SA launches minimum wage bill ahead of May elections
The first minimum wage goes into effect on Tuesday, with President Cyril Ramaphosa saying millions of workers would be better paid as he readies for a tricky election in May with the economy struggling for growth.
Trade unions have been split over whether to support the minimum wage, which has been set at R20 an hour.
"Millions of South African workers will benefit," Ramaphosa said in his New Year message. "This is the result of many decades of tireless struggle and is a powerful demonstration of the shared resolve of all social partners to tackle poverty and inequality."
The ANC hopes that the move will appeal to its traditional electoral base among poor township and rural voters.
The minimum wage bill faced fierce criticism from the political opposition and some labour unions.
The DA voted against the bill saying it was rushed through parliament and would lead to 750,000 job losses.
The EFF also rejected the bill saying the minimum of R3,500 a month was too low.
The SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) has labelled it a "slave wage". But Cosatu said 6.4 million workers would benefit and hailed it is as "a major cash injection into workers' pockets".
The economy is forecast to have grown just 0.7% last year, with unemployment remaining at record highs of over 27%.