South African workers decided to stage a nationwide protest over the recent rise in the percentage of high unemployment and government policies that they say have failed to create jobs and are deepening poverty.
Workers dressed in red t-shirts, showing their loyalty to the trade union movement, gathered in the southeastern port city of Durban, Johannesburg and other locations for open-air rallies three months ahead of the country’s general election.
Companies in South Africa, notably in the mining sector, have shed tens of thousands of jobs in recent years in what unions have termed a “jobs bloodbath” as the economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation struggles for growth.
South Africa has a near-record 27 per cent unemployment rate, with trade unions saying 9.3 million employable people need jobs.
Zingiswa Losi, president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), led the main march in Durban, which was attended by about 6,000 people.
“Today’s march is a national strike and we are marching to (say to the) government and the private sector, we cannot afford to lose jobs in this country,” Losi told reporters at the start of the demonstration.
Official statistics released on Tuesday showed that the unemployment rate dropped marginally to 27.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2018 from 27.5 per cent in the previous quarter.
The drop was largely due to casual workers hired over the Christmas holiday period.
South Africa’s economy grew less than one per cent last year and is currently in the grip of its worst electricity cuts in years.
The continent’s largest energy utility Eskom, which has been plagued by debt and mismanagement, plunged the country into darkness this week with rotating black-outs imposed as demand outstripped supply.