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Vavi: Swazi loan a mistake

Sep 08 2011 13:54 Sapa

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Johannesburg - The government was wrong to give Swaziland a R2.4bn bailout, Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday.

"We are saying it was a mistake... that's our tax money you are giving to them," he told a Food and Allied Workers' Union congress in Johannesburg.

The reality was that most South African workers still did not earn a decent living wage, yet it was bailing out other struggling countries.

Cosatu said it would take up the battle of the Swazi people because it wanted them to have freedom. It wanted political parties in the African kingdom to be unbanned so it could have a democratic multi-party system.

The trade union federation had sent a delegation to Swaziland to participate in pro-democracy protests this week. On Wednesday Cosatu deputy president Zingiswa Losi and deputy international secretary Zanele Matebula were arrested during protests and deported.

Swaziland is in financial crisis and political parties have been banned since 1973.

King Mswati III holds the country's ultimate executive, legislative and judicial power.

Foreign media reported that its government is freezing civil servant salaries and cutting other costs, including student allowances.

South Africa agreed to loan Swaziland the money on condition that it be used for economic and political reform.

Vavi urged delegates to show South Africans that politics in South Africa could be conducted with integrity, morals and principles.

"We are not in the business of taking anybody's side... We will not be blackmailed into silence by anybody... We are a principled organisation," he said.

Turning to labour brokers, Vavi said workers wanted a total ban of the system.

"We want to be hired directly by those benefiting from our labour."

Earlier this week, Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant said it was not possible to heed union demands to ban brokers overnight. She said the Labour Relations Act first needed to be amended and phased out.

Vavi said workers also wanted an affordable and efficient public transport system to replace the "moving coffins" that marginalised people were forced to use. He felt the Gautrain was for the elite.

The federation would further focus on water accessibility.

"We are told that we are going downhill and that by 2017, we will run out of water here in Gauteng. This is because we don't have enough dams."

Water underground was "spoilt" because of mining, and acid water threatened drinking water and vegetation, he said. 

cosatu  |  zwelinzima vavi  |  swaziland  |  sa economy
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