Protest marches over the minimum wage bill, two attacks on truckers at the Mooi River Toll Plaza and union threats to medical services in North West and Johannesburg – this was how workers showed their frustrations leading up to yesterday’s Worker’s Day.
And, said political analyst Daniel Silke, the instability is likely to last for a while.
“There’s clearly been insufficient time for Ramaphosa to address the broad deterioration in a variety of aspects of SA governance which has accumulated over the past decade or so,” said Silke.
“The inability to deliver and pressure on the ANC from all quarters have compounded so we are seeing the manifestation of inefficiencies, poor governance and, frankly, poor leadership.
“One cannot expect for this to go away in two months, which is how long Ramaphosa has been at the helm.”
This is a danger period for Ramaphosa and the new administration because of the inability to address these problems in the short term. They can simply get out of hand.
“There is likely to be a degree of instability over the course of the next months, until we have an election,” he said.
The problem was, Silke said, that Ramaphosa didn’t have a popular mandate from the voters and was very vulnerable within the ANC. He can’t exert substantial authority and won’t be able to until he can lead the ANC to a more solid electoral victory.
“The labour conflicts ramble on as Cosatu has been weakened across the board by other unions rising in stature and power – and that doesn’t help Ramaphosa, either,” said Silke.
Any positive changes would broadly be based upon improvements in economic performance, said Silke.
“And only if that is felt across a broad swathe of different categories of SA society.”
In response to the violence, Ramaphosa pleaded for humanity at the Congress of South African Trade Unions’ rally in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape.
Ramaphosa said the right to strike and to protest was protected.
“We must look very carefully about how, as working people, we engage in our industrial action,” Ramaphosa said.
He cited an example of strikers apparently preventing workers from doing their jobs, “such as helping women to give birth”.
“Let us have that humanity when we are on strike. There are certain services that are important.
“In the past, children have died as a result of some of our workers not executing our duties.”
He also pleaded for people not to damage assets “which belong to all of us”.
“There have been occasions where, out of protest and strike action and community protests, we have gone on to damage those things which belong to us,” Ramaphosa said.
He also noted while “some” disagreed with the minimum wage of R20 an hour, it had to start somewhere and was a platform on which to build.