Ag in Africa

3 June, 2007


Filed under: johannesburg, south africa — Ag @ 5:19 pm

South Africa is in the middle of an ‘indefinite’ strike by public sector workers. Workers are striking for an increase in pay of more than 10% – they’ve been offered 6%. Inflation is running at 6%. On Friday there was a huge march through the centre of Joburg. They passed right by the building I work in, so I stood outside and watched the march pass by.

It was very different from my experience of UK marches. First off, it was incredibly well organised. Each union from each area had their own space and there was a gap between each group. It makes sense that South Africans know how to organise a good march – they’ve had enough experience. Secondly, nearly everyone was dressed similarly – red t-shirts and caps.

Thirdly, my god, they can sing a good song. Everyone was singing the same songs, with harmonies an’ all, and dancing in a beautiful united rythm. Swaying and bending low and fists-up-to-the-sky, right then left, then round again and again and again. Thousands of them. It was a Movement, in both the political and choreographical sense. Like all true manifestations of democracy, it was awesome and irresistible.



  1. It’s the music that does it everywhere I’ve been in Africa from Mali southwards. People sitting in doorways, singing quite casually in 4 part harmony; music erupting from nowhere, all over the place. Once I visited an epilepsy workshop on Cape Flats with my then husband, a neurologist. epilepsy heavily stigmatised, these people were considered by everyone the lowest of the low. We were greeted by a wonderful, extraordinary chorus, good as any recording of African music, the lead singer holding a wooden spoon, singing into it as if it was a microphone. My husband, not a man prone to tears, was in them.

    Comment by grannyp — 4 June, 2007 @ 1:30 pm

  2. Thanks for your comment Granny P. I could hear the effortless harmonies as I read your words. I quite often sing when I’m waiting for stuff in Joburg – in the loos, or in a bank queue. No-one even notices, except for the occasions when they join in 🙂

    Comment by aggy — 4 June, 2007 @ 8:57 pm

  3. I saw such a march in Rome a couple of years ago, as well as a few in Greece (where they seem to have a strike every other week), and yes, South African marches are gneerally much better organised and united.

    Concerning the 6%, well, i can see their point when you see the pay hikes that MPs and cabinet members awarded themselves recently. If they had stuck to 6%, they might have been able to make a better case in their negotiations.

    Comment by Steve — 5 June, 2007 @ 9:52 am

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