Home / Observatory / News / Video: Nationwide Saftu Strike Turns Violent Blocking Ambulances From Hospitals


While the Saftu strike has still put a halt to many South African's transport routes, there are a number of allegedly unrelated strikes going on across the country. Yesterday, the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) mobilised a nationwide protest over the national minimum wage of R20 per hour. Saftu was formed after a separation from the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and included the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), which one of the unions leading the bus strike.

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of Saftu said that, "If they do not listen to us, we will bring the taxis, the buses and trains and stay in town until our rights are recognised. We will sit in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth until the sell-outs of the revolution fall. We are now going to demonstrate the power of the workers. We are going to occupy Rissik street until we are satisfied. Whoever says farm workers must accept R18 her hour, to those who say mothers raising their children must accept R15, we say it is crap. There has to be a new revolution in our country. The 24 years of our country have meant nothing to us, they have been hell to us." They are up in arms about the high wages of business owners and the president himself, who is prepared to set a seemingly unreasonably low minimum wage, workers threatened to shut down the economy if the government does not comply. It is understood that the protests are also related to a shortage of housing, job creation and poverty.

Officials in the Grabouw area have been on high alert following protesters burning tyres on the road and stoning passing cars. The N2 highway between Botriver and Gordons Bay was closed in both directions. Theewaterskloof municipal manager Gerrit Matthyse said the unrest in Grabouw was not related to municipal service delivery but was part of the action by Saftu.

Activists also marched to the Cape Town Civic Centre and Parliament opposing steep tariff increases in the City of Cape Town’s draft budget on a separate matter to oppose the increasing water charges. The Water Crisis Coalition has put together a petition with over 3,500 signatures while over 1,000 people marched to the civic centre holding signs that read: “No to Privatisation of Water” and “Reject High Water Bills”. The protesters demanded that the government put an end to the privatisation of water and services, stopping the installation of water management devices and reducing level 6B water tariffs. Shaheed Mahomed from the Water Crisis Coalition said: “We reject the budget completely… it’s unreasonable, unfair and unjust.” The Water Crisis Coalition group joined the Saftu march towards the Civic Centre and Parliament.

Tshepong Hospital in the North West was sent into chaos as ambulances were unable to get past protesters. Professor Ebrahim Variyava‚ a doctor at the hospital, said: “We are really concerned that our patients who are in ICU‚ in the various wards‚ are not going to be seen by clinicians – and I am uncertain about how many nurses there still are because the nurses would have been on from last night.” It was unknown as to whether the strike was due to the ongoing health worker’s strike in the province or calls for a shutdown by Saftu.

Social media was flooded with images and video of shops being looted and destroyed in Klerksdorp and the surrounding areas. Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone confirmed that "sporadic incidents" of looting had been experienced in Khuma, near Klerksdorp, and Ikageng near Potchefstroom on Tuesday evening and said that a truck carrying fruit and vegetables was also looted in Dryharts. Mokgwabone said: "We still have our deployments to monitor and stabilise the situation. We are still urging members of the community to refrain from committing crime under the pretext of protest, as that will not be tolerated."

The Johannesburg Metro Police Department had warned motorists that there would be road closures in the Johannesburg CBD between 10:00 and 14:00 on Wednesday, but roads were also blocked in other parts of Johannesburg following seemingly unrelated protests. Gauteng police spokesperson, Brigadier Mathapelo Peters, said the separate protests involved residents demanding municipal services protesting against the councillor of Ward 81 in Alexandra, north of Johannesburg. Protesters marched to the entrance of the Mall of Africa in Midrand but were denied access to the mall by security. Peters explained: "The group, purported to be the Midrand Local Economic Empowerment group, planned to hand over a memorandum demanding economic inclusion and empowerment in the local economy."

A group also gathered at the Value Centre in Zandspruit to protest over minimum wages however, police confirmed that the group was not related to Saftu and was only a small crowd that gathered to sing and dance peacefully.

It is unknown how long these protests will continue but police have urged motorists to stay cautious and avoid roads were protesters are marching.

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