May 19, 2006

Strike calls for job security

Several thousand South African workers took to the streets to protest against unemployment and poverty. After a round of strikes by various members of its federation in the past few weeks, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called a general protest action against the loss of more than 100.000 jobs over the past three years, with the textile and mining sectors bearing the brunt. The country's official unemployment rate is 26.5 percent, but analysts say it is as high as 40 percent. "At a time when we are told the economy is booming, it is disgusting that so many of our citizens are living in abject poverty, primarily because they cannot find work, or have to survive in low-paid, insecure, temporary jobs," said COSATU spokesman Patrick Craven.

The general strike, which followed almost two months of industrial action by security workers, that twice turned violent, is being perceived as more than just labour flexing its muscles against business, but rather a show of strength by left-leaning allies as the succession battle heats up in the ruling African National Congress (ANC). Before, the ANC's other ally, the South African Communist Party, had attacked President Thabo Mbeki in a public document. COSATU and the SACP have chosen to put their support behind ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma. (Rts)

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