In marking this year’s May Day rally, President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday paid tribute to South Africa’s workers, thanking them for making the country what it is today.
“In the end, you are the people who make South Africa work, you are the people who make South Africa move and you make SA move forward. We say to you that we respect and love you,” said President Ramaphosa.
He was speaking at the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) main Worker’s Day rally at the Isaac Wolfson Stadium in Port Elizabeth. The President said the entire nation needed to be grateful to workers as it is them who built the country to be what it is.
He said the progress the country had made over the decades was through the labour of workers.
“This is the day when all of us in South Africa take off our hats to you as workers and say thank you for all the work that you do for this nation,” the President said. He added that the day, which is commemorated annually around the world, has great significance for South Africa.
President Ramaphosa once again defended the national minimum wage, to be introduced in the next few months, saying this will be another new victory for workers.
“This is a victory for the workers of our country, no matter what other people may say,” he said.
Last month, the Department of Labour said the national minimum wage Bill and supporting Basic Conditions of Employment and Labour Relations Bills are currently before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Labour, for consideration.
The national minimum wage is meant to improve the lives of the workers in South Africa, according to the department.
The department said more than six million workers are expected to benefit from the minimum wage when it is introduced. It proposes, among other things, that the minimum wage level be set at R20 per hour and be reviewed annually.
On Tuesday, President Ramaphosa noted that out of 16 million working South Africans, 6.6 million in several industries earn less than R20 an hour or less than R3000 a month.
He said that the proposed minimum wage is however, not a living wage.
“A living wage is much higher than this R20 an hour but we said we need to form a foundation. The struggle for a living wage must continue but we must start somewhere to lift the 6.6 million so that we move towards a living wage,” he said.
President Ramaphosa also reminded workers that their right to strike is protected but that they should do so in a dignified manner.
He urged protesting workers and society to protest in a peaceful manner that does not degenerate to destroying infrastructure in the process.
“Even when we protest, let us not damage assets that belong to all of us. When we protest let us do it in a dignified manner,” he said.