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Tens of Thousands of Marchers Gather Against Privatization in South Africa

1 October 2002

Tens of thousands of unionists belonging to South Africa's largest labor federation were marching against the government's economic policies, which it blamed for job losses in the country.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), with its claimed 1.7 million-strong membership is mounting a two-day strike, with mass marches Tuesday and a stayaway on Wednesday, which it hoped would influence government to put a moratorium on privatization.

In Johannesburg, police estimated some 25,000 COSATU members marched through the city to two parastatals, electricity supplier Eskom and rail utility Spoornet.

The African National Congress-led government wants to sell at least parts of these assets, a move criticized by COSATU and the South African Communist Party (SACP), alliance partners of the ANC, which said it would cause the further loss of jobs.

Watched by a contingent of police, which included at least two armored cars, the protesters - many dressed in red union T-shirts - gathered at Beyers Naude Square, in the city center.

They carried placards and banners saying: "Privatized services won't serve the poor" and "Away with the maize meal high prices".

One of the protestors said she was angry because she had not seen any change since democratic elections in 1994.

"There's no food, no money, no jobs, nothing," unionist Poppie Mhlambe told AFP.

"It's the government's fault. I voted for the ANC before but I will never vote for them again," she said.

In the capital Pretoria, some 2,000 COSATU members marched to hand a memorandum to Reserve bank governor Tito Mboweni, while in Cape Town, the same number were converging on parliament.

Published by Agence France Presse
© 2002 AFP

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