President slams 'criminal' strikers

Date: 13 Jun 2007
President Thabo Mbeki has condemned the thuggery, violence and intimidation blighting the current public service strike. And IFP leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi has called for the constitution to be amended to allow for both a prime minister and a president. He said what was happening on the streets spoke "volumes". Both men were speaking in yesterday's debate on the Presidency's budget in the National Assembly. "There are many who feel they are striking and rebelling against the president …," Buthelezi said, a sentiment echoed by other party leaders. He has warned MPs before that the constitutional system was weakened by attacks and controversies, such as the ANC succession battle which had undermined the president's dignity and effectiveness. Yesterday he tabled a private member's bill proposing a constitutional amendment to separate the head of state from the head of government and allowing for a president and prime minister. The latter would serve at the will of the parliamentary majority, while the president would operate above politics, he suggested. Opening the debate, Mbeki criticised "the irresponsible element that has used the negotiation process to engage in unacceptable criminal activities". "All of us should ask ourselves what kind of society we are building and what moral lessons we are imparting when insults, violence against fellow workers and damage to property become the stock-in-trade during protests of this kind." In his speech, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa urged Mbeki to provide a voice of "reassurance and authority" and speak directly to the people on serious matters. Holomisa said the government used spokespeople and press statements on matters of serious concern. "At times all of us South Africans, irrespective of political affiliation, want a leadership that condemns unequivocally the lawlessness that we have seen and reaffirms our mutual ownership and sense of pride in our country." Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Mulder said the unions were using the industrial action to fight a bigger political fight against Mbeki. By Angela Quintal & Janine Stephen The Star 13/06/07 e2