As I type this blog, South Africa’s public sector strike is in its third week. I can’t say that I’m surprised. What does surprise me though is the level of intimidation, violence and blatant criminality that has characterized this year’s stay away.
South Africa’s Strike Season
It is a well known fact that South Africa has a strike season. That’s right, you heard me: a strike “season” -just as we have winter, spring, summer and autumn – so too, do we have the public sector strike! The last five years of this debacle has seen government almost doubling its spend on public sector wages.
The Reason For This Year’s Strike
So what’s this year’s gripe about? Well, public servants want an increase of 8.5% (double that of the rate of inflation) and government is offering 7%. I also read recently, that the government has upped its offer to 7.5% but this has been rejected by the Congress of South African Trade Unions.
So that’s the official version. Here’s the truth: the real reason for all the toy toying is the resentment of the political elite and endemic corruption that has never been addressed. As the New York Times reports,
Cosatu contends that senior politicians in the A.N.C. are chasing what Cosatu this week called “a caviar lifestyle” while expecting workers to scrimp. The symbolism of ministers driving BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes at public expense has proved particularly toxic.
Decisive Action from Government
One on hand, trade unions and public servants have not played the game correctly. The death of innocent babies and terminal patients is unforgivable. Strike action is a constitutional right in our society, but we all have the responsibility to do so peacefully. On the other hand, our government is failing in its duty to deal decisively with unemployment and corruption. How do you explain to unemployed youth that its leader drives Range Rovers and wear Breitlings when they don’t know where their next meal is coming from? How do you explain to public servants who earn less than R5,000 after taxes that their ministers have spent million wining and dining loved ones in luxury hotels at their expense?
Pravin Gordhan said that our economy has to grow to 7% for the next 20 years if South Africans are going to see any real changes to their lives.
Enough is enough. We need to stop this madness and get to work.