12 October 2012
President Jacob Zuma has spoken out against the violence that has characterised recent industrial action in the country, saying that striking workers should use existing channels to address their grievances within the law, and that violence could not be tolerated.
Speaking at at a Black Business Council breakfast hosted by the New Age newspaper and the SABC in Midrand, Johannesburg on Thursday, Zuma said the government could not allow the recent wildcat strikes in the mining sector to push South Africa to a “crisis point”.
He warned against a culture of violence during strikes. Several people were reportedly killed this week as a two-week long mass action by truck drivers intensified. Doctors in Cape Town were forced to switch off life support of a man who suffered brain damage after being hit by a rock while driving in a truck.
“Violence should be condemned. We have mechanisms that allow people to engage on labour issues … Some of those trucks that were torched and destroyed actually belonged to small business,” Zuma said.
The President acknowledged that the protracted industrial action in mining had delivered a hard blow to South Africa’s economy. The Treasury has put the estimated total rand production lost as a result of the strikes in platinum and gold mining sectors at R4.5-billion. Up to R118-million was lost in coal.
But despite the figures, Zuma said investor confidence in South Africa remained unaffected.
“Our economic data does not indicate a significant drop in business confidence yet since the strike and the global economic decline, but our responsibility is to ensure that we do not reach a crisis point.”
‘Right to strike does not override other rights’
Meanwhile, the Cabinet has also expressed concern over the recent spate of lawlessness, violence and intimidation that it says has continued to mar the democratic right of workers to strike.
“It is a fact that as a democracy, the right to strike is a defined right in South Africa that obligates the strikers to observe that they cannot encroach on other people’s rights as they enjoy theirs,” Acting Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Minister Richard Baloyi said at a post-Cabinet briefing in Pretoria on Thursday.
The Cabinet warned that violence and lawlessness would not be tolerated.
“No one should be intimidated to take or not take and industrial action in a democracy,” the minister said, adding that no one should resort to any form of violence against people or property as a form of striking or protest.
Baloyi said existing channels had to be used and that the law had to prevail, adding that the struggle for freedom and democracy ensured that the laws provided space for protected peaceful strikes.
He called on the striking workers to use existing channels with unions to address grievances and wage negotiations in a manner that was within the law.
“It is, among others, these illegal strike actions and the accompanying violence that is not helping the country’s image internationally and is contributing to the already existing challenges facing our economy and society,” Baloyi said.