President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended the proposed national minimum wage of R20 per hour or R3 500 a month, saying that it was a victory for workers.
On Wednesday, the country came to a standstill when thousands of workers joined in on the general strike organised by the South African Federation of Trade Unions against the implementation of the proposed minimum wage.
Parliament is currently finalising legislation to implement a national minimum wage for the first time in the country’s history, fulfilling a demand made at the Congress of the People in 1955, a gathering that protested injustice and oppression.
Speaking at the Freedom Day celebrations on Friday in Bloemfontein, Free State, Ramaphosa said that the minimum wage was a great victory for the workers and was a tribute to the social partners who worked so hard to make it a reality.
"Some people have argued that the starting minimum wage of R20 an hour is not a living wage. They are correct. Some argue that the national minimum wage will not end income inequality. They too are correct," Ramaphosa said.
"But what the national minimum wage does provide is a firm and unassailable foundation – which is agreed to by all social partners – from which to advance the struggle for a living wage. We must remember that the introduction of the national minimum wage will increase the income of over six-million working South Africans."
Ramaphosa said that the national minimum wage was like a great hill that the country has climbed, but should dare not linger, because there are still many more hills to climb.