Deputy president talks up government-labour venture to hasten economic growth
The wave of violent protests engulfing Tshwane would not dampen already vulnerable investor confidence, Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa said this week.
The protests – which have been associated with fatal shootings, lootings, barricaded roads and burning buses – come with a report, released earlier this month by the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry, stating that local business confidence had hit its lowest level since 1993.
Ramaphosa was speaking at a media briefing on Tuesday, after President Jacob Zuma and some of his Cabinet ministers met with leaders of the three major trade unions, Cosatu, Fedusa and Nactu.
He said government did not want people to resort to violence.
“We are deeply concerned about the destruction of property ... We condemn violent attacks in the strongest terms. People need to stay calm and desist from violence. There is a clear message: South Africa does not tolerate violence,” he said.
The unrest in the Tshwane metro coincided with the ANC’s decision to select Thoko Didiza as its mayoral candidate for the August 3 municipal elections. Didiza is a former Cabinet minister and a current branch executive member in Pretoria east. Yet, because of her low profile, she is viewed as an outsider by disgruntled ANC members in the area.
Ramaphosa expressed disquiet at what he referred to as the “tribalistic” undertones of the upheaval.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said the ruckus could have a direct effect on the economy. Workers in particular could not get to their jobs amid such a disturbance.
“Labour calls for the end to violence and for people to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully,” Dlamini said.
Fedusa general secretary Dennis George said acts of violence took away from democracy and called on the police to take swift action against perpetrators.
These events will heighten fears among the business community that, should there be disaffected parties following the results of the polls, there might be a recurrence of unrest.
On the other hand, Ramaphosa said he expected things to quieten down between now and the municipal elections, stressing that they would go ahead as planned.
Turning to the presidential labour working group meeting, the deputy president said issues that had been addressed included the government’s nine-point plan and the national minimum wage.
Government was taking account of the need to address economic challenges, Ramaphosa said.
“The unions talked about the need to create more jobs. Labour came up with a number of proposals in this regard. The social system needs to lighten the burden on working people,” he added.
A recent precedent that showed the successful outcome of working together was the March visit to New York and London by union representatives, government officials and business executives to investors there, putting across the country’s position and, in so doing, avoiding South Africa’s credit rating being downgraded, Ramaphosa said. “The meeting agreed on a need to monitor the implementation of policies, including monitoring the implementation of labour market policies and their impact on the economy, and taking measures to improve enforcement, thus protecting vulnerable workers,” Ramaphosa said. At the meeting, a 10member committee was formed, comprising four government representatives and two each from the three unions.
Ramaphosa said there had also been a call by labour for a jobs summit.
Cosatu’s Dlamini said that the last time a jobs summit was held was 13 years ago, in 2003. Out of that “came a lot of policy injunctions”, he said.
Nactu president Joseph Maqhekeni said that, before 2003, the previous jobs summit was in 1998.
“We do not want a talk shop. A job summit has to have results,” he said.
Fedusa’s George said that there was a need for a new wage policy. He cited a new survey claiming that the income split between companies and workers had seen workers’ proportion of income drop by 5% and the companies’ share rise by 5%.
George added his support for a jobs summit, saying: “We need to find creative solutions.”
Ramaphosa said the government had agreed to the proposed jobs summit and it would be arranged by the new committee.