Protesters out in numbers for strike

2012-03-07 18:14
Johannesburg - Protesters came out in their numbers across the country in a Cosatu-led strike on Wednesday to demand e-tolling and labour brokers be scrapped.

The protest resulted in flights being delayed in Durban, shops in Johannesburg closing, absentee street traders in some city centres, a reduction in rail services in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal, and the temporary suspension of train services on the East Rand's Leralla Line.

The service was suspended after "worrying" reports of assault and intimidation in the Leralla corridor and Kaalfontein areas, Metrorail said.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions said protests took place in 32 areas across the country.

There were no reports of serious injury or deaths but riot police kept watch over the swelling crowds.

Peaceful protests

National police spokesperson Vish Naidoo, said there had been no reports of violence and protests throughout the country had been peaceful.

There had, however, been some claims of intimidation but these were not officially reported to police.

The major event took place in Johannesburg, the country's economic hub, where marshals battled to contain a crowd which stretched along six blocks, when embattled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema arrived.

Malema said the ruling African National Congress must listen to the masses while Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said some government leaders had forgotten their roots.

"Today we are here to remind some fellows where they are coming from. They don't know anymore the power of the working-class," Vavi said.

"This is not a march. This is an occupation of the City of Johannesburg by the workers."

Crowds in several city centres wore bright red and yellow attire, sang, danced, and waved placards bearing messages against labour brokers and electronic tolling on Gauteng's highways.

Mathale booed

In Polokwane in Limpopo, a downpour resulted in some protesters seeking shelter under shop awnings. Others were not deterred by the chill and drizzle and continued chanting and blowing their vuvuzelas.

Cosatu supporters refused to be addressed by a Limpopo ANC representative, calling him a friend of Malema.

They said they would not be spoken to by "the ANC of [Premier Cassel] Mathale, and Malema, who are thieves".

In Cape Town, the strike got underway at 11:00 and marchers reached Parliament before noon.

The area in front of the historic building was cordoned off with police tape to prevent the crowd from nearing the gates.

Durban strike starts late

Undeterred, protesters took off their hats to sing the national anthem while putting their fists in the air and flying the Cosatu flag.

In Durban, the strike also started an hour after the scheduled time. A line of riot police preceded the march, along with a water cannon and Nyala riot vehicle.

At various intersections along the route marchers would sit for a few moments before getting back up and joining the crowds again.

Protesters wanted labour brokers banned and were opposed to the imminent tolling of some Gauteng roads. With effect from April 30, motorcycles with e-tags will pay 20c/km and those without, 38c.

Light motor vehicles will pay 30c and 58c respectively, and non-articulated trucks 75c and R1.45.

Articulated trucks with e-tags will pay R1.51/km, and those without R2.90. Under the new fee system, the cost for motorcycles and light vehicles will be capped at R550 a month.

- Were you there? Send us your eyewitness accounts
Read more on:    cosatu  |  strikes  |  protests

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