South African President explains new controversial minimum wage

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South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, on Friday refuted criticism against the National Minimum Wage (NMW), saying “NMW is a firm and unassailable foundation” from which to advance the struggle for a living wage.

Ramaphosa said this at an event in Bloemfontein, Free State Province to mark the Freedom Day which falls on April 27.

“We must remember that the introduction of the national minimum wage will increase the income of more than six million working South Africans,” Ramaphosa.

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The president was speaking two days after massive protests against the NMW took place across the country.

The government is pushing the NMW, which is 3,500 rand (about 292 dollars) per month or 20 rand (about 1.7 dollars) per hour.

But opponents say the NMW is slavery wages that cannot make both ends meet for the working class.

Ramaphosa said he had no objection to the view that the NMW “is not a living wage and, therefore, will not end income inequality.’’

But he noted that the NMW is agreed to by all social partners.

“A wage increase of that size and that extent is unprecedented in our history, and we must celebrate it,” Ramaphosa said.

The NMW “is like a great hill that we have climbed, but we dare not linger, because there are still many more hills to climb,’’ he said.

“Parliament is currently finalising legislation so that the NMW can be implemented for the first time in the country’s history, fulfilling a demand made at the Congress of the People in 1955,

“This is a great victory for the workers of this country and is a tribute to the social partners, who worked so hard to make it a reality,’’ Ramaphosa said.

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