COSATU leadership on new president, xenophobia, Mbeki etc.

Statement issued by Central Executive Committee May 28 2008

COSATU Central Executive Committee statement, 28 May 2008

The Central Executive Committee of the Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting from 26-28 May 2008, attended by the COSATU National Office Bearers and representative of the 21 affiliated unions. It discussed the following issues:

1. The New COSATU President

Following the decision to remove Willy Madisha as President of COSATU in terms of Clause of the COSATU constitution, the CEC unanimously elected Sidumo Dlamini, the current 1st Deputy President, to serve as President of COSATU until the 10th National Congress that will be held in September 2009. The position of 1st Deputy President will remain vacant until the Congress.

2. The current political situation

2.1. Xenophobia
COSATU is disgusted and ashamed at the small minority amongst us who have brought the country's good name into disrepute, by attacking, raping, robbing and murdering fellow Africans. This minority has smashed our country's good record on human rights.

COSATU, as a revolutionary and transformatory trade union, is a creature that only survives on unity and international solidarity. Accordingly COSATU is totally opposed to xenophobia, racism, tribalism, sexism, regionalism and chauvinism. The most potent weapon is our unity - the unity of the working class.

As the most advanced detachment of the working class, COSATU's role is crucial in relation to the current crisis of a mixture of xenophobia and outright thuggery.

The CEC called on its affiliates to urgently convene shop stewards council meetings and mass meetings of members at local, regional and provincial levels, and meetings in workplaces and hot spots to argue that the working class must not turn its guns against itself.

We are printing multilingual pamphlets which we want members to deliver door-to-door and at the workplaces, where we can engage directly with the people. COSATU and its Alliance partners must be more visible on the ground.

We are also calling on employers to accept part of the responsibility for the crisis, for:

  • Fomenting tensions by deliberately employing foreign immigrants, especially illegal ones, so that they can pay them less and feel free to treat them as they wish. The illegal immigrants have no recourse whatsoever, as they believe reporting any abuse to the SAPS and CCMA will lead to them being deported back to their countries. In doing this. these unscrupulous employers have effectively restructured the labour market outside the legal framework by having a pool of workers who are not members of the unions, whom they pay peanuts, outside the collective bargaining council agreements and sectoral determinations, etc.
  • Creating and maintaining single-sex and racially segregated hostels, which are the breeding ground for tribalism, xenophobia and sexism, and refusing to transform them into family accommodation. The single sex hostels dehumanize human beings and it is deeply regrettably that they still exist at all.

The CEC calls on employers to make generous contributions, financial and otherwise, to help alleviate the plight of the thousands that have been displaced. The NUM has already managed to get over R500 000 in donations from the employers in the mining industry. The CEC calls on all affiliates to follow suit.

The CEC reiterates the call on the employers to stop taking advantage of the desperate situation of foreign nationals.

The government must also accept blame for the crisis we find ourselves in. Had the government decisively intervened some ten years ago when it become clear that the Zimbabwe situation was deteriorating, the Zimbabweans would not have found it necessary to leave their country in droves. When it was clear the 2000 and 2002 elections did not satisfy the SADC protocols, the South African government and the SADC chose to act in an unprincipled fashion.

COSATU and many others warned long ago that the political and the economic melt-down in Zimbabwe, due to the mismanagement of the Robert Mugabe regime, would eventually force people to leave the country and become economic refugees, including in South Africa. Our government did the usual denialism and refused to act.

To complicate matters even more, we have an utterly inefficient and corrupt Department of Home Affairs whose officials have taken bribes en masse to issue South African identity documents to non-South Africans. Some of the police officials also take bribes left right and centre. We acknowledge that most of these officials are also our members.

Our Home Affairs Department must be obliged to control immigration efficiently and humanely and to treat refugees in line with our country's obligations under United Nations protocols. Refugees must be provided with decent accommodation and their children must have access to schools, health care and all other services. Workers' rights must be protected, whether or not workers themselves are documented.

We call on each local government to create refugee desks that will, in coordination with the national and provincial government, make sure there is sufficient support for refugees and that there is a better strategy to deal with economic refugees from neighbouring countries, in particular Zimbabwe.

The economic refugees, particularly from Zimbabwe, must be treated humanely. The bottom line is that they are human beings, even though they may not have obtained proper documentation that allows them to come through our borders. They do not deserve to be harassed and killed.

The CEC was also critical of the role of the SAPS in harassing foreigners, including South African citizens they suspect of being immigrants just because they have a darker skin.

We call on government and employers to ensure that the single sex hostels are transformed into family units and integrated into the communities surrounding these hostels. We call on the indunas not to act on behalf of certain political parties whose fortunes depends on the maintenance of tribal divisions and the dehumanising single sex hostels. With immediate effect they must stop frustrating government's efforts to transform these single sex hostels into family units.

The main underlying problem however is the appalling levels of unemployment, poverty and slow service delivery, particularly in the informal settlements. This has created anger and resentment, which has tragically led to the blaming of innocent foreign victims of the very same problems. This is an indictment on the economic policies followed since 1996, which have not led to the creation of mass employment opportunities for the unemployed. Poverty reduction has happed at a snail's place if at all. Inequalities have grown in the past 14 years of democracy. This is scandalous! The dream of sharing in the wealth of the country has still to be realised.

A significant chunk of our population is still trapped in squalor and in conditions that have robbed them of their dignity and dehumanised them. This is what lies at the centre of what has taken on xenophobic tendencies. The failure of our country to restructure the economy and have an industrial strategy, as well as genuine agrarian reform, has brought us to this point. That is the issue.

Over and over again we have warned that we are sitting on top of a ticking bomb. Indeed the chickens are coming home to roost - but it is poor people who are again bearing the brunt. COSATU more than ever before will ensure that these underling problems that have frustrated millions are given necessary priority.

We are happy that the ANC in its 52nd National Conference in Polokwane agreed with us that these issued must be given absolute priority.

There have been reports of the circulation of pamphlets and transportation of attackers from point to point, that suggests a level of organisation. We call on the intelligence structures to investigate this to expose the real forces behind these attacks. But from where we stand the fundamental force behind these unfortunate acts of desperation and crime is the degrading poverty and extraordinarily high levels of unemployment.

It is true that there is an intense competition for scarce resources between South Africans and workers from the neighbouring countries and elsewhere. Narrow jealousy, including between businesspeople, in a factor behind the violence we have seen.

COSATU will intensify the education campaign so that workers appreciate that the real enemy is not some amongst themselves but the system of capitalism and the wrong policies adopted by our governments throughout the continent that is to blame for our situation.

Until the social and economic problems are resolved the danger of more xenophobic which may lead to tribalism and factional strife will forever be a great threat moving forward.

2.2 Alliance Summit
The CEC made an assessment of the recent Alliance summit. It was agreed that the summit was a huge success. It put an end to a period of tension and division and reached consensus on virtually all the issues, which were discussed in a refreshingly free and open manner. The task before the Federation now is to build on that success.

The major challenge we face is to make sure the Tripartite Alliance NOBs convene a meeting urgently to develop a detailed report that reflect the consensus reached at the Summit. This report will essentially constitute the alliance programme that the 9th National Congress insisted must be developed with the Alliance.

2.2.1 Alliance Pact
It is clear that the ANC is not excited about signing an Alliance Pact on the dotted line; however it is also clear that the ANC shares our concerns and is in agreement with most of the issues that COSATU believes should be in the Alliance Pact.

Even if the Pact is not finally signed, the content must be a programme that will address weaknesses in the functioning of the Alliance, addressing problems of lack of consultation, ensuring that the Alliance as whole drives deployment of comrades and their recall, and ensuring that the transformation of our society leads to the eradication of poverty, unemployment and inequalities.

The meeting was pleased to hear that the ANC has agreed to co-opt more unionists and civil society activists into its NEC.

2.2.2. Support for the ANC President
It was agreed to work with the ANC and SACP to find a political solution on the charges against the ANC President. COSATU reiterates its demand for the dropping of all the charges. It is now clear to all sundry that Jacob Zuma will never receive a fair trial. He is facing trumped-up political charges. The latest fiasco that has led to the further postponement of his case from August 2008 to possibly around 2010 is further proof that he has no case to answer. Justice delayed is justice denied. It would be then over ten years since the NPA started investigations when it finally allows Jacob Zuma to respond to the allegations.

2.3. The President of the Republic of South Africa
We noted the growing chorus of calls from across the political spectrum for President Thabo Mbeki to step down. We agree that the President and most of his Cabinet has lost the confidence of the majority of South Africans including that of COSATU.

We debated whether forcing the President to step down a mere ten months before elections would be a good strategic and tactical move. Our view is that the most urgent issue is that the ANC must ensure the President, and all its deployees, toe the line agreed to by the Alliance Summit and the ANC structures, particularly the ANC National Conference. They must be accountable to the ANC that deployed them.

In this regard, the CEC calls for the speed implementation of the Alliance Summit's call for a summit meeting with government leaders to develop protocols that will govern the relationship over the remaining period until the 2009 elections.

2.4. ANC provincial elections
In our considered view COSATU and ANC members have not yet achieved the goal of ensuring that the ANC retains its bias towards workers and the poor. Polokwane was an important and giant step to this direction but the job is not over until the ANC as a whole and at all levels has leadership that is biased towards the needs of the poor.

COSATU will continue to work with progressive ANC members to achieve this goal including in the coming ANC provincial conferences. We agree that the best way to influence developments in the ANC is through swelling the ranks of its membership by working class cadres.

2.5. Eastern Cape Provincial government
The CEC reiterated its view that the Eastern Cape Provincial Government has for all purposes collapsed. There is hardly any service delivery in the province and most of its municipalities. There is a crisis of leadership. The problems are not confined to the Nelson Mandela Metro and therefore the intervention agreed to at the Alliance Summit should not be confined to that municipality but should extend to all municipalities where service delivery has come to a standstill and where there are retributive campaigns against the so-called Zuma supporters.

2.6. Our socialist goal
The CEC reaffirmed that our strategic goal is socialism, which can best be achieved through a successful national democratic revolution. We must not lose sight of this but keep putting it on the table. To that end we shall continue to call for a permanent halt to privatisation, commercialisation and commodification of services and outsourcing.

2.7. SABC Board
COSATU remains firmly behind its call for the dissolution of the current Board of the SABC and will be mobilising its member in support of a more representative board. We call on the ANC to act more decisively to ensure that the current Board is replaced by a more representative Board.

3. Rising food prices and the electricity crisis

The campaign of mass action in protest against rising prices of food and other basic items is to continue and will include strike action and work-time demonstrations when the Section 77 Notice has been considered. The impact of these relentless price increases on poor families is devastating, with the poorest facing serious problems of hunger and malnutrition, as they struggle to afford even the most basic food for their table.

The campaign is being combined with the ongoing campaign around the electricity crisis. COSATU has been engaging on these issues through Nedlac, including the Energy Summit on 16 May, the Presidential Task Team and with our Alliance partners. We made a submission to the NERSA hearings on 27 May.

Our Section 77 process however remains in place, and we have yet to see any movement from Eskom and government to persuade us to abandon our campaign to defend jobs and to prevent the poor consumers having to pay the price for the mistakes and mismanagement by government and Eskom. We remain worried at the real danger of further power cuts and consequent job losses.

The CEC remains adamantly opposed to a 53% tariff increase for Eskom, and will be equally opposed to the same percentage increase being deferred and implemented through a series of 20+% increases over each of the next five years. The CEC resolved not to accept any tariff increase until Eskom and government have explained why Eskom requires more than the 14.2% increase already approved. We are not going to take as given that Eskom need the 53% even when smoothed over 5 years. We want to be party to a process to determine if Eskom figures are correct.

COSATU is not willing to negotiate percentage increases until there is an agreed tariffs policy that would shift the burden from poor households to industry and the rich. Currently poor households pay more per unit than big business and suburban households.

We are opposed to a multi-year agreement that will tie us into unfavourable terms for five years. We want to negotiate an agreement yearly.

We reiterate our call for the R60 billion loan from the budget to be changed to a government contribution, and that government must come to the party through further budget allocations.

The CEC also expressed its anger at the continuing increases in interest rates, and the threat of yet more to come. These are adding even more misery to the millions of workers who are struggling to repay bonds and loans and COSATU totally rejects the Reserve Bank Governor's argument that only the rich are affected by interest rate increases.

The CEC also demanded a review of the petrol price formula in the light of the changed circumstances. When COSATU agreed to the formula in 1993, Sasol was a parastatal. Today Sasol is a privatised company that makes profits for its shareholders. Naledi will conduct a study into the matter and develop a paper that will provide us with policy options. COSATU reaffirms its call for the renationalisation of Sasol.

Should Nedlac fail to meet our demands on these issues, we shall submit a notice that would allow us to have a rolling strike actions in each province (one after another) and eventually at the national level.

4. 2009 elections

The CEC gave us an opportunity to satisfy the tough mandate we received from the 9th National Congress which said:

"COSATU at its first CEC in 2007 should develop a set of policy objectives against which to measure the extent to which the ANC is able to shift to represent the interest of the working class. The criteria shall include:

  • Implementing the nationalisation provisions of the Freedom Charter
  • An end to privatisation, public-private partnerships and the commercialisation and commodification of service delivery.
  • The adoption of economic policy that ensures the distribution of wealth to the poor
  • The abolition of legislation that is not worker-friendly

The criteria must include measurable outcomes, with specified timescales so that by June 2008 we are able to assess the extent to which these criteria have been met. The hope is that other unions, NGOs and social movements will generate their own list of demands. In this way all issues will be covered.

On the basis of progress made in this regard, the COSATU CEC shall deliberate on the way forward."

We took into consideration our detailed analyses of the policy shifts in the ANC which we conducted in the February CEC, including the resolutions of the Alliance Summit held in May, the January 8 statement and the resolutions of the January ANC NEC Lekgotla. We are of the view that there has been significant shift of the ANC policies to the left. This shift does go a long way towards satisfying our congress resolutions.

We acknowledge that the ANC leadership elected in Polokwane is tactically not leading government. There is a disjuncture between some of the existing government programmes and the resolutions of the ANC Polokwane conference.

In this regard we shall continue to demand that the Pact or the alliance programme be agreed to, based on the discussions and resolutions of the Alliance Summit. The task of finalising these issues as well as ensuring that they are captured in summary in the ANC elections manifesto is going to be of critical importance.

Based on the progress described above, the CEC agreed to mobilise our members for the 2009 election campaign and ensure another massive ANC victory. A popular pamphlet is to be distributed to our members, explaining why we are still backing the ANC. It will assess the gains achieved by the ANC governments and the tasks still to be completed, note the shifts in ANC policy post-Polokwane and explain why we remain convinced that the ANC is the only party capable of addressing these issues.

The CEC recognised that COSATU and its allies will have to work double-time to achieve more than a two-thirds majority. The COSATU NOBs will deploy affiliates and provincial leaders into the elections. We have agreed that the manifesto work must begin now, led by the NOBs but incorporating the General Secretaries of the NUM, NEHAWU, SATAWU and SACTWU, with backing from the COSATU policy unit.

The manifesto must recognise both the gains achieved in service delivery, despite the slow pace, and the failure to create nearly enough jobs, the poor quality of jobs created, and the growing inequality in our society, with the poor not sharing the benefits of economic growth. There must be no denialism about the areas where the government has failed to deliver.

All affiliates will submit their elections campaigns programmes and budgets by the end of June.

The CEC agreed to draw up a list of hot spots, like Khutsong, and allocate comrades to intervene there with our alliance partners. All informal settlements should be regarded as hot spots so that budget adjustments address the immediate crises faced by the poorest of the poor.

The meeting expressed its concern at the government's attempt to railroad problematic pieces of legislation through Parliament, including the Single Public Service Bill, the National Water Resources Agency Bill, the Public Administration Management Bill, the National Key Points and Strategic Installations Bill, the Traditional Courts Bill, the National Land Transport Bill, and others.

We are equally opposed to attempts by the Department of Health, under the heading of the National Health Insurance Bill, to introduce a health scheme that will enrich medical aids schemes. We shall approach the Alliance to stop all these initiatives until there has been sufficient consultation.

We shall insist that the Election Day, together with May Day, April 27, March 21, June 16, August 9 be declared as non-trading public holidays.

5. Farm dwellers
The Food and Allied Workers Union (FAWU) has begun to implement the National Congress resolution on farm dwellers. Statements have been released and meetings organised, which led to an increased public profiling of the appalling plight of the country's farm workers. Following a meeting convened by the Deputy State President in 2007, a task team was set up to come with an analysis paper spelling out the plight of farm dwellers and the union has made a submission on the plight of farm workers at a meeting of presidential working group on agriculture.

But words need to be turned into deeds by the intra-departmental government working group which is looking into the problems. We will push for a Summit meeting to highlight the issues and the CEC called for the plight of farm dwellers to be added to the ANC's list of election policy priorities. Terrible atrocities are still being inflicted on farm dwellers and workers. The Department of Labour needs to do far more to enforce compliance with the labour laws, and all affiliates need to help FAWU to dramatically increase union membership.

The CEC congratulated the South African Security Forces Union (SASFU) on their historic victory in the Pretoria High Court, which banned the SANDF from discriminating against employees who are living with HIV/Aids. The federation will be assisting SASFU to continue recruiting and serving the SANDF staff.

Statement issued by the Central Executive Committee of COSATU May 28 2008