Cosatu claims success

2012-03-07 22:38

Johannesburg - Wednesday's nationwide protest for the scrapping of e-tolls and labour brokers was a "resounding success", Cosatu has claimed.

"The protest was a brilliant success and it far exceeded our estimates," said Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) spokesperson Patrick Craven.

"It showed the overwhelming support for the demands we were making."

Plans for a secondary strike would now depend on the government's response to memoranda. Cosatu expected a response within seven days.

Craven said protester turnout was impressive, not only in the economic hub of Johannesburg, but also in smaller areas across the country.

Downtown Johannesburg, where the major event took place, had been brought to a standstill, said Craven.

Protesters handed a memorandum to Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane outside her office.

Her spokesperson Xoli Mngambi said: "The premier is currently studying the contents of the memorandum and a decision will be taken at an appropriate point as to what to do."

The protest resulted in flights being delayed in Durban, shops in central 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 Leralla line, on the East Rand.

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

Protests took place in 32 areas across the country. There were no reports of serious injuries or deaths, but riot police kept watch over the swelling crowds.

National police spokesperson Colonel 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.

Forgotten their roots

Earlier, marshals battled to contain a Johannesburg crowd, which stretched six blocks, when embattled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema arrived.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said at the protest in Johannesburg that 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," he said.

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.

In Polokwane, 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.

Bloemfontein's march was without incident and protesters were told roads should be the government's responsibility.

In Cape Town, the strike got underway at 11:00 with protesters stretched across two blocks in blistering heat.

People took shelter under trees, while others sang and danced in the street, carrying knobkerries.

The marchers reached Parliament before noon. Protesters took off their hats to sing the national anthem while raising their fists and flying the Cosatu flag.

Back to normal

In Durban, the strike started an hour after the scheduled time. A line of riot police preceded the march, along with a water cannon and a police Nyala vehicle. At various intersections along the route marchers sat for a few moments before getting back up.

Health departments across the country remained unaffected by the strike.

"Things are running as usual and we have not heard any complaints," national health department spokesperson Fidel Hadebe said.

Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe said the electricity utility had received no reports of being affected by the strike, but would receive a full update later.

Mixed reports came from schools. Some were affected by the protest and others were not.

Mining company Gold Fields said about 85% of its workforce did not arrive for work on Wednesday. However, most workers at Impala Platinum showed up, following their protracted strike at the company's mine near Rustenburg.

The SABC reported that traffic at South Africa's border with Zimbabwe was building up as customs and other border officials joined the Cosatu protest in Musina.

By 16:00, protesters in some parts of the country had begun dispersing.

The tolling of some Gauteng roads is expected to start on April 30.

Read more on:    patrick craven  |  nomvula mokonyane  |  julius malema  |  zwelinzima vavi  |  tolls  |  protests  |  strikes

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