|The News Line: Feature
Wednesday, 12 July 2017
GUPTA FAMILY ‘AN IMMEDIATE THREAT TO STRUGGLING SA WORKING CLASS’ says Saftu
‘THE GUPTA family is the immediate threat to South Africa’s struggling working class,’ South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Monday.
Vavi, who was addressing hundreds of workers at a National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) rally in Rustenburg in the North West was reacting to press reports which revealed, through the so-called Gupta-leaked emails, that the family is alleged to be in possession of sensitive military and intelligence equipment.
The Gupta family is an Indian-born South African business family controversial for their close relationship with South African president Jacob Zuma. They own a business empire spanning computer equipment, media and mining. In 2016 Atul Gupta became the seventh wealthiest person in South Africa with an estimated net worth of R10.7 billion (£599 million).
‘Our main challenge now is to defeat the Guptas and Zuma to claim back our country,’ Vavi said.
The leaked emails show that the Gupta family were in possession of classified military maps and aviation charts. Vavi demanded to know why they had gained unparalleled access to South Africa’s military services. He claimed the Guptas had information created ‘by the army as to where they deploy and where they do not deploy. The Guptas are listening to us now because we are the threat to what they are doing to South Africa.’
Vavi also warned that workers’ unions are far too close to political parties (particularly the ANC) and this shifts focus on workers interests. In the face of brazen poverty and squalid living conditions in the platinum belt, Vavi again made the call that all mines should be taken away from the hands of the few and be nationalised.
‘Going at the back of billions and billions underneath the soil. But also going at the back of poverty, shacks and deprivation of our people and hopelessness in the land that was supposed to give them all and everything that our people would need,’ Vavi added. Meanwhile, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim has told hundreds of union members that nothing to the advancement of the struggling working class should be expected out of the forthcoming ANC Elective Conference in December.
Jim said brazen corruption has robbed the country of a golden opportunity to flourish economically given its rich minerals. He (ANC government president Jacob Zuma) is on side with the Guptas capitalists, and Cyril Ramaphosa (ANC government vice president) is on side with White Monopoly Capital. Nothing about the working class. Cyril Ramaphosa wants to retain the status quo, while the Guptas and Zuma want to continue to loot. And Zuma says you must vote for him!’ Jim said.
Hundreds of workers who attended the rally say corruption and low wages are the main setbacks.
Saftu and Numsa say they are planning a nationwide downing of tools and strike, and will march to the union buildings to call for President Jacob Zuma to go.
Meanwhile, the mining community in the vicinity of Kopanang gold mine is a society on edge. Another mine shutdown is imminent and many thousands will join the unemployment queue. Mongezi has been working at Kopanang gold mine, near the Vaal River on Matlosana municipality’s border with the Free State, for 28 years. He has ten children back home in the Eastern Cape.
When he returned from leave last week he was met with news that he was one of the 4,000 employees who would be laid off when the mine closes shop. He was told he would be unemployed within 60 days. As a 55-year-old breadwinner, whose only work experience is extracting gold from the belly of the earth, he is not hopeful of finding another job.
‘I am too old. They want younger men. For me there is no hope. I will go home and wait for the provident fund to pay out, and maybe if they don’t rob me with deductions, I will buy a house, but the money will be finished.’
Though he estimates that he will get almost half a million rand in provident fund money, he also estimates that about half of that will be deducted either as tax or some other deduction ‘the people in the offices will come up with.’
Mongezi, however, regards himself as slightly better off than other affected workers. He tells of colleagues, also from the Eastern Cape, who have relocated their entire families to an informal settlement near the mine. They won’t have money to return to the Eastern Cape because if they go back all the money will be finished when they get home and they will have nothing to eat until their provident money comes,’ he said.
He said most would probably opt to stay until the provident fund pays out and would likely buy property in one of the nearby townships. According to Mongezi, some of the workers were told the mine had been sold but that the almost 4,000 workers will still lose their jobs.
• The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) has requested a certificate to strike in the engineering sector after negotiations between the management and the workers reached a stalemate. The union expects to get a decision from the sector this coming Saturday, July 15. It said current wage agreements with the employers lapsed at the end of last month. In 2014, Numsa went on strike after talks for ‘a living wage’ and ‘improved working conditions’ in the metal sector deadlocked.
The union believes that its demands are reasonable and accused the employers of refusing to engage meaningfully with its demands for a living wage and improved working conditions. Numsa general secreatry Irvin Jim said: ‘We demand a 15 per cent wage increase across the board based on the actual rate that workers are earning, and not on the minimum rate. Secondly, we demand an extension of the current agreement for two years. In this period all outstanding issues must be finalised.’
He added that the union demanded that the extension of the agreement must include parties such as National Employers Association of South Africa and Plastic Converters Association of South Africa, who fall under the Metal and Engineering Industries Bargaining Council. Numsa said it had a mandate from its 29,000 workers in the sector to negotiate better wages and working conditions for members and their families. The talks also come against the backdrop of the tough economic climate in the country as the economy is hardly growing with the unemployment rate standing at a staggering 27.7 per cent.
• A planned nationwide South African taxi strike has been called off for the time being. Transport Minister Joe Maswanganyi made the announcement on Sunday after meeting with the South African National Council (Santaco) leadership. The strike was scheduled for tomorrow. The meeting was to address the issues the industry is currently facing.
‘We agreed with the industry to put on hold the planned strike‚ to allow for further engagement,’ he said. ‘Both government and Santaco agreed to work together to confront the challenges the taxi industry experiences on a daily basis.’
Last month‚ taxi owners and drivers embarked on a go-slow in protest over access to finance‚ a lack of subsidies for the taxi industry and operating permits. They blocked all of Gauteng’s major highways in a bid to get their message across‚ causing flights from Oliver Tambo International Airport to be delayed. The taxi workers will uphold their threat to bring the country to a standstill this week if its concerns are not addressed.
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