JOHANNESBURG, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) -- Thousands of South African workers across the country took to the streets Wednesday to protest the rising cost of living.
With calls from the country's two leading union groupings, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU), workers marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where President Cyril Ramphosa's official offices are located.
The SAFTU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told Xinhua that they want the government to tame unemployment, inequality and poverty.
"We want the government to address corruption and neo-liberation policies. We are fighting capitalism and demand that the government changes the structure of the economy which is widening the gap between the rich and the poor. We are facing high food and oil prices," said Vavi on the sidelines of the march in Pretoria.
The taxi industry ignored the call for a national shutdown and continued ferrying passengers. Some shops were open in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Some of the shops owned by foreigners were closed, fearing that protestors might loot their shops. Many who declined to give names from Bangladesh and Pakistan were serving customers through the burglar bars.
The government should find the right formula urgently to stimulate the economy and address the challenges facing the workers and the South African society, said Vavi.
Vavi suggested the government should address underfunded health and education, and improve service delivery and work to ensure that the police are well-equipped to combat crime and make sure people feel safe.
The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) issued a statement, saying they will implement "no work no pay" on the government employees who took part in the shutdown.
"The principle of no work no pay will apply for absence for a full day as well as part of a working day. In addition, leave will be strictly managed, and no leave will be granted unless under extreme and compelling situations. Government is committed to improving productivity in the public service while prioritizing the fight against poverty, unemployment and improved service delivery," it said.
Economists have said the country is facing internal and external challenges, citing erratic electricity supply, policy uncertainty and the COVID-19 pandemic. The global economic factors like rising oil prices have resulted in the increase in fuel and food prices exacerbated by the disruption in global supply chains. ■