150,000 Workers in South Africa Demand Higher Wages

Thousands of South African municipal workers went on strike to demand higher wages, dumping trash on Johannesburg streets and disrupting bus, street sweeping and vehicle licensing services across Africa’s largest economy.

“The strike has been called indefinitely” until workers’ demands are met, Mthandeki Nhlapo, general secretary of the South African Municipal Workers Union, which represents 125,000 workers, said in a phone interview today, Bloomberg reports.

Singing and chanting liberation songs from the struggle era, protesters emptied rubbish bins and scattered litter across the roads as a long column of T-shirt-clad strikers danced and weaved its way through the nearly deserted heart of South Africa’s commercial centre.

Shopkeepers and traders, worried over how recent protests by taxi drivers quickly turned into looting sprees, boarded up windows and closed stalls for the day despite the presence of dozens of well-armed police. Similar demonstrations took place elsewhere in the country, Times Online reports.

Meanwhile police have clashed with protesters. In Balfour township, located in Mpumalanga province, police fired tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at angry crowds who barricaded roads with burning tyres and threw bottles and stones on Monday.

In Polokwane, in northeastern Limpopo province, a number of strikers were injured after police tried to disperse them by firing rubber bullets, Aljazeera.net reports.