CAPE TOWN, South Africa — A nationwide strike is underway, with labor unions and political parties marching today in protest of a planned road toll system.
At least 100,000 people joined the marches in dozens of cities, with the biggest protests centered on downtown Cape Town and Johannesburg, the South African Press Association reported.
Cosatu, the powerful federation of trade unions that organized the protests, claims that short-term contract labour agencies have created working conditions in South Africa that are akin to “modern day slavery," the Financial Times reported.
However, some analysts argued that the strike was a way for the union to remind the African National Congress of its influence, the Financial Times reported.
“We voted for the ANC, but we can’t even send our children to school because of their corruption,” Thabiso Bopape, 30, a contract worker for the postal system who earns much less than regular government employees doing the same work, told the New York Times.
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Cosatu leader Zwelinzima Vavi said the electronic "e-tolling" system, set to come into effect on roads between Johannesburg and Pretoria, the capital, will hurt the poor. The protests are also against the use of labor brokers, where agencies hire temporary workers at low wages.
The strike "is part and parcel of the war we are waging to salvage the working class from a further assault on its living standards," Vavi told the National Press Club.
“The combination of the proposed toll fees and spiralling increases in the price of food, fuel, electricity, transport costs and high interest rates heighten the anxiety of many people who are struggling to survive,” said spokeswoman Sarah Nicklin, according to the country's Press Association.
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Flight delays were reported at Durban's King Shaka International Airport after employees for the company that supplies fuel could not get to work because of the strike, EyeWitness News reported.
There was a heavy police presence in Johannesburg's central business district, where most shops and businesses were shut ahead of the march.
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