Vavi slates Ramaphosa over 'slave wages', just good enough for his buffalo

General Secretary of Saftu Zwelinzima Vavi addresses protesters at a march outside Parliament.
General Secretary of Saftu Zwelinzima Vavi addresses protesters at a march outside Parliament.
Lameez Omarjee

Cape Town - General secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Zwelinzima Vavi, has called the national minimum wage a slave wage and challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa and other politicians to try and live on R20 per hour.

Vavi was speaking at a rally outside Parliament on Thursday afternoon. Members of the Western Cape arm of Saftu marched to Parliament where they handed over a memorandum to a representative of Parliament, rejecting the national minimum wage and amendments to labour laws.

In his address to the crowds, Vavi unleashed a verbal attack on Ramaphosa. “These amendments (labour bills) are being pioneered by President Cyril Ramaphosa, they call him a buffalo as if it is a good thing,” said Vavi.

Vavi said that the President should take the proposed rate of R20 per hour and “put it in the backs” of his buffalo. “As workers we say to him and to Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) today -  to hell with all of you and your slavery wages. We are here to demand a living wage.”

“Why not take R20 [an hour] for yourselves just for one month and see if you can afford the Dogmor (dog food) for your dogs. They have medical aid for their dogs. [They must] see if they can afford medical aid for their cats and their dogs,” Vavi said.

“Every member of Parliament that thinks it’s okay to give workers R11, why don’t you try it on your children? If it is not okay for your child, if it is not okay for you -  why do you want to impose it on black workers? What happened to your conscience?”

Vavi asked how R20 per hour could be associated with the concept of a “better life for all” or radical economic transformation.

R20 not enough for a McDonalds burger

Vavi also took aim at Ramaphosa’s millionaire status, which he achieved when he left politics and pursued a business career. Vavi illustrated that the minimum wage is not enough for a McDonalds burger. Ramaphosa sold McDonalds South Africa when he took on the role as deputy president in 2016.

Saftu wants Parliament to respond positively to its demands before April 25 and threatened to make the country ungovernable.

“We want to give them a warning - we are going to resist. We are going to fight back," Vavi said. 

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