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South Africa Labor Strikes Paralyze Goods Clearing Agencies

  • Gibbs Dube

Customs clearing agents in Zimbabwe’s Beitbridge border post are losing up to R20,000 each in potential revenue due to the decline in the volume of transit haulage trucks following a violent strike by truck drivers in South Africa.

Some of the clearing agents told VOA Studio 7 the strike will have devastating effects on their businesses if it does not end soon.

Thomas Phiri of AMES Border Agencies said the strike has not yet affected the importation of mealie-meal, rice and other food items which are being sourced in nearby Mesina and Luis Trichard towns.

The truck drivers, who have blocked haulage vehicles from leaving Johannesburg and other major cities, are demanding salary increases.

Phiri said Zimbabwe may soon experience shortages of basic commodities if the strike continues.

According to Reuters, some of South Africa's striking truckers agreed to return to work Wednesday, easing pressure on Africa's biggest economy where two weeks of labor unrest in the transport sector have hit supplies of fuel, cash and consumer goods.

But disputes in the mining sector escalated after Gold One fired the majority of its 1,900 workers at its Ezulwini operation, paralyzed since last week by a wildcat strike.
Atlatsa Resources said it had also fired 2,161 miners for an illegal strike.

Since August, almost 100,000 workers across South Africa, including 75,000 in the mining sector, have downed tools in often illegal and violent strikes that may hit economic growth this year and undermine investor confidence in the minerals hub.

Two transport unions with 5,500 members agreed to abandon the truckers' strike, but the biggest labor group, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) which represents about 28,000 workers, pressed on with the boycott.

Another 9,500-strong transport union denied reports its members would also suspend strike action, saying negotiations were continuing.

An employers' association had earlier said three transport unions had suspended the strike because "employers have now offered double digits (a pay rise) for the year". It said it was still in talks with all groups to hammer out a final deal.

The rand which fell to 3-1/2 year lows against the dollar on Monday on worsening investor sentiment about labor strife, firmed on news the transport unions would end their walk-out.

SATAWU is demanding annual wage increases of 12 percent for two years - more than double the inflation rate, while employers have offered a total 18 percent pay rise over that period.

An employers' body said last week that the freight industry was losing around 1.2 billion rand ($135 million) in turnover each week. If the protests expand to rail and ports, exports of coal and other minerals would also be hit.