Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi says the chaotic scenes on Sunday at the federation’s Workers’ Day rally in Rustenburg, which forced President Cyril Ramaphosa to abandon his keynote address, were always likely to happen.
Losi says the refusal by angry workers to listen to Ramaphosa’s speech, was “inevitable” because Cosatu had previously warned the ANC about workers who are getting tired of the governing party’s failed promises.
“We would always remind the ANC that workers are getting tired. When we went for the local government elections [last November], we warned the ANC.
“We said workers are fed up, workers are getting tired of the promises that are made but [with] no delivery,” she said in an interview with Newzroom Afrika.
Losi was speaking shortly after angry workers prevented Ramaphosa from delivering his address at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.
The president was whisked away from the event by police and his security team after angry National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members, who are believed to be part of striking mineworkers at Sibanye-Stillwater, stormed the main stage in protest.
The workers clashed with police and refused to listen to Ramaphosa after he failed twice to calm the situation.
They accused the president of not caring about the plight of the poor and working class following their demands for government to intervene to end the protracted strike at the gold mine.
Since the first week of March, members of NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) have been striking at Sibanye-Stillwater, demanding an increase of R1,000 a month. The miner is offering R850 each year for three years.
‘Workers don’t forget’
Losi said she fully understood why the workers disrupted the president from delivering his speech, adding that they should not be sanctioned for their behaviour.
“I understand exactly what workers are going through. As the president of Cosatu, I’m not employed by the federation. I have my own workplace where I understand the day-to-day challenges workers are faced with.
“So, we are not bourgeoisie as we sit here as leaders of trade unions. We have workplaces where we also understand the challenges that workers are faced with,” she said.
Going back to the drawing board
Losi said what happened on Sunday called on Cosatu and its leaders to go back to the drawing board to understand why workers were angry with government.
“What we saw today is inevitable [and] perhaps it is good that it has happened because other things could be hidden from us… but what we saw is the real issues that workers are dealing with in the workplace,” she said.