SOUTH Africa’s ruling ANC said on Friday it understands the anger of North West residents who took to Mahikeng’s streets last week in protest against corruption and demanding North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo be sacked.
The African National Congress (ANC) said it will discuss and test allegations of corruption against North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo and then take a decision that the people of Mahikeng will be happy with. Addressing the media before a meeting of the ANC top brass‚ including Ramaphosa‚ as well as Mahumapelo and his counterparts in the province‚ ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Obet Bapela expressed sympathy with the residents’ cries.
He said the ANC understood people’s anger when they see millions of rands going to companies yet services lagged behind. ‘I think people are quite right to say: “We see millions of rands going to this company‚ that company or another company. There has been a number of advanced payments even before the companies could do anything.” Rightfully so‚ this is your money‚’ said Bapela.
Ramaphosa cut short his visit to the UK‚ where he was to have participated in a meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government‚ to attend to the violent protests in Mahikeng. Former leaders in the province‚ including China Dodovu and ANC Youth League president Collen Maine‚ were invited to the meeting on Friday.
The South African Communist Party and Congress of South African Trade Unions were expected to push for the ANC to convince Mahumapelo to resign while the provincial party’s leaders were expected to defend him. Bapela was sent to the province to deal with the situation there‚ and has been at the forefront putting out fires‚ because some ANC members in the provincial legislature have been calling for Mahumapelo’s sacking.
The impasse attracted the attention of the national ANC leadership when 11 caucus members‚ reportedly including some members of Mahumapelo’s executive‚ said they would vote with the opposition in a motion of no confidence that had been set for Tuesday last week. Bapela said he hoped that North West workers belonging to the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) would suspend their protest action now that Mahumapelo has suspended Thabo Lekalakala‚ the health department head‚ for his alleged involvement in a corrupt tender deal with a Gupta-linked company.
Bapela said the go-slow and strike had negatively affected health services in the province.
Protesters blockaded streets with rocks and burning tyres, a number of shops were looted and several cars were set alight. The North West province protesters are demanding jobs, housing and an end to corruption.
On Friday, health sector trade union Hospersa called on Ramaphosa to urgently intervene in the ailing state of public health in the North West. Noel Desfontaines‚ Hospersa general secretary, said that the North West Department of Health (DoH) has been the subject of a number of irregular contracts awarded by senior officials‚ with some implicated in a string of dodgy deals. Desfontaines said the province had also been hit by disruptions in service delivery‚ resulting in many public health facilities closing down due to industrial action by public service unions over poor working conditions.
The Hospersa leader said: ‘We are not surprised that health workers in the province are now resorting to such drastic measures to get government to address their demands.
‘During the reported industrial action‚ Hospersa appeals to its members to not engage in any form of vandalism and intimidation as well as in any deliberate closure of health facilities. ‘We will continue working within the confines of the law to ensure that members’ demands are addressed.’
In his intervention‚ the president is requested to start by restoring confidence in the public health workforce by addressing the deep levels of corruption and maladministration within the province’s DoH. The revolt against North West premier Supra Mahumapelo continued throughout last Wednesday night and into last Thursday morning‚ with shops being looted, roads barricaded and vehicles set alight.
For the past few months the health sector has been rendered ineffective as a strike by health staff continues. This has resulted in fatalities and shortages of medication. The office of embattled North West premier Supra Mahumapelo last Thursday called for an end to the mass disruptions in the province.
• The South African Federation of Trade Unions SAFTU pledged its total support for the bus workers who went on strike last Wednesday, 18 April 2018. SAFTU said: ‘The unions are standing firm against companies who, like so many employers these days, have been intransigent and have consistently frustrated attempts to negotiate a settlement. ‘The unions’ demands are extremely reasonable and fully justified.
‘Bus workers endure long and unsocial hours of work, with a high danger of accidents, yet employers want to worsen their working conditions even further, including paying less than the full wage to alternative drivers who have to be on the bus for just as long as the actual driver. ‘Wages are already low, and now workers are having to pay more for goods and services following increases in VAT, fuel levy and the road accident levy and Eskom are applying for another electricity tariff rise. ‘None of these hikes have yet been reflected in the consumer price index which measures inflation, and workers are right therefore to demand above inflation increases to protect their living standards in the year ahead.
‘Employers also want to impose a permanent slavery-level entry minimum rate of R5,500 per month against current wage rates that are higher in the majority of bus companies. ‘As our affiliate NUMSA says: “It is clear that this opportunism is driven by and encouraged by the current desperation of our government to introduce a slavery national minimum wage. This will have the impact of creating a two-tier labour system where some workers earn higher than others. It violates the principle of equal pay for work of equal value, and over time, those who earn more will be retrenched.”
‘SAFTU urges all bus passengers to understand that a strike is always a last resort, and that workers always regret the inconvenience this causes the public. ‘But the blame lies at the door of the employers who are not prepared to respond positively to the workers’ modest demands for better wages and conditions. ‘The federation also calls on all its affiliates and other workers to show their solidarity with the bus workers, with statements of support and mobilising their members if requested to embark on any solidarity action.’
There was no end in sight to the national bus strike as the industrial action by workers from over 60 bus companies continued into its third day on Friday. The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the Tirisano Transport Workers Union (TTWU) resumed talks with employer bodies for the way forward.
SATAWU’s Zanale Sabela said last Thursday deliberations between unions and bus management were expected to resume around 10am the next day.
Sabela said they were hopeful that something would be put on the table.
Last Thursday, negotiations went on the whole day with the parties remaining silent on discussion details. Sabela said unions were hopeful and optimistic that bus companies will accept their demands as unions within the bargaining council were working together, ‘speaking with one voice’ as their objective was to achieve more for workers.
Bus drivers downed tools last Wednesday demanding a 12% wage hike. Employers are offering 7%.
The drivers are demanding full pay for dual drivers travelling long distances with a night shift roster change. The current roster stands at 8pm to 3am and the bus drivers are demanding it be changed to 4pm to 6am. Bus drivers also demand a minimum basic wage of R8,000 per month as opposed to the current R6,000.
SAFTU has called a general strike and protest marches on 25th April against the new minium wage and planned anti-union laws. It said last Friday: ‘SAFTU invites the media to a press briefing on the mass action which will hit the streets of South Africa on Wednesday 25th April.’