The Big Four Union Federations’ National Shutdown

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On Wednesday, 7 October 2020, around 1000 union affiliated workers gathered at Library Garden as part of the national shutdown call made by the four trade union federations – Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), South African Federation and Trade Unions (SAFTU), Federation of Union South Africa (FEDUSA), and National Council of Trade Unions (NACTU). The gathering began at COSATU House in Braamfontein and moved to the Chamber of Commerce. The ‘Big Four’ marched to the office of Gauteng Premier David Makhura and to the Mineral Council Office in the Johannesburg CBD. SAFTU and COSATU handed over their memorandums separately, and was received by Acting MEC of Health, Jacob Mamabolo on behalf of the Premier, David Makhura.

“We are living in a society where there is a crisis of representation,” said a Young Nurse Indaba Trade Union (YNITU) member. “SAFTU affiliates are excluded at NEDLAC, and we must remove the barriers that exclude the legitimate participation of workers and working class organisations to enable it to become truly representative. We demand that Bargaining Councils be democratised,” she added.

General Secretary of SAFTU Zwelinzima Vavi, said South Africa finds itself at a precipice. The economic malaise currently being experienced places the nation at a point of no turn, he said. “The levels of poverty, unemployment, in particular amongst our youth and women, inequalities, corruption, crime and so on. The country is engulfed in long spells of drought that further threaten livelihoods, food security and sovereignty.”

Vavi further said, “we risk losing another generation of youth to drugs and vicious cycle of crime. Women, including the aged live in fear in their homes and streets. Government is collapsing, overrun by cronyism, corruption and neglect,” said Vavi.  “Every state-owned enterprise is facing a death spiral or financial collapse.” He mentioned Eskom, SAA, and PRASA are all on their knees with more workers’ jobs and services to the poor on the line. “It is as if government officials live in Wonderland”, he said. “They do not see the immense of suffering of the people caused by economic hardship.”

Another YNITU member Lerato Madumo-Gova asked, “how many more mothers must  come home to find their daughters brutally raped and murdered? How many more Uyinene Mrwetyanas? How many more children must be left to drown in pit latrines? No sociology degree is needed to know that the terrible nightmare of women abuse, gender-based violence and the war on women’s bodies is rooted in mass unemployment and its disruption of traditional forms of masculinity. Corruption is happening under your watch, David Makhura,” she added.

The one-day strike and protest action was protected through their section 77 certificate. “#Strike on economy, education and National Minimum Wage”; “#Scrap the new labour laws,” were some of the messages on the banners of protestors.

Other protest actions and demonstrations took place as part the federations’ shutdown in Cape Town, Pretoria, and Durban.


This article was submitted on 8 October 2020. You may republish this article, so long as you credit the authors and Karibu! Online (, and do not change the text. Please include a link back to the original article.

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