‘Covid crooks must face murder, attempted murder charges’

Bay union leaders call for action on PPE corruption, jobs crisis, lack of wage increases during one-day national strike

FED UP: These workers, expressing their grievances outside the Port Elizabeth City Hall, were among those who joined the national one-day strike action on Wednesday
Image: WERNER HILLS

Those implicated in Covid-19 corruption should also face murder and attempted murder charges as thousands of people have died from coronavirus complications.

This was the call made by union leaders in Nelson Mandela Bay during the national one-day strike on Wednesday.

Workers’ federations Cosatu, Saftu, Nactu and Fedusa put aside their differences and marched in Port Elizabeth, with about 1,000 workers demanding an end to corruption and the continuing jobs bloodbath.

Workers marched from the showground in North End to the Port Elizabeth City Hall to protest against corruption, the failing economy, gender-based violence, and the government’s non-implementation of  the 2020 wage hikes for public servants.

Giving the keynote address, Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said Wednesday’s march was about the super exploitation of workers at the hands of the very same government they voted for.

“We know front-line workers have died in numbers because corrupt thugs who have been stealing PPE money are filling their bellies beyond the explanation of science while our children are dying from poverty while theirs are dying from overeating,” he said.

“This is the crisis we’re facing.

“We’re saying those who were found stealing money that was meant for PPE to protect front-line workers — our nurses, doctors, including teachers, police and soldiers — must not only be charged with corruption but be charged with attempted murder and murder.”

Highlighting gender-based violence, which was also a key reason for the strike, Tshabalala said shop stewards should drive that cause.

“Abuse of women and children starts at home and therefore we must be cadres of this movement,” he said.

Workers demanded:

  • That action be taken against corruption;
  • Drastic action be taken to address SA’s massive unemployment increase;
  • A wage increase in the public service;
  • What they say is a new economy;
  • A living minimum wage of not less than R12,500;
  • The cutting of salaries and bonuses of bosses;
  • Increased action against GBV;
  • A halt on retrenchments; and
  • Critical posts to be filled, among others.

At the City Hall, the workers’ memorandum was accepted by ANC councillor Ncediso Captain on behalf of council speaker Bulelwa Mafaya’s office.

Lining Govan Mbeki in red T-shirts, the workers braved the scorching heat, singing struggle songs before stopping at the ANC regional headquarters, Florence Matomela House, and expressing their unhappiness with the current status quo.

Addressing workers at Vuyisile Mini Square, SACP district secretary Lunga Nombexeza also highlighted the looting of PPE funds.

“It can’t be that as workers we’re found wanting, fighting for money yet medical aid, ministers’ salaries continue increasing.

“We can’t justify what the government does which negatively affects the working class.

“We must defend the workers.

“Retrenching workers is not an attack on workers only but on their families as well because school fees and transport keep going up,” Nombexeza said.

Saftu provincial secretary Mziyanda Twani said workers proved that they could unite against the state and capital.

“This is history in the making.

“What we’re building today is for future programmes.

“Our exploitation is one and the same.

“Those influencing the state are capitalists and we need to take them out,” he said.

Twani announced that Saftu would have its own national day of action and called on Cosatu to support it just as it they did on Wednesday.

Similar marches were held around the country, with Saftu leader Zwelinzima Vavi saying not increasing workers’ salaries for four years was a declaration of war.

BY NOMAZIMA NKOSI

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