23 May 2013
Trade union leaders should engage with their members to avert unnecessary labour action, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday, adding that illegal or “wildcat” strikes were no way to advance the interests of marginalised South Africans.
Addressing the National House of Traditional Leaders in Cape Town, Zuma, himself once a trade unionist, said workers were free to ask for higher salaries, but were not free in the process of asking for better wages to undermine the economy.
“If we say we need more jobs … and in the process those that are working are engaged in strikes that cause some of either the mines or factories to close, it’s a contradiction,” he said, adding that the role of trade unions was to protect workers, not to contribute to job losses.
“We could impoverish our country without realising, when we think we are trying to correct the situation.”
He said such was the tension in the market at present that recently when traders at the JSE heard about police shooting at strikers, they immediately began selling off the rand, when in the end it materialised that the police were in fact using rubber bullets.
Turning to the National Development Plan (NDP), Zuma said the vision encapsulated in the plan called on all South Africans to help fulfill the vision.
Traditional leaders had a vital role to play by working with the government to create strong institutions and to help tackle the various challenges that faced South Africa, particularly in developing rural areas.
Zuma also called for closer co-operation between traditional leaders and local councillors, pointing out that this could help unlock the potential of rural development.
“You are put there to help the people, whether by birth or by election. There is not a single one is better or more important than the other,” he said.
Before his speech, Zuma took copious notes as traditional leaders related several problems that those living in traditional areas continue to face, including poverty and unemployment, deaths during initiation ceremonies, and a decline in moral values.
Zuma said the government had an initiation programme that community members could use, adding that the government would continue to root out rogue initiation schools.
Senior traditional leaders should be present all the time during initiation ceremonies, he said, adding that if the initiation ceremony was not conducted properly, the risk was that it would draw further criticism of the custom itself.