'They thought we were just talking; Cosatu died a long time ago' - Saftu secretary general tells members

Thousands of South African Federation of Trade Union (Saftu) members marched throughout Johannesburg on Wednesday, joining countrywide marches protesting against the proposed minimum wage.

Workers gathered around the Newtown precinct in the morning and then proceeded to the Office of the Premier, the Chamber of Mines, and the departments of health and labour.

Saftu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi addressed the crowd outside the Department of Health's offices just after 14:30.

Looking at and pointing to the ANC offices, which are situated a block away from the department, Vavi said: "They have sold us out, comrades."

SEE: 20 striking pictures from the Saftu national shutdown

He said the ANC wanted the capitalist class to exploit workers.

"Today we have taught them a lesson that they will never forget. They thought we were just talking. Cosatu died a long time ago."

Vavi added that, if the needs of the workers were not recognised, the federation would stage a two-day protest countrywide.

"If they do not listen to us, we will bring the taxis, the buses and trains and stay in town until our rights are recognised."

'We say it is crap'

Workers would march in Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth "until the sell-outs of the revolution fall", he said.

"We are now going to demonstrate the power of the workers. We are going to occupy Rissik Street (in the Johannesburg CBD) until we are satisfied.

"Those who say farm workers must accept R18 her hour, those who say mothers raising their children must accept R15, we say it is crap.

"There has to be a new revolution in our country. The 24 years of democracy in our country have meant nothing to us. They have been hell to us," he said.

With Cyril Ramaphosa as president, the Saftu leader said business leaders were "in heaven".

"The day Cyril Ramaphosa became the president, the heavens opened for them. Ramaphosa is earning R3.6m. We know that it is peanuts for him.

"We know he has much more money than government can pay him. We know he tried to buy a buffalo and impala. The same man, together with those stooges in Cosatu, say R20 per hour is enough for workers."

Vavi said the federation's message to Ramaphosa and the ANC was that "we fought here, we suffered, we were arrested here, and we are not mafikizolos (newcomers). We did not fight for you to buy a buffalo and say that R20 per hour is enough for workers. We want R12 500 (per month)."