OPINION

Govt can't continue to chart a course that is divorced from ANC – COSATU

Federation says contractionary monetary policies need to be done away with

COSATU’s response to the ANC Elections Manifesto

14 January 2019

The Congress of South African Trade Unions welcomes the comprehensive ANC Elections Manifesto that was presented over this weekend in Durban. This Elections Manifesto is the result of extensive discussion and consultation in the ANC and within the Alliance.

We commit to taking this Manifesto to the people and and criss-crossing the length and breadth of our country to urge workers and all South Africans to vote for it. COSATU does not expect this Manifesto to just be another vote harvesting document though because it’s not business as usual as far as we are concerned.

We shall insist on making sure that there are well qualified and reliable people deployed to implement it. We demand that the vetting process of those who are on the elections list should be thorough and that the culture of recycling neoliberal hardliners in the economic cluster should be discarded.

We now need to see solid evidence that there is only one centre of power, and that an ANC government would be expected to advance ANC policies. This calls for a systematic process of integrating the policies and priorities agreed at Nasrec, let alone the elections manifesto, into government programmes.

The federation hopes that going forward we are going to see the State of the Nation address and the Budget Speech that are in line with this manifesto. One of our concerns over many years has been that government has ignored a number of previous ANC conference resolutions, and policy positions. This has also been repeatedly raised in the Alliance meetings and on more than one occasion we have been promised that this would no longer be tolerated.

We cannot continue to allow government to chart its own course that is divorced from the ANC and its manifesto. As part of the reconfiguration of the Alliance, COSATU expects all Alliance partners to elaborate a detailed five (5) year programme for government, if the Resolutions of Nasrec and the Manifesto are to become a reality.

COSATU insist on Macro-economic policies that support and sustain growth, job creation and poverty eradication on a sustainable basis. This means that contractionary monetary policies, high interest rates, inflation targeting etc, that do not support growth, employment creation and poverty eradication have to be done away with.

If this Manifesto is to make the lives of South Africans better, we need to ensure that fiscal and monetary policy mandates including management of interest rates and exchange rates actively promote creation of decent employment, economic growth, broad-based industrialisation, including reduced income inequality and other developmental imperatives. The notion that there are institutions like the Reserve Bank that are treated as no-go areas and that are immune from criticism and policy influence is absurd.

Since 2007 Polokwane ANC conference, the ANC has taken resolutions to amend the monetary policy in particular inflation targeting.   The November 2009 alliance summit resolved to among others address the issue of broadening the mandate of the South African Reserve bank and to scrap inflation targeting. Despite these resolutions ,the South African government has stuck to inflation targeting policy.

The focus on low inflation is part of the neoliberal economic policy package, which advocates for lower inflation, flexible labour market or job insecurity and free movement of capital or financial flows. The use of interest rates to ensure that inflation is within the range has resulted in speculative financial flows, which do not create. This has reduced investment in the real economy as opposed to financial assets.  

There are close to 10 million workers without jobs. We agree with Ha Joon Chang, South Korean Economist, when he says that inflation is being used to justify policies that benefit those who own financial assets in the economy at the expense of jobs and economic growth. It is also being used to ensure that SA workers earn slave wages by insisting that wages should not exceed the rate of inflation in a particular period.  

Therefore the high unemployment rate in the country and high poverty levels are mainly due to National Treasury and the SARB's focus on fighting inflation, instead of fighting unemployment and poverty. 

In light of the above, we call upon the ANC to distance itself from the subjective and neoliberal views of Comrade Enoch Gondongwana and Tito Mboweni on this matter. Theirs are personal views that go against ANC and Alliance positions on the monetary policy and also go against the spirit of negotiations and consultations, which took place during the drafting of the recently launched 2019 elections manifesto.

It is for this reason that COSATU will be campaigning to ensure that those who are appointed in the economic cluster do not impose and apply their personal neoliberal views in government.The ANC NEC needs to deal harshly with all those know-it-all leaders in the ANC, who have the propensity to misinterpret the content of the Manifesto to suit their narrow rightwing ideological agenda.

We need to change the current growth pathwhich disproportionately benefits the few, and reproduces the poverty and marginalization of the majorityThe ANC cannot also continue to view the role of the state as that of facilitating a more dynamic private sector, rather than ensuring its direct involvement in the economy. This is completely out of line with economic development trends internationally.

We need to focus on the efforts to minimise job losses, protect vulnerable sectors and cushion the poor from the rising cost of living. Alternatives to retrenchments have to be explored, including taking stronger action against companies that employ illegal workers and import illegal goods.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 14 January 2019