POLITICS

ANC in current state not capable of tackling struggles of people – COSATU

CEC says alliance is still relevant and all efforts should be made to salvage it and make it work

COSATU Central Executive Committee statement

30 November 2017

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 27-29 November 2017 to discuss organisational, political, international and socio-economic issues affecting the workers and the working class in the country and around the world.

The meeting paid tribute to the late former President of the African National Congress (ANC), Comrade Oliver Reginald Tambo, whose unparalleled leadership kept the ANC intact and the struggle for liberation alive during the dark days of apartheid.

The year 2017 also marks the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution that was spearheaded by the revolutionary theoretician Vladimir Lenin

The federation noted the political changes in Zimbabwe that led to the removal of President Robert Mugabe from power. We remain hopeful that these changes will herald the beginning of a new era of democratic stability and economic recovery for the benefit the working class of Zimbabwe.

We also reiterate our solidarity and support to the people of Palestine, who were betrayed by the British colonisers hundreds years ago, when they signed over their land to the Zionists to create the apartheid state of Israel, through the so called Balfour Declaration.

Our CEC also took place under a dark cloud of increased cases of violence directed at women and children. During the commemoration of the 16 Days of Activism against abuse of Women and Children, we call on government to give more resources to the court system so that prosecutions can be speeded up and carried out more efficiently.

The CEC congratulated SACCAWU for a successful national congress and COSATU Second Deputy President Zingiswa Losi, who was elected as the first Woman President of Southern African Trade Unions Coordination Council (SATUCC). She joins a number of COSATU leaders, who have been recognised by the international trade union movement and entrusted with the responsibility of leading at an international level. The CEC deeply condemned the slave trade that is happening in Libya and we call on the African Union to provide the necessary leadership to stem this barbarism. 

Organisationally

The meeting expressed deep gratitude towards COSATU members and workers in general for coming in their numbers on the 27th September 2017 during the state capture and corruption strike. It appreciated the mobilisation and leadership demonstrated by all the structures of the federation on the 27th September 2017.The struggle against state capture and corruption continues. The September 27th Action was not just a once off event, we are currently gathering evidence and are opening criminal cases against those implicated in corruption and the February 2018 CEC will evaluate the progress made and announce new activities. This is a battle that we have to win.

The CEC commended the National Office Bearers of COSATU and the relevant task teams for their sterling work in intervening in some of our affiliated unions that are currently experiencing internal challenges. We congratulate COSATU members who despite the difficulties they experience at the hands of their leaders at a union level have shown remarkable commitment to take control of their organisations and remind everyone that they are the real owners of these organisations.

The CEC felt that the progress that has been made in strengthening the machinery of some of these affiliates in order to ensure that they place their members at the centre of all that they do is laudable and all the efforts are starting to bear fruits. There is already progress in unions like Satawu and many members have responded positively to the process of fixing some shortcomings and challenges that still remain to be overcome in their respective unions.

To continue the process of building and strengthening the engines of the federation, we plan to act decisively against corruption, not only in society more broadly but also within our own ranks.  We shall eradicate the creeping phenomenon of some shop stewards selling out to management, abuse of union funds and business unionism in general. We will leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the unity of the federation is restored and that cooperation between leaders of the Federation and affiliated unions is enhanced. The Central Committee resolved that the federation should intervene without fear or favour and that is what the federation is currently doing.  

The CEC meeting also resolved to continue to visit, engage and listen to workers from their places of work and prioritise campaigns that are aimed at reducing wage inequality, improving workers retirement benefits and also ensuring that they receive better skills. This is anchored by the Back to Basics Campaign resolution which includes the following;

- Work Place Meetings

- Listening Campaign

Recruitment, Service to members and Retention of membership

Uniting the workers beyond union loyalties will remain a key feature of our work going forward, considering that we live in a world in which the rich 10% owns 90% of global wealth and where the unemployment globally is forecast to surpass 200 million by the end of this year, growing by 3.4 million this year. The message is clear for us, if we do not support each other on the picket line, we will meet each other on the unemployment line.

This means that as unions, we need to work together to organise the millions of unorganised workers; grapple with the increasing use of ICT and automation instead of workers. The new technology is being introduced into the market at a faster rate displacing current jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector and retail sectors.

We shall also work together to intensify our Living Wage Campaign, starting with fight to combat unfairness in the workplace and pushing for the speedy implementation of the adopted National Minimum Wage

Now that we have a court ruling clarifying the issue of labour brokers, we shall work to collectively campaign towards a final push for the total banning of Labour brokers and eradication of casualisation.

We remain committed to the fight against corruption both in the private and public sectors, with a special focus on the collusive behaviour and price fixing in the private sector. Our fight against state capture will be escalated in the first quarter of next year and this will include our demand for all key state institutions to be led by people with integrity and who are not tainted. This also speaks to the frequent cabinet reshuffles and the high turnover of senior managers in both government departments and State Owned Entities that has unfortunately done nothing to create stability and continuity. The latest reports show that since 2009, there have been about 12 cabinet reshuffles at a national level and 216 Directors- General suspended or removed in 32 departments.

We also plan to take up the fight for better wages and improved benefits to the employers in a disciplined and fearless way. The CEC has instructed all COSATU unions to go out there and fight strong and hard for decent wage increases that will bring about meaningful change to the lives of the workers.

The CEC has received a number of applications from many unions that have applied to be affiliated to COSATU and has so far resolved to only approve and accept the application from the South African Emergency Personnel Union {SAEPU}.The other applications will be processed by the upcoming meetings and ultimately  next  congress.

Socio-economic

The CEC reflected on the worsening economic situation that is currently compounded by deepening corruption and dreadful mismanagement of the country’s resources. It is alarming to note that more than half of the South African population live in poverty and according to the South African Reserve Bank (SARB), South Africans are poorer than they were in 2014, in per capita terms.

Despite this gloomy picture, the Auditor General’s report shows that irregular expenditure in the public sector has increased by more than half from R29, 4bn in 2015/16 to more than R45, 6bn in 2016/17.

Our deteriorating economy and the downgrading of the economy by the ratings agencies will have a severe impact on the socio-economic conditions of workers and society at large. It is therefore troubling to see the lack of fresh and innovative ideas from the National Treasury and government at large. In Minister Malusi Gigaba’s new Economic Growth Action Plan and his Mid-Term Budget Policy Statement, he continues to advocate for more Neoliberal prescriptions in the form of privatisation of the so-called no-core assets, reduction of the public service wage bill, etc.

The National Treasury needs to come up with a broad range of policy interventions in order to put us on a new growth path, broaden our industrial base, promote productive investment, and build our domestic economic capacity. This should be complemented by a supportive macro-economic environment to ensure the success of these interventions. The one fundamental way to achieve this is for a reduction in real interest rates, and introduction of concessional finance for productive investment.

We remain adamant that a Job Summit that puts together all social partners is still very much necessary. This will help us to have a meaningful conversation that will be different from the current call for a social compact in which workers are expected to accede to a wage freeze and allow for the erosion of their rights. The federation rejects the idea of a wage freeze and we believe that the first step in addressing our economic ills is to deal with the cancer of corruption and also the review of the economic sections of the NDP.

As COSATU, we continue to argue that the NDP does not represent the necessary radical economic shift that will help the country towards a new growth trajectory.  It has become obvious now that the NDP has not only failed to advance a radical economic shift, but is actually threatening to reverse certain progressive advances that have been made by the ANC and government.

Public Investment Corporation 

The CEC resolved to rollout a solid and decisive campaign to take control of the worker’s retirement savings starting with the PIC. We demand proper representation in these pension and provident funds and this includes influencing the investment strategies of these organisations. We do not want to see workers retirement savings being invested in private education and private health sector institutions that are widening the gap between the rich and the poor. We also do not want to see our money invested in companies that are doing business with the apartheid state of Israeli.

We want to see the PIC investing in affordable housing to address the plight of the 900 000 public servants, who currently do not have houses. We shall also be applying for the Section 77 Notice focusing on the PIC. The PIC cannot continue to just invest millions and billions of workers monies and not use its financial muscle to push for meaningful transformation that will allow the previously disadvantaged groups to be part of the mainstream economy.

Taxation of Bargaining Councils

The CEC expressed deep concern about Treasury’s proposed taxation of collective bargaining councils.  These are non-profit organisations and not profit seeking companies.  Their funds are workers’ hard earned meagre wages that are meant to serve workers to supplement their poverty wages, pensions and education funds.  Government needs to stop this shocking tendency to constantly attempt to raid workers’ pockets: e.g provident funds, UIF, PIC funds and now collective bargaining councils to plug the ever growing holes in the national budget. 

The solution to the state’s revenue shortfall is simple, stop looting and wasteful expenditure.  Workers’ monies are not there to bail out corrupt and ineffectual politicians and parastatals.  If government wants to address SARS’ underperformance and revenue shortfalls then it must remove the leadership of SARS that has underperformed and created those revenue shortfalls. COSATU and its affiliates will be assembling a team of tax and legal experts and take this fight to Treasury. 

Violence in the mining sector 

The CEC condemned the ongoing violence in the mining sector that has left many workers dead or injured. The federation is calling for calm in the mining sector and we are disturbed by the failure of the law enforcement agencies to apprehend and prosecute the perpetrators. COSATU remains committed to peace amongst workers and strongly support the principle of Freedom of Association, especially for the working class. We welcome the arrest of two AMCU members in Mpumalanga for killing NUM members. It is about time that AMCU is exposed for what it is ,a vigilante union that is the source of violence and mayhem in the mining sector.

Political

The CEC resolved to intensify its support and lobbying for the current ANC Deputy President Cde Cyril Ramaphosa to be elected as the next ANC President in the upcoming December Conference. We remain unconvinced by the superficial talk and mechanical solutions in the name of unity in the build up to the 54th Conference. We wish the ANC well in its upcoming Conference and hope that the conference will help mend the deepening factional battles within the ANC. What divides the ANC is not ideological contestations but leadership contestations and we believe that the solution is to adopt a principle that says the deputy president should succeed the president. It is also not too late to endorse that principle as a way of uniting the ANC.

We urge all participants to work hard to ensure that the integrity and legitimacy of the conference is not compromised and that the ANC emerges stronger and more united after the conference. These factional battles combined with the relative weaknesses of all formations of the Alliance have given birth to the growing mass discontent and have also emboldened counter-revolutionary forces in our midst. 

We are looking forward to the adoption of many progressive policy conference recommendations by the 54th Conference; including the broadening of the mandate of the reserve bank to include economic growth and employment creation, free education for the poor, review of the NDP, the Post Bank to distribute social grants, NHI, job creation, etc.

On the Metsimaholo local elections, the CEC clarified the issue by saying; we have a resolution coming from the 12th National Congress of COSATU to support the ANC during elections and that decision can only be reviewed by the next 13th National Congress in 2018. 

Alliance

All alliance partners still believe that the alliance is still relevant and all efforts should be made to salvage it and make it work. There is convergence between SACP, COSATU and SANCO on the need for a fundamental change in the nature of the Alliance. We all are agree that while the ANC has played an exceptional role in unifying the key components of the National Democratic Revolution, it is not the sole custodian of the NDR and its leadership role is not a natural incident but an artificial construct that can and should be reviewed and changed where necessary.

While we welcome the recent convening of the Alliance National Political Council; it is clear that the ANC in its current state and class orientation is no longer capable of uniting and spearheading the struggles of the broader masses of our people, of which the working class is the primary motive force. 

Our view is that it is not only up to the ANC or its different factions to give permission as to what should happen to the alliance and its future. It is up to all the independent formations of the Alliance to determine as to what kind of political alliance they want to participate in, in order to advance their own programme and interests.

We shall therefore work to reconfigure the alliance from below and make sure that it regains its mass based character and bias towards the poor. We will also work harder to ensure unity between the working class axis within the tripartite Alliance and between all components of the Alliance. We shall ensure that the unity of the organs of people’s power is enhanced in particular by pursuing the struggle for radical economic transformation, as the main content of this phase of our transition. 

32nd Anniversary

The CEC meeting took place few days before the 32nd anniversary of COSATU. In all these three decades, South African workers have proven time and again that COSATU is their only home and the only relevant trade union federation with the capacity to improve their working conditions. We are proud of the resilience that has been demonstrated by this giant workers organisation, despite so many attempts to liquidate it. It was thirty years ago that the then two year old COSATU experienced the wrath of the apartheid regime, when COSATU House was bombed.We are happy that thirty two years after the formation of this giant federation, workers continue to deeply cherish its discipline, class orientation, principles of democratic centralism and worker control. The meeting committed itself to work to preserve the unity of the federation. The ultimate goal for the CEC is to bequeath to the next generation a united, growing, militant, independent and fighting federation that will continue to be a major factor in the political and economic life of our country.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 30 November 2017