SONA expectations – COSATU

Federation says Ramaphosa must do more to encourage local investors to play their role in cleaning up the state

COSATU’s SONA expectations statement -2019  

6 February 2019

The Congress of South African Trade Unions regards the State of the Nation Address (SONA) as one of the most important events in the government’s calendar. It sets the tone for the government’s work, which will aim to address the challenges facing the country and change the lives of the majority of our people for the better.

We have very high expectations from the State of the Nation Address. The president needs to step up and prove that he is committed to fixing our broken economy and fight the scourge of corruption.

We are pleased with the progress when it comes to cleaning up the mess that is the state.  We also acknowledge his efforts to attract foreign investment.

But we want him to do much more to encourage and coerce the local investors to play their role. They cannot keep asking for concessions while they are not delivering. The Investment Strike from local businesses is not yet over and the economy continues to haemorrhage jobs at an alarming rate. 

We need to hear from the President in the SONA, how the government will ensure that the Jobs and Investment Summit commitments are implemented.  Already there are deeply worrying signals of both parties backtracking on their commitments to protect and create jobs with the wave of retrenchments decimating workers in both the private and public sectors.

Our rising unemployment can’t be resolved by retrenching more thousands of workers.  We view these attempts to retrench as nothing but, a declaration of war against workers.

We need to hear how the government is going to move the economy from 1% growth to 3%. The government needs to present a plan to rescue the mining, agriculture, tourism, energy, auto-manufacturing sectors. We also want to hear about a plan to grow the new and emerging sectors such as water conservation, recycling, ocean and aquaculture, electric vehicles, land rehabilitation and climate change.  These sectors hold great potential to create hundreds of thousands of jobs but need decisive leadership and a solid policy intervention from the government. 

We need to hear about the government’s interventions that place the creation of decent jobs at the centre of economic policy instead of relegating them to “trickle down” effect. The SONA should talk to ways of creating conducive conditions for the growth of the SME sector, which targets local markets, absorbs local labour and circulate its income into the local economy.

The government needs to find ways of working with labour and business to preparing for a just transition towards the 4th industrial revolution as well as a just transition to deal with climate change.  We cannot afford to see our 38% unemployment rate rise any further.

The President needs to come with a coherent and clear plan that will save our rapidly imploding SOEs in particular Eskom.  It is the ticking time bomb that threatens the entire state and so far its management has no plan to save it.  Electricity is the fuel of the economy yet Eskom’s only idea is to simply make electricity unaffordable for consumers, industry and our neighbouring states. 

We need to plan for the electric vehicle revolution and also develop an electricity export strategy to the rest of the continent. We reject any plan that punishing the victims of Eskom mismanagement, the workers, by retrenching them.

The President should outline an implementation strategy for the expansion of the renewable energy sector, which must take into account the importance of developing social forms of ownership, localisation, job creation and enhanced energy access to the working class. The IPP deal is a ridiculous situation and is obviously not sustainable.

We want clear plans that will not involve rendering thousands of workers unemployed at SABC, SAA, SA Express, Denel, Prasa, Transnet etc.  Workers cannot be expected to vote against their own interests, and we will reject anything that threatens to send more workers on to unemployment queue.

The ANC Manifesto does not talk about privatization and we do not expect to hear the president talking about any privatization of state-owned entities.

Workers are tired of seeing their hard earned taxes treated as petty cash by a lecherous political and business elite. 

We need to hear from the President what is being done to stop the bleeding and send the crooks to prison.  To date despite the AG estimating that we are losing 10% of national, provincial and local budgets to looting, we have not seen one looter go to jail.  Yet we all know who they are.  Worse some still spend their time pontificating in the president’s cabinet.

Workers need to see the President intensify the clean-up of the state law enforcement agencies: the NPA, SAPS, Correctional Services and the SSA.  Our police officers need the President’s intervention to force the deployment of SAPS members away from desk duty to working in communities on the ground.

According to our affiliates, there is evidence that the health sector is in a total mess. There is a crisis, including shortages of staff, equipment and medicines, which does not inspire any confidence that the promised transformation is on track. We urgently need an efficient, well-resourced, well-staffed national health system which provides the best possible service to all South Africans. Our nurses, doctors and health workers need to see the government get serious about building the foundations for the NHI and fast-tracking its realisation.  For now, all they see are austerity measures that force them to work 48-hour shifts without basic medicines under lax security under a collapsing infrastructure.

Teachers need urgent assistance.  The education system is not geared for the needs of the economy nor to produce enough matriculants and graduates.  Half our children fail to matriculate and school are overcrowded and students still study in mud schools fall in pit latrines.  Gangs continue to terrorise our learners and teachers and we want to hear about a plan to fix this. 

On transport, COSATU expects the President to provide an update on rolling out of the improved public transport system and plan on how to enhance safety on public roads. There is an urgent need to find an alternative model for funding expansion and improvement of road infrastructure. COSATU remains opposed to e-tolling and hopes that the President will respond to the outcry against e-tolls by scrapping this expensive system.

Farm workers need to hear the President outlining government’s intervention that will rescue them from slavery.T he land reform debate is welcome and long overdue but farm workers should be prioritised.  We expect to hear about, a meaningful programme by government and industry to ensure that farm-workers, labour tenants and women in communal areas are given first preference. They need to be targeted to receive land and the necessary training, capital and access to markets to become successful emerging farmers.

There is a lot riding on this SONA because we are not going to allow a SONA that is detached from the Manifesto to guide the government’s programme. The president cannot deliver a SONA that is divorced from the ANC Elections Manifesto that he presented last month.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 6 February 2019