The generally ineffective strike called for by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) last week has pitted the two-million-strong union body against its former secretary general, Mbazima Shilowa.
He took Cosatu to task for the issues on which it based a need for the strike – to let government know that workers are fed up. This included a call for funds for Transnet to get it functioning again. The union body is part of the governing tripartite, along with the African National Congress (ANC) and SA Communist Party.
“If you want to take a stand, you must include the entire population of South Africa and not just your membership. You must take the whole nation along with you as they are affected by the results of decisions taken by the authorities regarding parastatals such as Transnet, the Post Office, Prasa and Metrorail. If you want to go on strike make it massive amongst the people affected by rising transport and food costs.
If you are going to have a strike of the nature they wanted, all people must be absorbed into protesting transport and then the government will take you seriously. But more importantly, offer not just a strike but indicate how you, as Cosatu, will play your part to put things right,” he said.
Responding to Shilowa’s views, spokesperson for Cosatu, Mathew Parks, said his attitude did not make sense. Its issues were all around things affecting its membership and impacted the population in general.
“I am surprised that Shilowa, who has been a promoter of workers’ constitutional rights, takes exception to our actions which were aimed at securing greater workers’ rights and security of jobs,” he said.
On the issue of Transnet, he said that Transnet was key to moving product and commuters in the country, which affected all sectors, including business and exports, so getting it right would be beneficial to all.