Address by ANC President Jacob Zuma at the 8th NUMSA Congress, Van Der Bijlpark, 14 October 2008
President of NUMSA, Comrade Mthuthuzeli Tom,
General Secretary of NUMSA, Comrade Silumko Nondwangu,
Secretary General of COSATU, Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi,
General Secretary of the SACP, Comrade Blade Nzimande,
Provincial and Regional Leadership of NUMSA,
Members and Shop stewards of NUMSA,
Comrades and friends,
The 8th National Congress of NUMSA has a theme that is very relevant to our times: "Deepening and defending working class unity and consolidating our gains in the 21st Century".
NUMSA is coming of age this year, celebrating 21 years of fighting and being in the forefront of struggle for the rights of workers in the metal workers industry. It is also 21 years of fighting for the liberation of our country from apartheid and later poverty and deprivation during the era of freedom.
We salute all the leaders who were part of that historic formation, including Comrades like President Mthuthuzeli Tom, Moses Mayekiso and many others. Comrades, Congress takes place at an opportune moment when we are defending the gains of our revolution. It is a period in which we have to intensify our quest for the unity of the working class and the liberation movement, which is being critically challenged by reactionary forces.
This we must do urgently and successfully because we have a mission to fulfil. We must continue the transformation of our country, which our icon Madiba and many others including the ordinary masses of our people, sacrificed for over decades.
We have a clear plan of how to take the transformation forward. It was elaborated on very articulately by the branches of the ANC at the 52nd conference in Polokwane, through resolutions which form our programme of action for the next five years.
It will soon be a year since the epoch making conference in Polokwane. The landmark conference saw the election of new leadership and the adoption of many policies that are pro-poor and which reaffirmed the ANC's position as a disciplined force of the left.
In our transformative resolutions, we stated clearly that the central and most pressing challenges we face are unemployment, poverty and inequality. We have undertaken to halve unemployment and poverty from their 2004 levels, and to substantially reduce social and economic inequality.
In response to this, we will have to simultaneously accelerate economic growth and transform the quality of that growth. We have made the creation of decent work, poverty eradication and combating inequality the centre of our economic policies. We are very determined to achieve these goals to improve the standard of living of the poor and the working class.
Comrades, we would not be transforming our country if we do not end the marginalisation of rural areas. That is why we will work to intensify our land reform programme, to ensure that 30 percent of the land is in the hands of the rural poor by 2014.
Land acquisition should be linked to clear rural development programmes, which will include infrastructure development to produce thriving rural economies and ensure sustainable development.
Farm workers and people residing in former homelands have been most hit by apartheid and poverty and deserve decent livelihoods during this era of freedom. We must be broad in our approach and uplift the rural masses, avoiding the trend to develop one sector only - emerging commercial farmers.
It is a well known fact that the ANC is taking the fight against crime very seriously. Our laws must bite, and criminals must get the message that crime does not pay. Our branches are continuing to establish street committees to act as a bulwark against crime in every neighbourhood. They will support our police officers in their difficult task of ensuring that our communities are safer. We need the support of the trade union movement and alliance partners in making the project succeed.
Education and health are now well defined as two priorities of the ANC from 2009. Comrades, Polokwane resolutions call for fundamental transformation of all aspects of our lives, from the state to the economy to society as a whole. This also includes the need to transform the way the bureaucracy operates, to ensure that it is responsive to the needs of all, especially the workers and the poor. The cold, indifferent and arrogant bureaucracy should be a thing of the past, and each individual citizen should be treated with dignity and respect.
Comrades these are just a few of many transformative resolutions that were adopted in Polokwane which should form the basis of our election campaign and our programme of action for next year. Polokwane was about changing the lives of our people for the better, and we must settle for nothing less.
The current global financial crisis impresses upon us to work even harder to ensure that our people are cushioned against economic shocks. An increase in the prices of food and other critical produce is anticipated, economic growth will be hard to achieve and there will no doubt be other difficulties and challenges, but we must not give up trying to achieve growth and development.
Comrades, all the priority areas mentioned above require us to work together as the Alliance, to fight the election as a united aggressive front, sending across the messages of unity, improvement in service delivery and building a caring society. Unfortunately comrades, as we work to sharpen our policies and prepare for elections, we have to deal with the shenanigans of some elements within the ANC who apparently want to break away and form a splinter party.
The ANC constitution binds all members of our movement to a set of principles, based on the Freedom Charter. It binds us to the vision of a non-racial, democratic, non-sexist and united South Africa. It condemns acts of factionalism and tribalism and behaviour that deviates from the diverse nature of our society. It enjoins us to respect the core values of collective leadership. Today we are seeing patterns of behaviour, which can best be described as charlatan. Today people describe themselves as being the true custodians of the values of the ANC.
They go around the country attempting to cajole the membership of our movement into a rebellion against the organisation. We are not going to tolerate that. While recent events have been painful, they should not be used as an excuse to destabilise the ANC and undermine its leadership and membership.
When the African National Congress was formed in 1912, it had as its main objective the unity of all African people under a single revolutionary banner. The first obstacle that it faced was that of dealing with the issue of ethnicity.
Pixley ka Isaka Seme was correct in 1911 when he made a call that: "The demon of racialism, the aberration of the Xhosa-Fingo feud, the animosity that exists between the Zulus and the Tongas, between the Basothos and every other native must be buried and forgotten... We are one people. These divisions, these jealousies, are the cause of all our woes and of all our backwardness and ignorance today".
Our history since then has been a history of the struggle for unity, freedom and justice. It is on this basis that the ANC has always maintained that: "unity is the rock upon which the African National Congress is founded."
Seme's call led to an historic meeting ever held on African soil, on January 8th 1912, where chiefs, representatives of people's and church organisations, and other prominent individuals gathered in Bloemfontein (Mangaung) and formed the African National Congress, the first liberation movement in our continent and the oldest.
The ANC declared its aim as to bring all Africans together as one people to defend their rights and freedoms. That is the original and the one and only African National Congress. Comrades, you would have seen the media show put on by the dissidents in recent days, led by the former national Chairperson. Last week we decided to allow these members to engage us on whatever issues they were concerned about.
But we also stated that there was a limit to this engagement, and to the extent to which we would allow them to use our resources and structures to sow factionalism. The National Working Committee, last night resolved to suspend the ANC membership of the former chairperson Terror Lekota and his former deputy in the Defence Department, Mluleki George. A special NEC will meet on Wednesday to deliberate on this issue.
Our view is that we cannot allow people who are bitter about the outcome of democratic processes within the ANC to sow disunity and cause confusion within our structures. Our history proves that when leadership issues have been decided in any ANC conference, no one moves out of the ANC in protest that a particular leader was chosen instead of a particular one.
Our history proves that members of the ANC are democrats at heart who respect democratic outcomes. This has been part and parcel of our tradition. Once leadership issues are democratically resolved, the members of the ANC rally behind the elected leadership, accept it and support it all times.
We are not saying that we are silencing disgruntled members. Loyal and disciplined members who have genuine grievances know how issues are raised and they must follow those channels. The ANC is not a liberal organisation where people can do as they please and nothing happens. It therefore cannot follow a liberal approach on this matter.
No individual member is bigger than the ANC. All members are subject to the normal discipline as outlined in our Constitution.
We would like to warn all who intend to join the campaign to undermine and divide the ANC. We will act very decisively to rid the movement of factionalism.
Nobody will be allowed to derail the progress of our revolution and roll back the gains of hard-fought struggles. It would be a betrayal of what many of our leaders and heroes fought for so many decades. We must also remind the dissidents that history has been extremely unkind to those who break away from the ANC.
We urge our members who have been confused by the dissidents to remain within their home, the one and only African National Congress - of yesterday, today and tomorrow. They should not allow themselves to be sidetracked and fight factional battles.
Comrades, we have a very hectic programme between now and the next election. We should be intensifying internal and public debates on policy issues, especially those which will take forward the transformation of the lives of the workers, the poor, rural masses and all the marginalized.
The public discourse has unfortunately been dominated by the quest for power and factional battles instead of debating how we can work together to fight crime, promote the creation of decent jobs, promote rural development, education and improved health care.
Debates must include the sharing of views on how we can work to transform the state and the public service, to ensure that Polokwane resolutions are effectively implemented in 2009 to change the lives of the poor and workers more meaningfully.
We must unite as progressive forces, to promote and protect the space and platform created by Polokwane.
And we must unite for a very decisive victory for the ANC in 2009!
We wish you well in your deliberations in this Congress!
I thank you
Issued by the African National Congress October 14 2008
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