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Tuesday and Wednesday was the much feared COSATU strike. The ANC's buddies are up to their old tricks. 'Power to the People' and all that. Tensions are running a bit high between the two organisations with the ANC government pushing issues that COSATU does not like. I'm specifically referring to the ANC's privatisation scheme. This has been a sensitive issue with COSATU.

The following figures were published in the Sunday Times with a column written by one Zwelinzima Vavi concerning privatisation -

The old 'apartheid regime' are still getting the blame for most problems in this country (after how many years now?). As motivation against privatisation this man quotes some interesting figures. South Africa is amongst one of the five most 'unequal' countries in the world. We are ranked 30th out of a hundred and twenty three developing countries as far as productivity goes yet we're 70th worst in terms of malnutrition. And as far as piped water goes, we're worse off than Zimbabwe! Infant mortality puts us 57th amongst developing countries (the negative slide of the scale). Unemployment stands at 30%. Does this say something about our current government considering it was only 16% in 1995? Considering the current economic climate, it should not be more than 25% tops!

It carries on - sad to say. Earnings have dropped due to job losses in the formal sector. Low-level employment has increased with earnings dropping accordingly. In 1995, 35% of South Africans earned less than R1 000 per month. 39% now in 2001 - and who knows what it's standing at now. Considering a R1 000 is worth a hell of a lot less than what it was seven years ago.
Getting to the crux of the matter - Poor people cannot afford market related prices. The bulk cannot afford basic services. So much for the ANCs election promises in 1994 and the last (where once again they won by a massive margin). A word about that while on the subject - you have two sides here, those who got an education and those who didn't. The haves are now running the country, the have nots are suffering. The haves are screaming and shouting (still) about the worst inequalities under the 'apartheid regime' (yet the sods got educated - and probably at massive expense to the then government) and the have nots are being bulled between the ears into believing that the haves will now share.
As arguments against privatisation examples are used of water supply that was commercialised in the 1990s. In these areas the cost of water has soared by between 10% and 30% per year since 1998. Services haven't improved though. Or as the author noted "communities complained that services remained poor at best". Partial privatisation of Telkom has also led to soaring costs. The slow process of total privatisation of Telkom will probably be completed by end this year, with government taking a big slice of the (rotten) pie. Local calls (yes, we pay for those) have risen by 35% between 1998 and 2001. Government put Telkom to task, instructing them to install close on 5 million new lines within a specified period. This they did with close on 3 million new installations (not meeting the deadline either) with the result of major cut-offs not long after, as consumers could not pay! At the end of the day government realised their stuff-up and Telkom abandoned the balance. I'm sure this must've cost us a pretty penny!
Eskom, the other parastatal will be first in line with the ANCs privatisation scheme. According to their own studies, a 30% privatisation could see electricity supply go up 50% in cost to the consumer. They have not considered the social impact on jobs, income or economic growth. But that's how we know them. Another blunder from government was the shifting to a free market with disastrous results to the local market. Maize especially has become too expensive to qualify as the staple food for the poor. Last year South Africa paid in the region of $400 odd per ton, this year it is estimated to be more then $1 700 per ton. The big parastatals (your Telkom and Eskom amongst them) have cut 100 000 jobs since 1994 and government services itself shed a further 130 000 jobs. The lean and 'efficient' (yea right) government machine had to become lean in order for the 'rulers' to have more 'pocket money'. Since 1998 Telkom got rid of a further 20 000 people with state forests cutting 10 000 jobs (the tender is still not out - re. last weeks story).

COSATU's strike though was an abortion. Simply put, employers can't afford the toy-toying of yesteryear. It works strictly on a no work no pay policy. And the people are getting hungrier by the day. In fact, in the Western Cape they are starving. The days of a 'sympathy' strike by non COSATU workers is a thing of the past. The time has come where employees (talking specifically of the dark skinned) are way too concerned about making a living and feeding their families, than what COSATU has to say. Maybe the realisation has hit home that the ANC is not what they make out to be. It took a while.

Now, if we can only find an alternate party that's worth voting for!


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