|The News Line: Feature
Wednesday, 12 April 2017
Striking South African social workers barricade
STRIKING South African social workers have barricaded the entrances to care centres and are vowing not to leave until their demands – an immediate rise in pay to a living wage and decent working conditions – are met.
The social workers are members of the National Health, Education and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) and have been calling for a meeting with Minister Bathabile Dlamini to discuss a way forward ever since the start of the strike in March.
However, she has repeatedly reneged on her commitments to meet with the union. The striking social workers and auxiliary workers are blocking entrances and preventing food and medication from being delivered at Gauteng child and youth care centres.
NEHAWU’s Khaya Xaba said: ‘Many operations have been frustrated by the strike but it does not mean we cannot exercise our constitutional right. We will not stand idly by while the Department refuses to give workers what is due to them.’
Meanwhile at Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, the Student Representative Council (SRC) says it will be consulting students over demonstrating against Adam Habib’s reinstatement as vice chancellor – the university council has decided to renew his contract for another five years.
The SRC says it will consult with the students over the next two days about Habib’s reinstatement before making a decision. SRC spokesperson David Manabile said: ‘When we analyse what students say to us, I think he’s the number one enemy. He is anti-protest and anti-transformation. So students will tell us how to move, but we can already tell their response.’
On Sunday, the SRC’s Zamayirha Peter said they had tried to communicate their objection to Habib’s reappointment, but it was not acknowledged by the council.
‘We had to use social media to reassure students that we are aware of how they feel and agree that he should not be reinstated.’
Earlier, the Wits University SRC said Professor Adam Habib’s conduct during the Fees Must Fall campaign is one of the reasons it is opposed to his reappointment as vice chancellor, and that it is the only organisation which is opposed to the renewal of his contract. Habib has ‘committed himself to addressing the challenges of transformation faced by the students’, but the SRC says he has not prioritised their needs.
• Former COSATU secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi says the move to elect President Jacob Zuma into the top ANC position was a terrible mistake.
He was addressing a more than 25,000 strong crowd at the Union Buildings in Pretoria last Friday, during a national shutdown strike demanding Zuma steps down.
Vavi said: ‘We made a mistake in elevating a crook who was facing 783 charges. The first thing he did was to dissolve the Scorpions and some of us stupidly gave him a round of applause.’
He slammed Zuma for removing former National Prosecting Authority boss Advocate Mxolisi Nxasana and replacing him with a ‘spineless advocate called (Shaun) Abrahams’.
Vavi said: ‘As if that was not enough, he removed from the Hawks a celebrated MK, commander of the Western Cape, (Anwa) Dramat, forcing him out by giving him R3 million so that he could employ an apartheid policeman (Berning) Ntlemeza.’
Vavi further castigated Zuma for making Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the SABC chief operating officer despite having a ‘standard seven qualification’. And he lambasted Zuma for the financial crisis at South African Airways, and for allowing the Gupta family to get involved at power utility Eskom.
Vavi called on the demonstrators to reclaim their country by pushing Zuma out of the presidential office. The march was joined by workers’ unions, religious groups, student movements and political parties under the banner of #Save South Africa campaign. Sipho Pityana, national convener of the campaign, said Zuma has disgraced the office of president.
Pityana said: ‘He has turned it into a den of iniquity. ‘It is a mere mouthpiece for the real seat of power – the Saxonwold shebeen – where our President sits and gets instructions from this corrupt clique on who to appoint as a minister, director general, board of state owned entities and leaders of various government institutions.’
• Zuma and Gordhan ‘want to loot and oppress us’, says the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA). The union has slated President Jacob Zuma and former finance minister Pravin Gordhan for ‘anti-worker and anti-poor policies’ amid widespread calls for the president to resign.
NUMSA said both Zuma and Gordhan are fighting for the interests of the capitalist class ‘which does not care about the needs of workers.’ In a statement issued by NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim, the union said both the axed minister and Zuma want ‘to loot, oppress and exploit us’.
Jim claimed Zuma and his friends, the Gupta family, want to use state-owned enterprises and the National Treasury to advance their own economic interests against those of a white capitalist group, which includes ‘Afrikaner and English capitalists’.
NUMSA argue that Zuma and Gordhan’s apparent lack of empathy for the working class is conspicuous in their lack of mobilisation on workers’ issues, such as the infamous 2012 Marikana massacre, where 34 mineworkers were shot dead, 78 wounded and more than 250 arrested by the police, among other issues.
Jim said: ‘We want to set the record straight on the open war between Pravin Gordhan and Jacob Zuma. It is obvious that Zuma and his capitalist group, including the Guptas, intend to use the SOEs, National Treasury and all available state institutions and structures to advance their own economic interests against the interests of the white capitalist group.
‘Both of these groups belong to the same class – the capitalist class. They are our class enemies – neither deserves our support. Both want to loot us, to oppress us, to exploit us. Both are responsible for our suffering! Both these groups are guilty of ignoring the poor and the working class.’
NUMSA said Zuma is fighting to take the National Treasury away from ‘white capital’.
This, it argues, is in the interest of ‘black and African’ capitalist groups dominated by the controversial Gupta family.
Jim added the black and African group used ‘radical economic transformation’ as a pretext for the fight, while ‘in reality, they are fighting for their own personal radical economic transformation. Zuma wants to ensure that his family and friends benefit for generations to come’.
The NUMSA leader added: ‘President Zuma is fighting to take the Treasury away from white capital and guaranteeing that those who prevent him from controlling the Treasury are removed from government. This reshuffle is a purge of Zuma’s enemies in the state and in the leadership of the ANC.
‘Zuma has positioned himself as the CEO of a group of the capitalist class dominated by the Guptas and other black and African capitalists in opposition to the entrenched white capitalist class.’
On the other hand, Gordhan is accused of being a defender of ‘discredited neoliberal capitalist policies’. Jim said the ousted minister was a slave to rating agencies, which NUMSA believed were ‘the global capitalist policemen for the austerity measures which inflict daily misery on the working class and the poor’.
This came days after international rating agency Standard and Poor’s (S&P) downgraded South Africa to sub-investment grade, with the spectre still looming of the other ratings agencies, such as Moody’s, doing the same. S&P said Zuma’s decision to reshuffle his Cabinet had ‘put at risk fiscal and growth outcomes’.
Jim said: ‘NUMSA views the ratings agencies and their downgrade of South Africa to junk status with the utmost contempt. These agencies are self-serving and politically motivated. They blackmail governments to pursue policies in the interest of domestic and international finance capital.
‘They do not care about the suffering of the poor and the working class. They are cold and insensitive and usurp economic sovereignty of nation states on behalf of the interests of global finance capital. No self-respecting sovereign state should take these agencies seriously.’
Workers and youth were engaging in a nationwide strike against Zuma on Friday. People from all sectors of society gathered at the Union Buildings and other parts of the country in a call for Zuma to resign after sacking Gordhan and other ministers.
It was also reported that about 600 MKMVA soldiers would be deployed to the ANC headquarters, Luthuli House, to face the protesters.
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