COSATU general strike shakes South Africa

By Ashley Fataar, Cape Town

March 12, 2012 – Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- March 7 saw South Africa’s largest protest in several years when more than 200,000 workers took to the streets in 32 towns and cities across the country. More than 1.5 million workers stopped work.

The strike – called by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) to protest against the growing role of labour brokers and the introduction of road tolls -- was prompted by worsening poverty and working conditions in South Africa. There has been a steady decline in the wage share of national income, down from 56% in 1996 to less than 47% today.

The poorest 10% of the population (4.5 million people) shares a mere R1.1 billion (about US$150 million) while the richest 10% of the population shares R381billion (about $51 billion). In terms of income, the bottom 80% of the population accounts for 41% of the household income, whereas the top 10% of the population accounts for 59% of the income. COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi described the situation as one of “economic apartheid”.

Whitey Basson, chief executive of Shoprite (a grocery retail chain), a company that uses labour brokers, earned the highest-ever annual earnings ever recorded in a single year in 2010 – R630 million ($83 million) in salary, perks and share option”. A shop floor worker in the same company would have earned R36,000 ($4800) in the same period.

This unequal distribution of income is further exacerbated by the high unemployment rate which currently stands at 36%. A further 30% of the workforce is subject to casual labour. Almost 1 million workers are employed by labour brokers, with little or no medical aid or pension benefits at all.

In a state hospital, most of the nursing staff are “agency nurses”. They are paid the going rate for the job, but at a considerable additional cost to the hospital, as on top of this, the labour brokers are paid additional fees – most often more than the cost of the wages. On top of this is the effect on the quality of care delivered. As Asanda Fongqo of the Democratic Nurses Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) notes: “It is actually the recycling of the very same nurses, not allowing them sufficient rest — and that has a direct impact in the quality of care.” He adds: “Agencies are exploiting the gross staff shortages in nursing.” The problem is an estimated shortage of at least 46,000 nurses.

The evident support for the March 7 marches showed that the trade union movement was solidly behind the call initiated by COSATU. Only the Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA), citing fear of legal consequences, did not support the protests.

The strike was strongest in manufacturing, with Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Ford and General Motors and associated auto part plants halting production. Goldmining was also affected, with Gold Fields reporting 85% of workers downing tools. Harmony Gold operations also shut down and AngloGold Ashanti management reported that about half of its operations had stopped for the day. Coalmining also took a hit with Anglo American reporting a “significant number of strikers”. Retail group Pick and Pay stores reported that up to 70% if its staff did not turn up for work. The strike also affected transport, education and health services.

Significantly, the independent 210,000-strong public sector union, the PSA, also came out to back the demand by COSATU to ban labour brokers. Until now, the PSA has called for the enforcement and, if necessary, the tightening, of existing laws covering the temporary employment services provided by brokers.

Some Shoprite workers went to work on in casual clothes instead of their uniforms. Most supported in principle the COSATU-called action, but feared losing the little work they had. It is in this atmosphere of fear and desperation that labour brokers thrive. Most labour brokers ignore legal regulations. They do so because they can, in the process providing industry with workers who are not necessarily paid the going rate for the job, and who receive none of the other benefits of employment.

The South African government responded with finance minister Pravin Gordhan firing off a barely veiled threat about the possible relaxation of labour legislation.

The battle lines have clearly been drawn and the skirmishing has begun.
The unions and their allies have a major fight on their hands. And it is not just against labour brokers or road tolling companies; it is against those who create and support the environment that gives rise to brokers and tolls. In short, it is a battle against the African National Congress (ANC) government and the parliamentary opposition.

The one-day general strike cannot be seen as an end in itself, but as the beginning of a sustained campaign of mobilisation, one that must strengthen South Africa’s trade unions beginning at shop-floor level.

[Ashley Fataar is a member of the South African socialist group Keep Left. Sources for information in this article included Terry Bell's blog, the SABC and In Defence of Marxism.]

COSATU (NW) disturbed by government response on labour brokers and e-tolling

March 9, 2012 - The Congress of South African Trade Unions in the North West province is highly disturbed by the government's response after the protest action on labour brokers and e-tolling.

COSATU is specifically disturbed by the comments made minister Collins Chabane when he said e-tolling will continue and government will not ban labour brokers but will review the abusive practices of labour brokers.

As COSATU we want to remind the minister of what we said in Polokwane in 2007:  "It is a process of economic transformation which aims to realise: A thriving and integrated economy, which draws on the creativity and skills that our whole population can offer, building on South Africa's economic endowments to create decent work for all and eliminate poverty.

"The progressive realisation of socio-economic rights, through fair labour practices, social security for the poor, universal access to basic services and ongoing programmes to defeat poverty."

It is against this backdrop that we as COSATU believe that the labour brokers must be banned. Labour brokers are not the actual employers; instead they survive by stealing from the workers and denying them their labour rights.

Employers in this country do not want to employ workers who are not linked to labour brokers because they directly or indirectly benefit from these practises and this is a way of weakening the trade unions and defeating the working class of our country. Again the federation is calling for the banning of the labour brokers not regulation.

On the other note the e-tolling system is daylight robbery from the workers and the poor. It cannot be correct for workers to pay twice for services. Workers pays taxes and these taxes must be used to provide quality services for them, and yet now they are called to pay again from the same taxed low salaries they earn.

It has also been revealed that The Public Investment Corporation - an investment manager for state institutions - has bought R17 billion of Sanral bonds over years for infrastructure development, which means that government employees pay three times for these roads. What is worse, workers and members of this fund were not consulted when this decision was taken.

Government cannot rely on some of the 1.3 million civil servants, who drive to work daily, to pay for infrastructure development. Rather they should find ways to increase the tax base of the rich in order to expand revenue and provide the necessary infrastructure for the country's economy.

We want to also remind the minister that when these projects started we were told that the funds will come from the 2010 World Cup, but now the workers and the poor have to fund them. Where are the 2010 benefits? Who are the primary beneficiaries of the 2010 World Cup if the workers and the poor are now obliged to service the debt they created.

The campaign of COSATU will not be stopped or intimidated by any amount of talk until these e-tolls are removed from our roads and the labour brokers are banned from all companies and our government.

We in the NW want to repeat our statement: COSATU is not using the campaign of banning labour brokers as a campaign towards the ANC national conference and it will never use any of its campaigns against the ANC. COSATU members are ANC members and they will participate in their own branches when they are instructed so by the ANC.

Banning of labour brokers is the policy of the last ANC conference in Polokwane and there was no Mangaung at that time.

For more information contact Solly Phetoe COSATU North West Provincial secretary at 082 304 4055.

Democratic Left Front salutes South african workers

March 7, 2012 -- The Democratic Left Front (DLF) salutes the thousands of workers who came out in today’s general strike against labour brokering and the Gauteng e-tolls. To take forward today’s marches, the DLF calls on workers employed by labour brokers and affected working class communities to occupy, take over, run and produce from operations run by labour brokers as well as other places of employment.

The DLF calls for these to be run as worker-owned and worker-controlled cooperative enterprises that produce, create jobs, pay a living wage and provide decent working conditions. Such worker takeovers are the logical and most effective conclusion of today’s mass marches, and the most effective answer to guarantee the right to work, decent employment conditions and a living wage.

It is not enough to call for the banning of labour brokers as if that will reverse the capitalist exploitation of workers in the workplace. Workers and communities must turn the tables and sustained the offensive launched by today’s successful marches. This is not a pipe-dream as the former workers of the Mineline factory (to the west of Johannesburg) have attempted such a takeover from August last year. We call on COSATU to turn the struggle against labour brokers to worker takeovers of production.

Beyond the delivery of the memoranda of demands to the neo-liberal government led by the ANC as today’s marches did, the DLF also calls for serious attention to be paid to the sustained mobilisation and organisation of precarious workers employed by labour brokers. For its part, working with one of its affiliates, the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers’ Union (CSAAWU), the DLF is contributing to important and nascent work to organise precarious workers in farms and agri-processing factories in Robertson, Rawsonville, Ashton and other commercial farming districts of the Western Cape. In these districts, labour brokers have now become a central feature in the exploitation of thousands of farm workers, many of whom are essentially treated as cheap migrant labour in conditions akin to human trafficking.

The CSAAWU campaign has reached out to a few thousand farm workers and dwellers, and has only just begun to build the confidence of forgotten and marginalised farm workers and dwellers to Speak Out!  and develop the will to force government to Listen to the People! The lessons and experience from the CSAAWU campaign underline the need for sustained organisation of precarious workers.

Today’s action underlines the importance of sustained mass action against anti-worker and anti-poor government policies. The working class energies and aspirations that poured out onto South Africa’s streets are one loud clear statement: government must listen to the people as its neoliberal policies continue to make the rich richer and to impoverish the majority.

As Comrade Vavi said at the march in Johannesburg: “We are defending the living standards of South Africans ... we are fighting shoulder to shoulder with you, comrades, to remind those who forgot the power of the working class”.

For our part, DLF activists and affiliates actively joined the marches following our earlier efforts to mobilise unemployed communities to be part of these marches as part of broader working class solidarity and against the consistent media and DA lies that organised workers benefit at the expense of unemployed workers.

Today’s mass action must not be the end of the struggle and allow a retreat to NEDLAC or Tripartite Alliance boardrooms. As workers know, these engagements have proved useless and tie workers to meaningless lip-service agreements which the bosses, the ANC and government are not committed to. These fora ultimately limit independent and sustained social mobilisation of the working class. These do not lead the working class to build its power, voice and impact so that it can challenge and defeat pro-capitalist policies and the power of capital. Worker takeovers of places of employment provide a more effective tool out of capitalist exploitation of workers.


Matuma Letsoalo, Mail & Guardian, 8 March 2012

The protest action by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wednesday was beyond the narrow issues of labour brokering and the e-tolling system -- it was more about class struggle, its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told thousands of marchers in Johannesburg.

The nationwide march nearly brought the economy to a standstill as thousands of workers heeded the union federation's call to strike -- regarded as the biggest since 1980s.

Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema stole the limelight as the majority of marchers cheered "Juju, Juju, Juju" when he arrived. Although Malema was not initially on the list of speakers, Cosatu leaders were forced to give him the stage to address marchers who impatiently chanted his name.

Accompanied by the youth league's secretary general Sindiso Magaqa, Malema later led workers into song, including his favourite Nomabasedubula siyiya phambele (even if they shoot us we're going forward).

Cosatu's strike was seen more as a political show of strength ahead of the ANC's policy conference in June and the elective conference in Mangaung in December.

While Cosatu played a crucial role in the election of Jacob Zuma as ANC president in 2007, the labour federation has become increasingly frustrated with the ANC's failure to implement Polokwane resolutions, which called for radical policy changes.

Although Cosatu differs with the ANC on policy direction, the federation became much closer to the league over the past few months on policy issues, including the nationalisation of mines and other key sectors of the economy.

Abusive practices

Cosatu supported the youth league's economic freedom march from Johannesburg to Pretoria late last year. The youth league is also pushing for ANC deputy president Kgalema Motlanthe to replace Zuma as president and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to replace Gwede Mantashe as secretary general.

While the ANC and the government are pushing for the amendment of labour laws to ensure stricter regulation to address labour brokers and the prohibition of certain abusive practices, Cosatu and the youth league called for the total ban of labour brokers.

Vavi told workers that leaders of the liberation movement did not struggle so that only the elite could benefit.

"We led the struggle. It cannot be a better life for some ... it should be a better life for all," Vavi said. "[Today] We are reminding those who do not know the powers of the working class."

It was a clear reference to President Zuma and other ANC and government leaders opposed to radical policy changes which Cosatu said would reduce the level of poverty and unemployment.

Vavi criticised the ANC government for pushing ahead with the tolling system against the will of the people.

"We defeated apartheid but our government is introducing apartheid through [the] tolling system. This is our tax. The government tells us there is no money but they spend billions on tenders. There is no adequate transport system in the country. Thirty percent of the population use their own cars and that is me and you, not the elite," said Vavi.

Vavi added that 60% of the population used taxis, but "we know they are moving coffins, like Thabo Mbeki said".

Political freedom

"Instead of improving [the] transport system, they [government] introduce [the] Gautrain which caters for the elite," Vavi said. "We came to fire the first salvo. If they insist we must pay, we are saying to them, just as we defeated apartheid, we will defeat you," sad Vavi.

He said Cosatu was disappointed by the ANC statement released by the party's spokesperson Jackson Mthembu on Tuesday, questioning the motives behind Cosatu's march. "Comrade Jackson says we are exaggerating our poverty. We are saying to the ANC on this issue you are wrong," said Vavi to a loud applause.

Vavi said although the majority of people in the country enjoyed political freedom, they could not say the same in economic terms.

"We have political freedom but economic jewellery is residing somewhere, not with us. South Africa is one of the poorest countries in the world. Our wages are very low. Forty four percent survive on R10 a day. This buys you a loaf of bread a day. Over 50% are below the poverty line and 25% go without food. In many families many men stay in bars to drink all night so that they can't hear the sound of a child dying of hunger. Inequality [in the country] is growing," said Vavi.

The ANC reacted angrily to Vavi's statement that the ANC said Cosatu was exaggerating poverty.

"Cde [comrade] Vavi claims that in a statement released by the ANC on March 6 2012, the ANC said. 'Cosatu is exaggerating poverty of workers in South Africa'."

"At no stage were such sentiments expressed in any ANC statement, nor did any ANC spokesperson, including, Comrade Jackson Mthembu express such sentiments. In the statement the ANC released yesterday, it said ' ... the ANC is of the view that the concerns raised by Cosatu on the negative impact of tolling of roads on people who are earning less is over exaggerated, especially after government intervention on the matter'. The ANC statement issued yesterday is not suggesting or downplaying the level of poverty that besieges our country and ultimately affects the majority of our people including workers, as Cde Vavi's mistakenly seems to suggest," Mthembu added.

"We are currently studying Cde Vavi's statement during the protest action and we will respond to his comments in appropriate forums of engagements with our alliance partners," he said.

Strong turnout

Cosatu appeared to have mustered wide support for its countrywide strike as supermarket group Pick n Pay said over half of its staff did not report for work because of the strike.

"Between 50 to 70% of Pick n Pay staff across all regions did not report to work," said Neal Quirk, operations director of the company.

The South African Clothing and Textile Workers' Unions (Sactwu) claimed around 62% of all clothing, textile, footwear and leather workers around the country took part in the strike.

By its calculation, around 62,000 out of 101,000 employed in that sector heeded Cosatu's call.

Although concerns had been raised about the impact of the march regarding health and education, health departments across the country said they were mostly unaffected.

"The reports we have received are that staff showed up for work across the province," KwaZulu-Natal health spokesperson Chris Maxon said.

Mpumalanga health spokesperson Dumisani Mlangeni said: "We have had some administrative staff not reporting for work, but it is minimal and has no effect on our operations."

Democratic Alliance Gauteng health spokesperson Jack Bloom said he had not had reports of any health facilities being affected, and the Western Cape health department's spokesperson Helen Rossouw said that 29 out of 29,000 employees in that department took part.

National health department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said reports nationally indicated that the situation was normal.

"Health care is an essential service and health care practitioners understand this. Things are running as usual and we have not heard any complaints," he said just before 1pm on Wednesday.


Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said that by early Wednesday afternoon the electricity utility had received no reports of strike affects, but would receive a full update later on Wednesday.

There was a mixed response from the education sector, with most schools in the rural areas and townships of Limpopo affected. Schooling was mostly normal in the Northern Cape.

"Teachers and learners are at schools in most of the districts," the province's education spokesperson Ohentse Stander said.

Provincial education minister for the Western Cape Donald Grant said less than 2% of teachers had participated in the strike there and it seemed no pupils had marched.

In Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, in Cape Town, pupils were told to go home by their teachers, according to news from the South African Broadcast Corporation.

In the Free State's five districts, only schools in Fezile Dabi, in the north, were affected, with 90% of the schools there closed.

In Gauteng, department spokesperson Charles Phahlane said schooling proceeded smoothly in 12 of 15 districts.

"We are still waiting for reports from the other three districts. Our indication is that there were schools in the rural areas and townships that were affected."

He said exam centres also ran smoothly.

Normal procedures

Eastern Cape education department spokesperson Loyiso Pulumani said he had not received a single report of a school closure or disruption.

"I am still waiting for the official report, but it seems like everything proceeded as normal."

Mining company Gold Fields said about 85% of its workforce did not arrive for work on Wednesday. But most workers at Impala Platinum did arrive for work.

The South African National Taxi Council said it would not strike because as registered public transport providers, they would be exempt from the toll fees.

Delays were reported by Airports Company South Africa at King Shaka International Airport in Durban. Metrorail, Metrobus and Interstate warned of possible service disruptions.

The Federation of Unions of South Africa (Fedusa) said it was opposed to tolls, but believed the matter should be settled within the labour market chamber of the National Economic Development and Labour Council.

Fedusa said it was not opposed to labour brokers and said banning them would cause job losses. It preferred tighter labour laws. -- Additional reporting by Sapa.


Alistair Anderson, Natasha Marrian & Sam Mkokeli, Business Day, 8 March 2012

THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) flexed its muscles on Wednesday, forcing a shutdown at companies and mines, and reminding President Jacob Zuma ’s administration that it packs a powerful political punch.

Wednesday’s stayaway, considered a success as thousands took to the streets in South Africa’s major cities, exposed deep tensions between the unions and the African National Congress (ANC).

Cosatu-led workers took to the streets in a campaign to get labour brokers banned and Gauteng’s new freeway tolling system scrapped. Mining, manufacturing and retail were the most affected sectors as workers stayed away.

The South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which represents about 20000 businesses, said the cost of the first major Cosatu action of the year could be as high as R10bn.

Chamber CEO Neren Rau said another strike made the country look too strike-friendly.

"Investors have many countries to choose from. Strikes do not help anyone," Mr Rau said.

Most industries would be able to make up the lost output within a week, economist Mike Schussler said on Wednesday.

Asset manager Vestact’s Sasha Naryshkine said one day of damping the economy would not alarm investors or put any notable strain on the economy.

"The one-day strike’s effects are not the issue. What is important is how the masses’ demands are looked at," he said.

South Africa’s manufacturing and mining sectors were hardest hit by tens of thousands not going to work. However, services — including essential ones — while strained, were not crippled.

Essential services were affected but workers respected minimum service-level agreements. Buses were stalled but taxis continued to operate. Taxis are exempt from paying e-tolls.

Gold Fields spokesman Sven Lunsche said 85% of the company’s workforce had heeded the call for a one-day nationwide strike.

Other miners had limited staff but all would have made provisions months in advance for the day of lost underground production.

Large retailers were reduced to skeleton staff but did not close. Pick n Pay operations director Neal Quirk said 50%-70% of its staff did not go to work on Wednesday. Retailers such as Pick n Pay are among the companies Cosatu accuses of using the services of labour brokers excessively.

Even public schools were closed in some places as teachers took to the streets.

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union president Thobile Ntola defended what he said was the teachers’ right to protest against the unfair toll system, and the trend of creating casual posts for teachers.

The strike had little effect on markets. The JSE rose a minor 0,61% on Wednesday and the rand barely changed.

Sharing the stage with Mr Zuma’s arch-rival and youth league president Julius Malema, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi on Wednesday drew a line in the sand for the ANC-led government.

He warned that the union federation would fight the "economic apartheid" it had introduced by deciding to set up the new tolling system.

He promised to intensify the campaign to get the government to ban labour brokers, and for Gauteng’s new freeway tolls to be scrapped.

This was the first of many initiatives, he said.

In an interview with Business Day on the sidelines of the march in Johannesburg on Wednesday, Mr Vavi said he had lost faith in the Cabinet, after Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan called for labour market reforms.

Mr Gordhan was accused by the ANC’s leftist allies of speaking out of turn the last time he voiced his views on labour laws.

He was then publicly chastised by the whole Cabinet, which promised all future statements on labour would come only from the labour minister.

But in an opinion piece published in Business Day on Wednesday and co-written with Australian Treasurer Wayne Swan, Mr Gordhan said labour reforms would boost South Africa’s employment prospects.

The opinion piece was based on a paper that they prepared and submitted to the Group of 20 finance ministers ahead of their meeting in Mexico last month.

Mr Vavi said on Wednesday: "I can’t respect the Cabinet anymore. Only last year they said they would speak with one voice."

He warned during his address that the 100000-strong protest against labour brokers and the Gauteng e-toll system was just the beginning.

"Comrades, we have come here to fire the first warning shot and in our chamber there are still a lot of bullets," he said, addressing a sea of red T-shirts outside the office of Premier Nomvula Mokonyane in Johannesburg.

He said the e-toll system would lead to workers and the poor being further "excluded" from society, as only those who could afford to would be able to use the 200km of freeway in Gauteng where the new toll system would be in place.

They were already excluded from receiving quality education and healthcare, as they could not afford private education or hospitals, Mr Vavi said.

"We have no space in our wallets, they are milking us dry … there is no place to tighten our belts, the belt is already on the bone," he said. "We defeated apartheid … government has now introduced a new apartheid, an economic apartheid."

Mr Vavi did not mince his words, criticising the government for claiming there was no money to fund the toll plan sprawled across Gauteng freeways, when the state lost R20bn-R30bn a year through fraud.

Speaking a while later from a raised platform on a truck, Mr Malema said he was present to show solidarity with the workers.

He was at pains to take a back seat in the proceedings, saying the youth league leadership present were being led by Mr Vavi.

But the elated crowd was having none of it — they constantly interrupted other speakers, including Mr Vavi, chanting "Juju, Juju".

A song praising Mr Zuma was interrupted with the crowd calling for Mr Malema and gesturing for change, like soccer fans calling for a substitution. Mr Malema called on the leadership of the ANC to "listen to the masses" and said that the protest was by no means anti-ANC or antigovernment.

Government spokesman Jimmy Manyi said the government had done all it could when it allocated R6bn in last month’s budget, to lower the cost to the road user.

The Democratic Alliance, which was uninvited by Cosatu on the evening of the strike, said it remained opposed to e-tolling and that the government could find other means of funding road infrastructure.


Sam Mkokeli, Business Day, 12 March 2012

Tension in the ruling alliance has reached a new high, with African National Congress (ANC) leaders taking offence at a Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) accusation that they had introduced a new form of "economic apartheid" by implementing Gauteng’s new highway tolling system.

Events around last week’s marches against tolling and labour brokers have also exposed deep divisions in the labour federation itself.

The most senior leaders of the ANC — including President Jacob Zuma— are expected to discuss the Cosatu charge at a meeting of the "top six" officials today.

The comments by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi likening the new toll roads to apartheid are at the centre of the tensions in the alliance, and among different unions. ANC spokesman Keith Khoza last night said the officials would certainly discuss the strike, and the seriousness of the comments made. The officials meet every Monday to discuss current issues.

A senior leader of the ANC said the accusation that the party had introduced "economic apartheid" was serious and came as "a shock". Other leaders were understood to be perplexed when they heard Mr Vavi’s criticism. They did not understand why he would criticise them severely on a platform such as last week’s strike provided.

Far from backing down, Mr Vavi stuck to his statement last night and spelt out what he meant by "economic apartheid". He said he was referring to the exclusion of those who could not afford to pay the tolls, and the two-tier system in operation in both education and healthcare where the upper classes enjoyed the best of education in private schools and private clinics or hospitals. He was also referring to the "reality that apartheid-designed geography is still in place".

"Whilst all racially based statutes no longer exist, what remains now is discrimination on the basis of economic status. It is economic status that determines if you can have a telephone, electricity, water, which area you should reside in, etc. That is the economic apartheid."

ANC sources say Mr Vavi fell out with Luthuli House leaders as long ago as early last year. At an official alliance meeting last year, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe even dared Cosatu to walk out of the alliance.

Mr Vavi’s relationship with Mr Zuma is understood to be hostile, with Mr Zuma preferring to deal with Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini. Mr Vavi has been scathing in his criticism of Mr Zuma’s leadership of the ANC and the government. But Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven yesterday said: "It’s not personal."

The divisions in the alliance are expected to worsen in the build-up to the ANC’s Mangaung elections. Mr Vavi is associated with a group opposed to Mr Zuma’s re-election. That Mr Zuma’s arch-enemy, youth league president Julius Malema, was allowed to address the Cosatu-led march in Johannesburg upset ANC leaders. They said it suggested Cosatu was prepared to harbour a man they were firing from the ANC, insiders said.

Mr Dlamini said yesterday it was wrong for Cosatu to allow Mr Malema to speak at the march. That needed to be discussed at the Cosatu leadership’s next meeting. Granting Mr Malema a platform was a "recipe for tensions in the alliance", Mr Dlamini said.

He also differed with the statements made by Mr Vavi — that the ANC had introduced economic apartheid. He said although Cosatu wanted some policy changes, it was happy with the achievements of the ANC.

Mr Vavi and Mr Dlamini do not see eye to eye, union leaders say. The affiliated unions are also divided. The National Union of Metalworkers of SA is understood to back Mr Vavi, and the call for Mr Zuma to be replaced. Mr Dlamini, believed to be close to Mr Zuma, has the support of the National Union of Mineworkers, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate.

Mr Vavi has emerged as a thorn in the side of the ANC. With Mr Malema facing expulsion, there are fears among those who back Mr Zuma that Mr Vavi could become the face of the campaign to install new leaders at Mangaung.

However, his own position in the union federation is not guaranteed. Mr Vavi will be standing for re-election as Cosatu general secretary for a fifth term in September. But his name has also appeared among those the youth league wants elected as the ANC’s top six in December.

Meanwhile, Mr Malema spoke at a youth league gathering in the Free State yesterday despite what he said were attempts by ANC leaders to block him.

Mr Malema said those who said he needed "a permit" to be in Brandfort, where the gathering was, were no different from those who, during apartheid, restricted people’s movements. With Sapa


Sheree Bega, Business Report, 11 March 2012

Kim Coetzee had never done this before. But as she and her husband stood somewhat stiffly, curiously watching the group of energised protesters toyi-toyi and chant Struggle songs, she knew she had to join them.

That’s what she had come to do. After all, it was the prospect of e-tolls, not the Cosatu protesters in front of her, that struck fear in her heart. But where did she get the placards? And what did she do then?

A helpful marshal handed Coetzee a placard that summed up her anger: “Stop e-tolls – highway robbery”.

As she held it up confidently, her uncertainty vanished and her feet pounded the tarmac outside Beyers Naudé Square in sync with the thousands of protesters around her. “I think I’m getting the motion now,” she said. “We’re really enjoying this.”

Soon Coetzee, from Kempton Park, was having her picture taken with grinning Cosatu members.

For the Coetzees, who own a business, e-tolling will be an unacceptable burden to bear.

“We’ve never taken part in anything like this,” said her husband, Craig. “But these tolls affect everybody and it’s about time we said enough is enough.”

The gantries will also strip them of their freedom. “We cannot afford the direct costs of the tolls, the increase in food prices and the effect on our children and lifestyle. But it will also separate us and confine us to our homes. My sister lives… on the West Rand and we won’t be able to visit her.”

Like the Coetzees, Boksburg businessman Eric Bergonzi worries about the effect of tolls on his paint company. That’s what drove him, his wife and father-in-law to the Joburg city centre on Wednesday – by taxi.

“We caught a taxi because we wanted to travel the grass-roots way and be part of the people,” said Byron Haarhoff, who works for Bergonzi. “You must put your footsteps where your mouth is.”

Bergonzi agreed. “You need to love your country and be a part of it. You can’t sit back and complain and not come here and do something. We’re all tired, the way they (the government) push everything through without consultation. We need to stand together.”

Many of Wednesday’s protesters were armed only with a vague idea of what the tolls would cost them. But no matter the price, because Nceba Bolani – who works in Roodepoort and lives in Chiawelo, Soweto, and will ultimately pass through four gantries a day – will not pay.

“I don’t know how much it will cost me. I don’t want to know. Even if it’s R300 or R400, I don’t have the money. I want it to cost me nothing – it’s a national road and I shouldn’t have to pay more. If it means I’m here protesting, forfeiting my salary, or I get sunburnt or am unpopular, so be it.”

Clutching a Louis Vuitton bag, her friend, Khosi Nkosi, watched aghast as a Cosatu striker scraped his body against the ground in a mock military routine.

“Oh my gosh, look at that. I wish I had my camera phone,” said the programme manager at Wits University.

“I’ve never been in a strike before. My mother begged me not to come today. But I’m not registering for these tolls, even if it means I taste prison for the first time in my life. In January, the first thing I told my new boss is that I’m not coming to work today. You need to take a stand for something you believe in.”

That’s what drove Shahieda Moola, 54, a financial director in Sandton, to take part in the protest, even though she won’t be directly affected by the tolls. “People whine but don’t do anything and just hope somebody else will do it for them. Even if we’re not in the front, and lag at the back of the crowd today, in unity is our strength.”

Mayfair resident Fatima Mayet, 26, a business analyst, doesn’t regret the leave day she took to protest against labour broking and e-tolls.

“The most exciting thing was seeing the white faces in the crowd, the minorities standing up. I have three photos on my phone of white people with handwritten posters saying: ‘No tolls’. They weren’t hippies either. I’m going to go back home and show it to people who won’t believe me.”