Mass strike brings South Africa to a halt

Tens of thousands of workers staged marches in towns across South Africa yesterday, protesting against job losses in a general strike that could cost billions of pounds in lost trade.

The one-day strike was organised by the umbrella Congress of South African Unions (Cosatu), which is demanding an end to mounting job losses. Cosatu estimates one million jobs were lost in the past decade. The manufacturing industry was hit by the lowering of trade protection barriers after the country rejoined world trade bodies in 1994.

The protests were largely peaceful, marred only by a clash outside Durban, where police fired tear gas to disperse a mob of people who were stoning cars. Joel Netshitenzhe, a government spokesman, said mass action could not create jobs. Kgalema Motlanthe of the African National Congress said the strike was a last resort after talks with the National Economic Development and Labour Council had failed to address concerns.

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