President Jacob Zuma received a warm welcome from workers attending a Congress of SA Trade Unions SA (Cosatu) May Day rally in Durban on Friday.
The crowd cheered when Cosatu’s KwaZulu-Natal secretary Edwin Mkhize introduced Zuma.
Thousands of people, most of them dressed in red, marched from the Gugu Dlamini Amphitheatre at The Workshop in Durban to Curries Fountain earlier on Friday.
Guests at the event included Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, and ANC national executive committee members.
“There are many unions that are here. What is interesting here is that there are people that were reported to be attending the other rally, but we see them here today,” Mkhize said referring to a separate march by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).
The Numsa march, led by the union’s general secretary Irvin Jim and expelled Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, was expected to start at Dinuzulu Park and end at City Hall.
Some Cosatu affiliate unions supporting Numsa and Vavi had said they would be attending the metalworkers’ march.
Cosatu provincial chairperson Beauty Zibula told the crowd that despite Cosatu’s problems, the trade union federation would not be deterred from achieving its goals.
“There are challenges in Cosatu, but we shall not be detracted or swayed from achieving our goal. We also said that we need to build a strong federation. We want to be the strongest federation in the world. We want to protect the workers’ rights to strike.
“Workers, we need to be steadfast and fight for that right.”
Zibula said unions’ bargaining power needed to be strengthened.
“Let’s go bargain at national level so that the impact can be felt by the employer. Wages should not be determined by our race.”
Speaking about the attacks in the province last month, Zibula said Cosatu was against xenophobia.
“Our African brothers are our brothers. As workers we need to educate one another about the black on black war.”
eThekwini mayor and provincial SA Communist Party chairperson James Nxumalo welcomed the masses to the march.
“We have painted the whole of Curries Fountain red, thank you for coming out in your numbers,” he said.
Nxumalo would on Saturday stand for the post of ANC eThekwini chairperson.