JZ sends stern warning to protesters

2009-09-14 07:09

PRESIDENT Jacob Zuma has lashed out at municipal workers and soldiers, saying their actions during the recent protests were irresponsible.

Zuma was speaking at the 14th ­National Economic Development and Labour Council annual summit in Boksburg, Ekurhuleni, yesterday.

He said the South African National Defence Force’s recent violent march, which occurred at the Union Buildings – the most important national keypoint in the country – had undermined security.

“The behaviour of the municipal workers and others, including most recently the actions of members of the South African (National) Defence Force, have clearly pointed to lack of responsibility when exercising one’s right to strike and protest,” he said.

Zuma said the issue of soldiers having rights to strike needed to be debated. He said social dialogue was the long-term solution for people to express their dissatisfaction publicly.

“If we do not do this (engage in dialogue), we may find ourselves tolerating lawlessness in our country.”

Zuma said the recent labour ­protests called for both workers and employers to change their methods of engagement. But his utterances could put him on a collision course with trade unions, who believe that ­soldiers also have bargaining rights.

The president also said the fact that more than 13?million South Africans received social grants was not cause for celebration. “We cannot have such a huge population that depends on grants. It tells that something is wrong. We must understand that it is a temporary measure.”

Turning to the efficiency of state programmes, Zuma said the government had to be able to pick up shortcomings while they were running, not two years later when these were identified by the ­auditor-general.

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