Members of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union can be seen protesting outside the Union Buildings in Pretoria on their national day of action, 3 September 2020. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Ramaphosa’s silence forces Nehawu to continue with lunch hour demonstrations

The union says it will also speed up its preparations and plan for a full-blown strike.


Having hold discussions during a special National Executive Committee (NEC) on Saturday, 12 September, over its potential nationwide strike, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has confirmed that it will continue lunch hour demonstrations until President Cyril Ramaphosa responds to their demands.

In a press conference on Monday, Nehawu general secretary Zola Saphetha said the demonstrations will take place in all workplaces across multiple provinces.

“The demonstrations take place while we continue discussions with the office of the president or representatives to respond to the demands.

“Simultaneously, the union will continue to have sectoral meetings with different Ministers of different departments on all our demands,” said Saphetha.

This comes in light of the Nehawu’s demands which include proper personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, for government to address mounting allegations of corruption linked to the procurement of PPE and the adequate compensation for healthcare workers who since the dawn of the Covid-19 pandemic have faced intense strain.

The union also demand mechanisms in place for workers dealing with Covid-19 as well as for PPE tenders to be centralised to a remedy for reported corruption.

Saphetha said on Monday that Ramaphosa had failed to respond to its memorandum of calls on two occasions after the union gave the President seven days to take action with an urgent response.

“Disappointingly, the office of the president has only acknowledged the receipt of our letter and nothing about responding to our demands,” he said.

The memorandum was submitted to the Nationwide Assembly speaker and all premiers of each province in the country excluding the Western Cape.

The general secretary continued to say that Nehawu will convene another NEC meeting in two weeks to receive a detailed report on the discussions and the outcomes of meetings.

“This is in order to assess whether or not government is making headway in responding adequately and positively to the demands for the benefit of our members and workers,” he said.

Saphetha added that the union will speed up its preparations and plan for a full-blown strike.

“The strike will affect both private and public health, parastatals, public service administration, higher education, including both private and public social development.

“Both the 3 October which is the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) International Day of Action and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general strike on the 7 October 2020 will be integrated into our strike action plans,” said the general secretary further.

He further said that it would not be easy to convince Nehawu’s members to support the African National Congress (ANC) in the 2021 local government elections, if government pushed ahead with reneging on the three-year wage agreement in the public service.

“There is a dominant view that suggests it is not going to be business as usual and the ANC will have to work very hard to win our hearts to support them in the elections.

“If the South African Communist Party (SACP) forms its own political party for the elections then Nehawu would support that vanguard rather than the multiclass organisation like ANC,” said Saphetha.