Unions call general strike as SA talks fail

IN A MAJOR blow to South Africa's already tattered peace process, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) announced last night that a general strike would go ahead on 3 August following the breakdown of negotiations with business leaders. The general strike is scheduled to last two days and will be followed by three days of nationwide protest.

Cosatu and the South African Consultative Committee on Labour Affairs (Saccola) failed to reach agreemeent on a proposal for a one-day national shutdown, to have been mutually agreed by labour and business, in place of strike action.

Leaders of Cosatu and Saccola, which includes the giant Anglo American Corporation, had agreed on such a compromise over the weekend when, everything indicated, all that remained was the signing of a proposed charter. But last night Saccola negotiators admitted that the deal had fallen through owing to their incapacity to persuade their members to back it.

A statement from Saccola said: 'In Saccola's view the breakdown is rooted in our inability to reach agreement on a total shutdown of all sectors of the economy, including the public sector.'

Cosatu, which initiated talks with Saccola on the strike action more than a month ago, responded with a fierce denunciation of the business community. 'Saccola's failure to obtain a mandate from employers for the joint action contained in the Charter on Peace, Democracy and Economic Reconstruction comes as a major shock and disappointment to all South Africans determined to resolve the current crisis facing our country. A historic opportunity has been thrown away by employers,' it said.

The charter contained both a commitment to the one-day shutdown and to what, at the weekend, seemed to have been a set of shared political principles. These included one person, one vote and a time-frame of between six and nine months for the establishment of a body elected to draw up a democratic constitution.

The charter had proposed billing 3 August as a day of national reconciliation focusing on the need to end violence and to reconstruct South Africa's economy.

Saccola said last night that it was not these principles that had persuaded many of its members to pull out of the deal at the last moment. It was the fear, rather, that joint action on 3 August would create the perception that Saccola was shifting politically towards the African National Congress alliance, in which Cosatu is a leading force. Last night Cosatu could only reach one conclusion: 'The employers' failure to commit themselves to action on the goals contained in the draft charter can only confirm the feeling amongst the majority that many employers, while declaring themselves, as in the referendum, to be in support of democracy, are in fact supporting the government's attempts to cling on to power through various mechanisms.'

The breakdown of the agreement is certain to be welcomed by hardliners in the ANC alliance who had responded with dismay to the news on Monday that a deal had been all but signed. Amid the failure of the ANC and the government to engage in anything other than 'megaphone diplomacy' after the breakdown in the Codesa negotiations, the talks between the unions and business offered a hope that South Africa's wounds might yet heal.

Now, after three days in which more than 1,000 ANC protesters have been arrested, all sides look certain to become still more radicalised, with the danger increasing, as a senior government official warned yesterday, of 'mass action' leading to an escalation of violence.

That was the spectacle that confronted the United Nations Special Representative, Cyrus Vance, when he retired to his bed last night after a day of talks with President F W de Klerk and other cabinet ministers in Pretoria.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate