Vavi on zero-rating of foodstuffs remarks

Statement issued by the COSATU General Secretary August 1 2008

Zero-rating of foodstuffs

Setting the record straight on the demand for zero-rating of more foodstuffs

I have noted the media reports about the speech I made whilst addressing the workers who participated in the march in protest against the 27% increase of electricity prices.

During the speech I reiterated a call COSATU made many years ago for further zero-rating of more basic foodstuffs. But in making examples, I mistakenly listed some of the already zero-rated foodstuffs. This was a genuine mistake which could be committed by anyone.

The debate about zero-rating more foodstuffs has been raging since 1991, and I honestly could not recall its details in relation to which foodstuffs have, and which ones have not, been zero-rated.

After all, the march was not organised to protest against food prices, as many in the media believe. I was addressing a principle, which is captured in the recent alliance summit of the Tripartite Alliance, wherein we agreed that there must be zero-rating of more foodstuffs in the context of the crisis of rocketing food prices.

The critics did not waste time, and basically had a field day in ridiculing not only me but also the millions of workers who participated in the protest action. I have been insulted and called names in the process [see here]. The critics deliberately misrepresented the following fact: that the current protest action is essentially a protest against the 27% increase in the price of electricity.

Other matters were raised to demonstrate additional burdens that workers currently face in the economy. These include food prices, interest-rates, oil prices, etc.

All informed journalist know that there are separate processes in NEDLAC on some of these issues, and if there is no resolution on them there may be more protest action in the future. The strike was therefore not about zero-rating already zero-rated foodstuffs as the critics have argued.

I do understand that critics will find reasons, no matter how small, to attack me and COSATU. In doing so they are desperately trying to suppress the voice of the working class. This forms part of the ongoing class war, and the imposition of a class agenda, that will always be part of our political life.

Statement issued by Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU General Secretary, August 1 2008