a halt as crowds in bright red and yellow attire sang, danced and waved placards .
National and provincial officials said most schools and hospitals functioned as normal and there were no reports of vandalism by the time of going to press.
Eastern Cape marches were held in East London, Port Elizabeth, Mthatha, Lusikisiki, Queenstown and Kokstad.
Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg saw most of the action where over 200000 people took part.
The strike and marches were triggered by Gauteng’s imminent introduction of e-tolls on the main highway between Johannesburg and Pretoria, but also targeted labour brokers who provide casual workers to many businesses and which the unions claim diluted the effect of post-apartheid labour laws.
East London striker Lavusa Manxusa said the toll fees in Gauteng would force the company he works for, Express Parcel Service, to downscale.
“We must stop them and fight for our rights,” he said.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) boss Irvin Jim addressed at least 5000 strikers at the North End Stadium yesterday.
After a hero’s welcome from the crowd, Jim repeatedly threatened future marches unless immediate action was taken to remove labour brokers.
“Decent work is a right. Labour brokering is just like slavery and is causing major problems for the working class,” he said. “We are calling on the ANC’s NEC to sit down and discuss an end to labour brokering.”
Comparing labour brokers to human traffickers, Jim said the bulk of the employment sector was controlled by the mediators.
“They are taking up jobs from us and I am raising my finger at them,” he said. “We must take a firm stand and see them banned for good.”
The stadium was a sea of red T-shirts with protestors running around the soccer pitch chanting support for Cosatu.
At least 20 police officers, most of them wearing protective gear, kept a watchful eye over the strikers. Undeterred, the crowds cheered and pumped their fists while waving a mixture of union flags.
Afterwards, the strikers marched down to the department of labour’s office where they handed over two memorandum of demands – one against e-tolls and the other against labour brokers.
East London police spokeswoman Warrant Officer Hazel Mqala said the march had been peaceful with no incidents reported.
Cosatu’s provincial secretary Mandla Rayi said: “ It’s been very positive, 5000 people joined the protest. We’re looking forward to hearing the response from government and businesses.”
Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told crowds of protesters in Johannesburg that some government leaders had forgotten their roots.
“Today we are here to remind some fellows where they are coming from. They don’t know anymore the power of the working class,” Vavi said outside the Department of Labour offices.
Earlier, ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, whose arrival stirred crowds to cheers of “Juju”, said the march was not an ANC event but to hold leaders to account for their promises.
He said the media would underestimate the size of the crowd, adding: “I see 150000 people. The ANC must listen to the masses.”
In a poor turnout, only 250 people participated in the march in Mthatha yesterday.
Cosatu provincial chairman Mpumelelo Saziwa told strikers at Mthatha’s Freedom Square: “The country is trapped in a developmental paradigm that has simply reproduced the conditions from the past 18 years.”
He said labour brokers did not create jobs but “de-skilled” workers.
“Labour brokers are the main drivers of casualisation of labour in South Africa,” he said.
Saziwa cited unemployment, poverty and inequality as the primary challenges facing the working class.
One of the Mthatha marchers, Mncedi Faku of Ngolo, said he was confused by the government’s failure to create sufficient jobs.
Mthatha police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Mzukisi Fatyela said no incidents were reported .
Most East London schools were unaffected by the strike apart from Parkside Primary School.
Principal Brian Fritz, said: “Many of our pupils didn’t come to school today because their transport was not running.”
National health department spokesman Fidel Hadebe said available reports indicated things were normal at clinics and hospitals.
Eastern Cape health spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said hospitals and clinics remained fully staffed in Mthatha and East London.
However, Nelson Mandela Bay saw 10% of nurses in the metro failing to clock in along with 45% of support staff.
In Port Elizabeth, 10000 strikers gathered at Nangoza Jebe Hall and marched to Vuyisile Mini Square.
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Article source: http://www.dispatch.co.za/news/article/3011