We aim to have 1 million members by year end - SAFTU

Building free, equal and democratic society in SA or Zim requires getting rid of whole rotten capitalist order, as well as bourgeois parties

Statement of the SAFTU NEC meeting held from 20-22 November 2017 Johannesburg

After just seven months of our existence, we in the South African Federation of Trade Unions are delighted to inform our members that we held the third meeting of our National Executive Committee on 20-22 November 2017, attended by National Office Bearers, delegates from affiliated unions and provincial structures. 

This is consistent with our commitment that we will be a breath of fresh air and that we shall be independent, truly democratic and worker-controlled, campaigning and self-sufficient and with a strong anti-corruption stance, socialist-oriented, Pan-Africanist and internationalist in character. 

We made a vow that South Africa, in particular its labour market, will not be the same again as we seek to give a voice to the 76% of workers who are not members of unions. Unity of workers remains the strategic programme of the federation. In line with these objectives we wish to report the following key decisions of the National Executive Committee.

We set a goal to grow by 300 000 members to reach 1 million workers in December 2017

The NEC reaffirmed our commitment to build a militant, independent and revolutionary federation, and to forge ahead with all the necessary logistical steps to establish stable and strong provincial and local structures, a well-functioning head office, but most important, strong, financially viable, democratic, worker-controlled, united and militant affiliates.

In line with the commitment to unite all workers and to grow SAFTU, we are happy to report that every one of the 24 affiliated unions of SAFTU reported that they are growing, despite the job-loss bloodbath, which is ravaging the manufacturing industry in particular. 

We celebrated the decisions of three more unions who have taken democratic decisions in the constitutional structures to join SAFTU. These unions are the South African State and Allied Workers Union (SASAWU), the South African Football Players Union (SAFPU) and the General Industries Workers Union of South Africa (GIWUSA). 

We are accordingly on course to realise the goal to grow by 300 000 members and reach 1 million members by December 2017. In order to ensure that we don’t just claim members we are verifying all members of existing affiliated unions on 5 December 2017.

We call on NACTU and FEDUSA, as well as all other non-affiliated unions to place the interests of workers ahead of all other considerations by embracing unity based on the principles they have endorsed which is that unions must be independent, campaigning and democratic. 

NTM scores a historic victory 

The NEC celebrated the historic victory for one of its affiliates, the National Transport Movement (NTM), who won the reinstatement of 700 employees dismissed by PRASA on 4 February 2013

The Labour Appeal Court Judgement on 2 November 2017 upheld the NTM’s appeal and reinstated the workers with full pay, backdated to 4 February 2013 that will be a salary for 4 years and 10 months. PRASA was also ordered to pay legal costs incurred in appealing against the judgment of the Labour court by acting Justice Mokoena on 18 March 2016.

The NEC also celebrated the victory of the former Midrand workers who are being integrated back to the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council following successful negotiations between SAFTU and Mayor Mashaba.

These are not just a triumph for NTM’s 700 PRASA employees and the 300 former Midrand workers but the thousands of other workers - including Kumba iron ore mineworkers, Umbhaba farm workers, Jumbo Cash-and-Carry staff and many more - who have been fighting against unfair dismissals, who will be inspired by this victory.  SAFTU will continue to represent these workers and we urge them not to lose hope. 

The battle against corruption is intensifying– update on the charges laid against Trillion, Eskom and Transnet executives 

We promised to fight corruption within our own ranks and in society. In line with this commitment on 4 October 2017 we laid charges against the executives of Trillian, Eskom and Transnet. 

We have received no response from the SAPS, Hawks, Eskom and Transnet. We nevertheless received a response from NPA’s Advocate Shawn Abrahams who claims to have been investigating the Public Protector’s State Capture report since March 2017. 

The NPA’s response and the non-response from the SAPS, Hawks, Eskom and Transnet have left us with no option but to launch a High Court action to force them to do their job. This will happen any day from now.

As more and more evidence piles up to show the ubiquitous spread of corruption, so too does evidence that SAFTU is being proved right in its view that the crisis of ‘state capture’ is in fact a symptom of a deep structural crisis of a monopoly capitalist system which captured the state in the days of colonialism and apartheid and which still controls the economy and the state today.

It is not, as often wrongly portrayed, a problem of one family and a group of a few political leaders who have betrayed the movement which put them in power. 

‘State capture’ has involved a wide network of global corporations. As well as McKinsey, KPMG, Bell-Pottinger and SAP, researchers in the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project have found evidence that more than 20 international banks sent money to or received money from Gupta-linked companies.

The problem is also spreading into state institutions like the Hawks, NPA and others which are refusing to investigate allegations or prosecute those implicated, and on the other hand spending pubic money fighting legal battles against perceived opponents, even in two recent cases when the President’s lawyers withdrew the cases when they got to court.

This all confirms that corruption is an inherent feature of monopoly capitalism, a system that is structurally corrupt, a system which enriches a few by exploiting workers, swindling consumers and colluding with each other to fix prices and maintain their profits and power over the state.

The meeting urged all members to read Jacques Pauw’s book, and to invite the author to address a seminar of workers to discuss the issues he raises in the book.

SAFTU continues to oppose any use of the workers’ pension money in the PIC being used to bail out state-owned enterprises (SOEs) which have been bankrupted as a result of fraud, tender manipulation and corruption.  

It was also agreed that the boards of the PIC, SABC and other such public institutions, as well as being independent and professionally run, should have worker representatives.

Lesson from Zimbabwe

The NEC met against the background of all the news of the huge mass demonstrations in Zimbabwe and the resignation of President Robert Mugabe. We congratulate our neighbouring workers and citizens, and understand the outpouring of relief and joy. South Africans will respond in a similar way when we finally get rid of our corrupt president.

SAFTU however cautions the workers of both countries that the crisis we face is not caused by individuals and factions, however wicked.  Replacing Mugabe with Mnangagwa is no solution to the structural crisis of record-breaking unemployment and poverty afflicting the citizens of Zimbabwe. Deep down in their hearts Zimbabweans know nothing will change. 

This is underlined by the fact that there has been no stampede to Beit Bridge of Zimbabweans going back home after the removal of the tyrant Mugabe. Zimbabweans know that Mnangagwa, the army and the ZANU–PF leadership are part of the problem not part of the solution. You cant teach the old dog new tricks! Mnangagwa and ZANU-PF have killed democracy and the economy of their country, not just Mugabe and his extremely arrogant wife. 

We have made the same point about South Africa’s political developments in the ruling party. Replacing Zuma with Ramaphosa or Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma or any other candidate will not solve any of the real and structural problems facing workers and the poor. Mnangagwa and Ramaphosa or Dlamini-Zuma are agents of the same state, which will remain ‘captured’ by the capitalist ruling class to continue to implement their policies. 

That is why we have to stand firm on our view that if we want to build a truly free, equal and democratic society as envisaged by the Freedom Charter, it is not individuals or factions we have to get rid of but the whole rotten capitalist order, as well as the bourgeois parties.

As Vladimir Lenin said: “A revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, not every revolutionary situation leads to revolution.” 

South African crisis for workers 

South Africa is being plunged into a horrific economic meltdown. Unemployment, at the real rate of 36.85% is six times the world average; more than half the population live below the poverty line and inequality is the widest on the globe. A new, looming threat of a ‘junk’ rating by ratings agencies threatens to push the economy over the cliff into a free-fall.

Workers will recall that SAFTU, even before it was launched, through its affiliated unions submitted a Section 77 notice in December 2016. We submitted three simple demands:

  1. We wanted government to give us a plan to stop job-loss bloodbath and to create jobs for now 9.4 million unemployed South Africans;
  2. We wanted government to scrap the deal signed with sweetheart and captured federations to introduce an insulting and slavery national minimum wage of R20 an hour or R3500 a month. In addition we demanded that government do not introduce measures that will have the effect of undermining workers hard-won right to strike. 
  3. We demanded that government introduce a free, compulsory, decolonised and high quality public education from pre school to university level. 

For almost a year now the class collaborators at Nedlac played every trick in the book to frustrate us so that we could not use this instrument to protest, whilst not conceding an inch on any of the demands we made. Yet they quickly gave a certificate to COSATU to protest when it only submitted a notice in July. This is all an attempt to prop up a federation that has been abandoned by workers. Workers were not fooled they stayed away from marches, which proved us right - that they were about factional ANC battles to sort out the eating queue not about the purported reasons submitted at Nedlac. 

Finally Nedlac capitulated and gave SAFTU a right to protest but too late in the year for us to wage a serious national strike. The NEC has decided that the SAFTU NEC to be held on the 20 February 2018will decide the date for the general strike. In the meantime we will continue with small-scale mobilisations and protest actions as a warm-up to mass demonstrations and strikes in 2018. 

These are:

Demonstrations outside parliament on the days of the State of the Nation and budget speeches

Free education

The Esidimeni scandal

365 Days of Action on No Violence against Women and Children

Eskom’s tariff increase 

Stop employers and captured unions refusing to recognize new unions

Casualisation of labour 

Exploitation by labour brokers and 

All the other issues listed in our Section 77 Notice.

Plans are to be drawn up now for a massive event on May Day 2018, which next year coincides with the introduction of the poverty national minimum wage, which legitimizes and institutionalises poverty pay. 

Free education

The NEC minuted its opposition to the Heher Report which decided that free education for all was “unfeasible”, a conclusion based on the false assumption that there is no alternative to the current collapsing capitalist economy, which cannot afford even to maintain the present pitifully low levels of spending on vital public services.

They did not look at genuine radical alternatives including a reversal of the situation where today corporate income tax, paid by companies, has fallen from 54% in the apartheid era of their income to 28% now. That in itself would raise the money for free tertiary education, but will be bitterly opposed by business and their allies in the Treasury and government. 

It was resolved to take a leading role in the expected protests at the beginning of the 2018 academic year and link together the workers’ and students’ struggles.

The meeting expressed alarm at the committee’s recommendation that the cost of providing free technical and vocational training could be funded from the R100 billion surpluses accumulated by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), money which is only there because of a change in the law which unfairly prevents workers who resigned from the employment, whatever the circumstances, from claiming UIF.

16 Days of Activism

The NEC meeting expressed its full support of the 16 Days of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children, which begins on Saturday 25 November. It has special significance this year as it coincides with the trial of the alleged murderer of NUMSA member Thembisile Yende while working at Eskom.

It also follows the lenient sentence imposed of former minister Mduduzi Manana after being convicted of violently assaulting three women, and the revelations by victims of sexual abuse by Hollywood boss Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and here in SA Danny Jordaan.

The meeting insisted that there must be no let-up in the campaign to end the daily violence and sexual assaults on women and children. The police and courts must wake up and stop treating this as a secondary issue. Perpetrators must be arrested, charged and prosecuted and there must be no impunity for those found guilty.

The NEC affirmed its decision to set up a SAFTU gender structure which will lead a campaign of 365 Day of Activism for No Violence against Women and Children and wage a war against patriarchy, sexism and homophobia, which are at the root of the violence and sexual abuse which is so widespread.

Russian revolution 

As we celebrate the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution, it is time for the South African working class to say that enough is enough, and follow the example of the Russian workers who overthrew not only the Tsar and feudal aristocracy but the emerging capitalist system. It is even more necessary for us to overthrow our diseased and rotting capitalist system.

Issued by SAFTU, 23 November 2017