Zuma disappointed by behaviour of soldiers

Sunday, September 13, 2009
By: 
Gabi Khumalo

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma has expressed his concern and disappointment about the behaviour of some soldiers who marched to the Union Buildings in Pretoria about two weeks ago.

Zuma said the behaviour of the members of the South African National Defence Force including municipal workers during their strike action have clearly pointed to a lack of social responsibility when exercising one's right to strike and protest.

"The failure to respect the laws of the land and the rights of others enshrined in the Constitution, points to a serious problem that we must urgently address as government, as we have done through law enforcement," President Zuma said on Saturday.

Speaking out for the first time on the recent protests at the 14th National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) annual summit, Zuma said the action of the soldiers undermined the security of the country.

"You can imagine if this country was under attack and the soldier's said we're conducting a strike what will happen? This country will be captured and taken away by other countries.

"The worst part was that they were not even marching to the generals or minister's offices but the seat of government," President Zuma said.

He said everyone that has concerns should raise them through institutions such as Nedlac.

Zuma said this year's strikes by workers in various industries prove there is a problem with current negotiation methods between employers and workers, adding that employers and workers should revisit their interaction and their style of collective bargaining.

The President noted that social dialogue has been less successful in the collective bargaining arena during the year and conflicts between management and labour in many sectors have been protracted and tense.

He said the long term solution is a serious dialogue within society about common values, basic principles and general rules of engagement when people express their disagreement of displeasure publicly.

"If we do not do this, we may find ourselves tolerating wanton lawlessness in this country," warned President Zuma.

Zuma also addressed the Nedlac summit on economic issues currently affecting the country and emphasised the importance of increasing growth.

"Although it took a bit longer before affecting South Africa, the economic crisis has bitten deep.

"The growing job losses during this year and rising indebtedness have made it clear that the effects of the crisis have hit hardest at the poor and vulnerable, thereby deepening poverty and inequality," he said.

Zuma said the lower growth poses substantial challenges for trade and industry, employment and training, income distribution and social security.

However, the President said South Africa will have rise to the challenge and seek opportunities to speed up the recovery and lay the basis for a more equitable long term growth and development path.

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