25/04/2018 05:53 SAST | Updated 25/04/2018 06:34 SAST

Will Saftu 'Bring SA to A Standstill'? What You Need To Know About Wednesday's Strike

"This is a fight about the life and death of trade unionism itself in the country."

Zwelinzima Vavi.
John Wessels via Getty Images
Zwelinzima Vavi.

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) plans to bring the country to a standstill on Wednesday, as it calls a national general strike to protest against the proposed national minimum wage of R20 per hour and changes to the labour law.

According to Eyewitness News (EWN), protest marches will take place in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Durban and Polokwane. Pickets are also planned in East London and Queenstown.

The National Minimum Wage was expected to be implemented on May 1, but the three bills that give effect to it are still in the parliamentary pipeline, EWN reported.

Saftu was formed by the National Union of Metalworkers South Africa (Numsa), which broke away from Cosatu.

Saftu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi reportedly said: "This is a fight about the life and death of trade unionism itself in the country."

According to the Mail & Guardian, Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act allows workers to participate in a general strike to promote their social and economic interests. All workers, regardless of whether they are affiliated to Saftu or not, are allowed to join Wednesday's strike, which is taking place under this section, under the "no work, no pay principle" without the danger of being fired from their jobs.

Saftu acting spokesperson Patrick Craven told TimesLive that all workers were protected from participating in the strike. He said no one would be threatened or intimidated into joining, and that it was a voluntary decision to join in.

Messages doing the rounds warning people to stay indoors and keep their children away from school were simply malicious, he reportedly said.

"These are obviously malicious messages by people who are opposed to what we are doing. There is absolutely no reason for anyone not to leave home tomorrow or to live their normal life. There will be no intimidation‚ no threats. It is a voluntary decision that people have to make [to join the strike]. We are sure that they will. It will be a peaceful‚ orderly demonstration in all the big cities. People have nothing to fear and we hope that many of them will join in the strike.

"We want to stress that all workers are protected from any kind of disciplinary action because this is a strike which has been given a Section 77 Notice‚ which means that all workers can go on strike without fear of any consequences," he reportedly said.

Saftu expects all sectors to be affected by the strike, but especially manufacturing, where the union federation has had the biggest response. Saftu is hoping that the public sector unions will join the strike too.

While Saftu has called on all workers to join in the strike, schools and buses are not likely to be affected, News24 reported. Department of education spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga told News24 that the Saftu-affiliated unions were not in the basic education sector, and that the main teachers' unions would not be participating. The biggest teachers' union, the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu), has reportedly distanced itself from the strike.

Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) spokesperson Nana Zenani said trains were expected to keep operating across the country. Metrorail in the Western Cape also reportedly said there was no indication that Prasa-affiliated trade unions would join the strike in sympathy.

Craven told News24 that the strike would be peaceful.

"There will be absolutely no danger," he reportedly said, and said people should ignore hoax messages warning that there would be chaos.

According to eNCA, the meeting points and affected routes for Wednesday's marches are:

In Johannesburg:

Marchers will meet at the Newtown Precinct Park and march to the department of labour, the provincial department of health and the premier's office.

In Cape Town:

Marchers will meet at Keizersgracht and march to the City of Cape Town offices and Parliament.

In the Eastern Cape:

The meeting point in Port Elizabeth is the Vusi Dlamini Square and marchers will move to the Centenary Hall. In East London, marchers will move to the department of labour while in Queenstown, the march will take place outside the department of labour.

In Bloemfontein:

Marchers will assemble at Batho Hall and move to the department of labour.

In Limpopo:

The assembly point is the SABC Park and the march will go to the department of labour and social development.

In Durban:

The march will begin at Botha's Place and head towards the Durban City Hall, the departments of labour and economic development, as well as the Premier's and Mayor's offices.