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South African Workers Strike as Inflation Hits its Highest Rate Since 2009

Thousands of workers took to the streets in all nine provinces to demand, among other things, a basic income grant, a better minimum wage, and a cap on fuel prices and interest rates. They also want the ongoing problems at the state-owned supplier of electricity, Eskom, to be resolved so that businesses stop losing work due to power cuts. Azar Jammine, chief economist at consultancy firm Econometrix, said the July inflation rate of 7.8 percent was expected. The $88 basic income grant demanded by of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is unrealistic, Jammine added. Economist Lebohang Pheko, a senior research fellow at the Trade Collective research group, disagreed. “My question is, can we afford not to?” Pheko said. “I think the notion of a basic income which is able to deal with things like hunger at household level and at childhood level which has other impacts like stunting, cognitive functioning at a very crucial developmental age is quite important.” Ironically, COSATU, which initially called for the protests, is an alliance partner with the ruling African National Congress party, which has been in power since 1994.