COSATU cost-of-living protest in Gauteng

Part of the SAFTU demonstration in Gauteng province against the cost of living rises

Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) members in Gauteng last Friday marched to the department of trade and industry to hand in a memorandum condemning the high cost of living.

‘End poverty’ and ‘High electricity prices kill the poor’ were just some of the slogans on the protesters’ placards.
Last week, COSATU announced it would be staging the cost-of-living protest and invited the media to attend, as it would be ‘highlighting:

  • Fuel price increases;
  • Food price increases;
  • High transport costs;
  • Unemployment, poverty, and inequalities;

• The electricity crisis.’
The memorandum of demands and proposed solutions was handed to the Ministers of Public Enterprises, Finance, Minerals and Energy, and Employment and Labour.
One of the protesters, Nzalamazi Dee told reporters as the march passed by: ‘We are all struggling. I can’t keep up with all the electricity, petrol, food increases and the list goes on.’
He said his budget was so tight he had to forget about himself.
‘You tolerate whatever you are getting. It means you have to sacrifice. We will have to share to survive.’
Dee added that there were many job losses when businesses closed during the lockdown.
Another protester, John Sithole, said he was fed up with the government.
‘We are not suffering, we are dying,’ he said.
‘You talk about budgeting; we don’t even know what that is. We don’t have money to budget because we are not working. It’s a problem – the water, electricity and the petrol.’
Sithole pointed out that when Eskom went on strike, the government quickly jumped in because they knew it could bring the country to a standstill.
‘That’s why they make them quiet with 7%. So, in South Africa if you want money and an increase, you need to jive it, you must dance but they don’t care about us.’
Sithole said he could see no solution to the current crisis in the country.
‘The solution is nonexistent. Let me be honest with you, not talking about anything else but under that National Party people were not jobless, money was there and crime was less. Now we are prisoners of the government.’
He added that the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) political party wasn’t the solution either.
‘It’s just a different label but the same flavour. The EFF is the ANC (African National Congress),’ he said.
South Africans want to work, but not for peanuts, he stressed.
‘There are people who go for cheap labour. It’s not that we don’t want to work, but we know what we are worth.’
Sithole said his children, who completed school in 2016 and 2017, were also unemployed.
‘Our kids today, if we tell them about school, they want to know why I can’t send them to college,’ he said.
Meanwhile, the United Association of South Africa (UASA) trade union says it is deeply concerned about the huge affordability crisis that is about to hit its members and other South Africans as the interest rate spirals out of control.
A statement by Abigail Moyo, UASA spokesperson, warned that last week, Stats SA had announced that the Consumer Price Index had hit the highest mark in 13 years.
And last Friday, the Reserve Bank’s monetary policy committee (MPC) announced the biggest repo rate hike of 75 basis points in 20 years.
This rate hike brings the repo rate to 5.5% and the prime rate to 9%. The repo rate is now 200 basis points higher than in November last year.
Moyo said: ‘The war in Ukraine impacted heavily on inflation since early this year. Hence, the decision to increase the repo rate by 75 basis points seems excessive, especially at a time when most South Africans are still reeling from the aftermath of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, high unemployment, and low economic growth.
‘As South Africans face fuel, food, basic services and goods price increases every month, UASA encourages its members and fellow South Africans with home and other loans to keep their heads up and their pockets tight.
‘With the constantly growing cost-of-living, disposable income is shrinking.
‘Keeping a tight budget and living within our means is essential,’ she wrote.

  • Meanwhile, the Council in the Dr Beyers Naude Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape was plunged into crisis after it failed to pass the Municipal Budget and Integrated Development Plan last Thursday.

Immediately, the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (SAMWU) warned that they would down tools if they hadn’t received their salaries by Monday (25 July).
The Democratic Alliance said the council deadlocked during the voting process with the votes split between the DA, EFF, Freedom Front Plus, and the ANC together with the Compatriots of South Africa
The DA said the Municipal Manager, Eddie Rankwana, also confirmed in a memorandum that the non-approval of the budget would impact the municipal workers’ salaries.
Samwu Provincial Secretary, Luzuko Yalezo, said the Municipality needs leaders who fight for the workers’ and community’s interests and must show political maturity in this kind of situation.
‘As we speak now we have an implication because the budget was not passed, services will not go to the communities and municipal workers will not be paid,’ he added.
Yalezo said municipal workers have put in the work throughout the month and their salaries must be paid.
‘The salary is not a prepaid arrangement, you work and at the end of the month, you get paid. We are expecting money in the bank – no stories.’

  • The SA Revenue Service (Sars) has tabled a revised offer to its employees a week after they embarked on a strike after wage negotiations collapsed following the taxman’s refusal to increase their salaries by 12%.

The strike started on July 12 and at the time, the Public Servants Association (PSA), said it would be ‘indefinite until the arrogant employer listens’.
Last Tuesday, more than a week into the strike, Sars tabled a ‘revised offer’ to settle the deadlock and end the crippling industrial action.
However, this latest ‘offer’ only includes a 1.5% pensionable salary increase, which will be backdated to April this year.
In addition, should public servants, who are involved in their own battle with the government over salary increases, receive more than the 1.5%, Sars is promising to pay the difference.
However, at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC), the PSA declared a deadlock after the government presented a final offer of a mere 2% salary increase for 2022/23.
The dispute is set down for conciliation on August 3rd, and the union informed its members that ‘while it understands that they have an appetite to embark on a strike due to dissatisfaction with the offer tabled by the government, that action must comply with legal procedures for it to be protected and therefore correct procedures must be followed.
‘If the matter is not resolved at conciliation, a notice of non-resolution will be issued, which will entitle the PSA to strike.’
Sars has been hard hit by the over a week-long strike and announced that by last Friday morning 34 branches across the country were closed and were servicing clients virtually.

  • Former South African President Thabo Mbeki has slammed the current regime and President Cyril Ramaphosa in a speech at a memorial service to former African National Congress (ANC) deputy leader Jesse Duarte last Thursday.

He said the ANC’s leadership had failed to renew the party and provide basic services to citizens and warned that broken promises could lead to a mass uprising in South Africa.
‘There is no national plan to address these challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality. Doesn’t exist,’ he said.
‘I’m saying this, to serve the people it requires that we address this. The Comrade President Cyril Ramaphosa, when he delivered the State of the Nation Address in February, that’s why he said in 100 days there must be a comprehensive social compact agreed to address these matters.
‘Nothing has happened. Nothing.’
Mbeki predicted that Ramaphosa’s broken promises to address corruption and socio-economic conditions could lead to civil unrest and ‘spark (South Africa’s) own version of the Arab Spring.’
He explained that in Tunisia ‘a street hawker was abused by the police, and that enraged the country … the problems were brewing beneath the surface and it just needed a little spark.
‘One of these days it’s going to happen to us, you can’t have so many people unemployed (34.5% national rate) and poor; one day it is going to trigger an uprising.’
Mbeki advised that: ‘Renewal is going to mean, among other things, ridding ourselves of these people who joined the movement to enrich themselves.’