Thousands of South African workers staged nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday to protest high unemployment and government policies that they say have failed to create jobs and are deepening poverty.
Workers dressed in red t-shirts, showing their loyalty to the trade union movement, gathered in the southeastern port city of Durban, Johannesburg and other locations for open-air rallies three months ahead of the country’s general election.
Companies in South Africa, notably in the mining sector, have shed tens of thousands of jobs in recent years in what unions have termed a “jobs bloodbath” as the economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation struggles for growth.
South Africa has a near-record 27 per cent unemployment rate, with trade unions saying 9.3 million employable people need jobs.
Zingiswa Losi, president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), led the main march in Durban, which was attended by about 6,000 people.
“Today’s march is a national strike and we are marching to (say to the) government and the private sector, we cannot afford to lose jobs in this country,” Losi told reporters at the start of the demonstration.
About 2,000 people attended the Johannesburg rally.
Official statistics released on Tuesday showed that the unemployment rate dropped marginally to 27.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2018 from 27.5 per cent in the previous quarter.
The drop was largely due to casual workers hired over the Christmas holiday period.
South Africa’s economy grew less than one per cent last year and is currently in the grip of its worst electricity cuts in years.
The continent’s largest energy utility Eskom, which has been plagued by debt and mismanagement, plunged the country into darkness this week with rotating black-outs imposed as demand outstripped supply.
COSATU has been a key ally of the ruling ANC party, which is seeking to revive its flagging popularity ahead of elections on May 8, when President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to retain power.
After the transfer deadline for Premier League clubs to strengthen their squads for the upcoming season passed on Thursday, AFP Sport looks at who enjoyed the best and worst of the transfer window:
In their quest to end a 29-year wait to win the title, Liverpool weren’t just the biggest spenders, but got their business done early and improved the key areas of Jurgen Klopp’s squad that needed strengthening.
Two calamitous errors from Loris Karius in losing the Champions League final to Real Madrid in May made it clear an upgrade was needed in goal and 72.5 million euros ($84 million, £65.2 million) were splashed on Alisson Becker from Roma in a short-lived world-record fee for a goalkeeper.
Fabinho and Naby Keita will add extra dynamism and depth to the midfield, while Xherdan Shaqiri offers better back-up to the prolific front three of Sadio Mane, Roberto Firmino and Mohamed Salah.
Even more importantly, Salah and Firmino also signed extended contracts rather than being lured away as Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho have been in recent seasons.
Wolves’ connections to Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes were a source of complaint for their competitors as they romped to the Championship title last season.
And the Midlands club appear to have higher ambitions than merely staying up after signing another two high-profile Mendes clients in Euro 2016 winners Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho.
A club-record fee of £20 million was also splashed on powerful Spanish winger Adama Traore and versatile Belgian international Leander Dendoncker was snapped up from Anderlecht.
Another promoted side Fulham have made a mockery of the suggestion it is harder for teams going up via the playoffs to get deals in place as the other 19 Premier League teams have a two-week head start in the market.
Not only have Fulham seen off interest from Spurs in England under-21 international Ryan Sessegnon, but have spent over £70 million on some stellar signings.
Jean Michael Seri was a transfer target for Barcelona just 12 months ago, but will now be lining up at Craven Cottage rather than the Camp Nou along with former Nice team-mate Maxime Le Marchand, German World Cup winner Andre Schurrle and Alfie Mawson, who earned an England call-up earlier in the year.
Fulham’s promotion was in large part thanks to Aleksandr Mitrovic’s 12 goals and his loan move from Newcastle was also made permanent for a reported £27 million.
The Premier League
The decision to bring the transfer deadline forward to before the start of the season for the first time in England was designed to alleviate disruption.
Last season Alexis Sanchez, Philippe Coutinho and Virgil van Dijk were among those to miss the start of the campaign due to transfer speculation.
Yet, a shortened window allied to the tight turnaround from the final stages of the World Cup just four weeks ago, left English clubs in a rush against time to get deals done and facing inflated fees when buying from Europe’s other top leagues, where the window doesn’t close till later this month.
At a time of the season when all football fans dare to dream, there has again been little to set pulses racing in Newcastle as owner Mike Ashley refuses to join in the Premier League arms race, much to the chagrin of manager Rafael Benitez.
Newcastle have again made a profit from player trading thanks to the sales of Mitrovic and Mikel Merino, with Benitez expressing his concern for the Magpies’ prospects this season after a 4-0 friendly thrashing by Braga earlier this month.
The Manchester United manager consistently cried foul on the club’s pre-season tour of the United States about the state of his squad to try and provoke a reaction from the United hierarchy.
Instead, Mourinho was left empty-handed from the final days of the window despite warning that the Red Devils face a difficult season by not delivering his targets in the transfer market.