Cyril Ramaphosa. REUTERS
Cyril Ramaphosa. REUTERS

Ahead of the jobs summit promised by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has decided to convene a similar forum, bringing together 75 civil society organisations.

Saftu maintains that the "working-class summit" scheduled for this weekend in Johannesburg is not meant to upstage the president’s planned initiative but will complement it.

The federation said the summit would explore workplace and community issues in an attempt to propose solutions to SA’s unemployment, inequality and poverty problems.

Saftu was also planning to discuss trade union rights and the state of organised workers. It had invited other trade union federations, but none had responded, said Saftu spokesman Patrick Craven.

Jobs summit

In his state of the nation address in February, Ramaphosa undertook to convene a jobs summit following calls by trade unions for the government to create a platform on which plans to deal with unemployment and inequality would be discussed.

SA has an unemployment rate of 26.7%, while more than half of its working population lives in poverty, with 17-million people benefiting from social assistance grants.

Unlike the president’s proposed jobs summit, the Saftu gathering was meant to bring together some of those most affected by unemployment.

"This is a parallel event to the jobs summit, not an attempt to compete," said Craven. "It is about the working class. What the president has in mind is a multiclass of business, government, labour. Ours is for the working class and the unemployed, who are most affected by the debate," he said.

Saftu deputy general secretary Moleko Phakedi said the objective was to "overcome the fragmentation of struggles".

"Central to this objective is to unite workplace and community struggles — rural and urban, unemployed and employed, informal and formal, women and men, young and old, environmental groups with the unemployed, homeless with the rural poor," said Phakedi.

Saftu is outside the National Economic Development and Labour Council, despite fighting to be accommodated.

"Free decolonised, quality public education and ending the two-tier education system, [forwarding] the demand for a free national health service and the end of the two-tier health regime, corruption, fraud and other economic crimes in the private and public sector," were some of the issues that would come up for discussion.

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co,za