GNU: DA must abandon anti-worker and anti-transformation agendas - COSATU

Federation also calls on NPA to charge Renaldo Gouws MP for his racist utterances

COSATU statement on the second Central Executive Committee meeting

24 June 2024

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) held its second Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting of the year from 18 to 20 June.

The Federation has won critical victories since the last CEC in February. These include very successful May Day rallies across the country, with workers showing their overwhelming support and filling stadiums, to the disappointment of our critics.

We have also seen COSATU’s relentless struggle for universal healthcare bear fruit, with President Cyril Ramaphosa signing the National Health Insurance Act in May. This victory belongs to workers who campaigned tirelessly for the NHI and equal access to healthcare services. While much work still needs to be done to prepare for the roll out, the NHI is the most important transformation development since 1994.  

President Ramaphosa also signed the Revenue Laws Amendment Act to establish the two-pot system, enabling members of retirement funds access to their savings without having to resign or cash out their entire pension funds. We expect the President to soon sign the Pension Funds Amendment Bill, the remaining legislative amendment enabling the two-pot pension reforms to come into effect bringing relief to millions of workers who are drowning in debt.

We strongly condemn those employers and pension funds who are confusing workers with misinformation as we prepare for the implementation of the two-pot pension reforms. 

We are working closely with Treasury, the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) and the pension funds at Nedlac to ensure the smooth implementation of the two-pot pension reforms on 1 September.

COSATU and its Affiliates will be following up with the FSCA to identify defaulters, after it revealed that more than 4,000 employers are behind on making contributions towards workers’ retirement funds. Those employers who have failed to pay workers’ pension funds must be charged and made to pay without delay, and must be named and shamed.

The increase in the national minimum wage of 8.5% to R27.58 per hour in March is a massive victory benefiting millions in particular farm, domestic, cleaning, hospitality, construction and other vulnerable workers. 

Whilst we celebrate this victory, we remain deeply concerned about scores of delinquent employers who are still paying workers less than the minimum wage. COSATU will work closely with the Department of Employment and Labour to force these employers to comply.  

The election on 29 May was the most challenging our allies, the African National Congress (ANC), the South African Communist Party and ourselves have faced since 1994. Leading up to the poll, the Federation and its Affiliates crisscrossed the country determined to defend the ANC and the Alliance, as well as secure a mandate to return to office nationally and provincially.

Despite the ANC not attaining the 51% necessary to form a majority government on its own, we are humbled that millions of South Africans entrusted it to lead the government of national unity (GNU). We expect the ANC to recognise this election result as a clear message from voters – for the party to pull up its socks if it is to continue governing. COSATU will continue to hold the ANC accountable, while working closely with both allies to rebuild voter confidence and ensure it reemerges as a majority party.    

COSATU remains deeply opposed to the neo-liberal policies of the Democratic Alliance (DA). The DA has a history of opposing all labour reforms seeking to improve the lives of workers. Its tendency to harbour unrepentant racists such as Renaldo Gouws and Ian Cameron within its ranks adds insult to injury. We call on the National Prosecution Authority to criminally charge Gouws for his racist utterances.  

If the DA is to be part of the GNU, then it must abandon its anti-worker and anti-transformation agendas. 

We expect the ANC as the leader of the GNU to ensure that government is biased towards the working class, defends the hard-won rights of workers and accelerates the transformation agenda.

COSATU welcomes the GNU’s Declaration of Intent’s commitment to protect workers’ rights and to engage with Labour, Business and Civil Society on the GNU’s policy platform that was included in deference to the Federation’s concerns.

The Federation will help facilitate dialogue with social partners at Nedlac to contribute meaningfully towards the GNU’s policy mandate.

Equally sacred to the Federation is for the GNU to continue on the path towards rolling out the National Health Insurance; building comprehensive social security; intensifying the war on crime and corruption; investing in a developmental state and well-resourced public services; enabling employment equity and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment; supporting the African agenda and solidarity with struggling nations internationally, including the Palestinian people.

It is imperative the GNU’s policy mandate be anchored on the ANC’s manifesto and guided by the Constitution and rule of law. The Alliance fully expects President Ramaphosa to consult it on the composition of his Cabinet.

COSATU congratulates former leaders of the movement who have been elected to Parliament and the Provincial Legislatures and trust they will continue to wage working-class struggles in their new deployments.

South Africa’s economy has stagnated since 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The slight recovery in 2021 was short-lived as growth has since remained weak.

The crises at Eskom and Transnet contributed to the decline. COSATU commends Eskom workers and the Eskom board for three months of no loadshedding.

Equally important is the work being done at Transnet to ensure our ports and freight rail run efficiently and port congestion is overcome.

The marginal drop in GDP in the first quarter of this year, raised concerns that the 42% unemployment rate (60% for youth) may worsen. We have seen an increasing number of employers announce plans to retrench, particularly in the mining, transport, retail and textile industries.

COSATU expects the GNU to move with speed to stimulate the economy as soon as Cabinet is in place, by abandoning austerity measures that have characterised the stagnant state of the economy in recent years. We also call on business to assist the new government by creating decent jobs and halting retrenchments, as the economy cannot afford to lose a single job.

The CEC has resolved to exercise our rights under Section 77 of the Labour Relations Act and to launch a nationwide programme towards a National Day of Action in defence of workers’ hard won constitutional and labour rights as well as collective bargaining in both the public and private sectors. In the build-up to the National Day of Action, COSATU affiliates are expected to lead campaigns in defence of jobs given the Section 189 across all industries.

The Federation is humbled by the recognition of its leadership role with the election of its President, Zingiswa Losi, to serve on the International Labour Organisation’s Governing Body. This is an affirmation of the role of and COSATU’s commitment to advancing workers’ rights and our role in the global labour movement.    

Issued by Solly Phetoe, General Secretary, COSATU, 24 June 2024