South African workers are now ready to take their destiny in their own hand, as more hardship looms.
Lindokuhle Dladla, a communications intern, spends almost half of his stipend on taxi fare to commute between Germiston and his place of work in Pretoria. He is feeling the pinch.
Despite the high cost of getting to work, passing up the opportunity to be employed would not have been a good idea, because jobs are scarce.
From next month he might have to dig even deeper into his pockets to get to work.
The newly formed organisation People Against Petrol and Paraffin Price Increases (Pappi) plans to shut down the country’s roads on Friday to protest against rising fuel prices.
According to a statement released by the Automobile Association this week, current data suggests that there is a likelihood of price increases of 19c per litre for petrol, 13c per litre for diesel and 22c for illuminating paraffin.
In May the petrol price increased by 82c a litre and went up a further 26c earlier this month. Diesel and paraffin increased by 85c and 82c in May and June, respectively, and a further 26c for diesel and 22c for paraffin this month.
Dladla says the continuous petrol hikes are a serious problem. His taxi fare went up not so long ago.
He just cannot afford another price increase.
“I used to drive to work but now I’m struggling to afford petrol. I would spend up to R600 a week on petrol.”
The only cheap alternative to get to work is by train, but trains are “unreliable” and have cost people their jobs because of delays.
He likens the economic challenge that he’s facing to “being hit by a storm”.
“Should there be a national shutdown I would gladly take part and invite others to join. Government should intervene. We can’t blame taxi drivers because it’s out of their control,” said Dladla.
As it stands, the public is reeling from April’s VAT increase of one percentage point, from 14% to 15%, and successive fuel price hikes.
Philisiwe Shabangu from Soweto in Johannesburg, who works as a cleaner at Johannesburg Park Station, has been battling to stretch her already meagre budget.
“It’s bad because we spend more money on everything. Come August, it will be even worse. I expect of government to find a way to decrease the petrol price.
“It looks like petrol prices are increased every month, but we don’t get salary increases. I also need to provide for my children’s transport. Where will I get more money?”
Visvin Reddy, convener of Pappi, says the shutdown and stayaway will happen next week.
“We are calling on all South Africans to fight against high fuel prices. This is a sin against citizens. We’re in discussion with unions and taxi associations to make it happen on a large scale,” he said.
Sizwe Pamla, national spokesperson for the Congress of South African Trade Unions, says another petrol price hike will be bad for workers, poor people and low-income households.
“Two years ago Statistics SA showed us that 30 million people live below the poverty line in the country. These people will be worse off.
He adds that 12 million South Africans are drowning in debt and they too will be hit hard.
“People’s salaries can’t keep up with the cost of living and they move away from mainstream lenders to loan sharks to access more money.”
Pamla says highly indebted workers spent their money repaying their debts.
Of the economy and people running out of disposable income he said: “The economy is producing goods that don’t have consumers and it’s going into a recession.”
He says workers are in the middle of wage increase negotiations and “this is going to result in many strikes, a shrinking economy and retrenchments”.