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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech delivered by the President of COSATU, Comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the meeting of NUM Youth Forum on the 24th April 2015, at Boksburg

24 April 2015

Please accept revolutionary greetings from your fighting Federation, COSATU.

As you are all aware that the Federation is currently going through some challenges, which like all challenges in the life of an organisation will pass and COSATU will emerge even stronger.

But all that will depend on what we consciously do every day to tackle these challenges.

So today, I don’t want to be short but I would like to have more time to raise issues.

We are observing that our class enemies are jumping up and down celebrating the challenges we are going through.

There are many others who see these challenges as an opportunity for them to benefit as individuals for their selfish interests.

We are observing with great interests some personalities, who are coming from our ranks who want to cash out from these challenges by presenting themselves as super-heroes that have all the solutions and they whip our emotions and mobilise us to follow them to their own promised land.

They create problems in the organisation, including bankrupting the organisation through contracts made with some service provider which costs us almost R10 million a year and then go out to whip the emotions of the unsuspecting membership and the public that were had no money.

No comrades, we can report that despite the challenges but we continue to do organisational work and we have consistently paid our staff members as we have done today.

Our detractors think that the struggle is won by just being angry and ventilating emotions.

No, whilst anger may be important but anger alone will never make you win war.

Comrade Mandela once wrote in a leaflet produced in May 1963 which was dealing with the mistakes of recklessness and adventurism in the liberation struggle.

Among other important and striking things said in that leaflet is that “the struggle that will free us is a long, hard job.

He continued and said “do not be deceived by men who talk big with no thought for tomorrow.

Freedom is not just a matter of strong words.

Neither is it simply brave men and heroic deeds. Impatience, which makes men lose their heads, will not bring freedom. ....we are all impatient, thirsty for freedom. But impatience alone leads to recklessness, and recklessness can lose us the battle.”

If we read the documents of the movement carefully, you will see that this understanding about the need for well thought out process gets carried through in our strategy and tactics which is based on the Marxist- Leninist principles.

It is when I read this leaflet that I realised the extent to which our fore-bearers have put an emphasis on sober and scientific approach to matters of the struggle.

This approach was later carried through when the strategy and tactics was developed in the 1969 Morogoro Conference where it said that “The art of revolutionary leadership consists in providing leadership to the masses and not just to its most advanced elements; it consists of setting a pace which accords with objective conditions and the real possibilities at hand.

The revolutionary-sounding phrase does not always reflect revolutionary policy, and revolutionary-sounding policy is not always the spring-board for revolutionary advance.

Indeed what appears to be "militant" and "revolutionary" can often be counter-revolutionary. It is surely a question of whether, in the given concrete situation, the course or policy advocated will aid or impede the prospects of the conquest of power”.

I am referring to all these writings comrades to make a point that as COSATU, we currently should not be guided by our emotions but the science of conducting the struggle.

I am raising all this because I am aware that I am speaking to the youth and you are the future of COSATU.

It is you who must stand up and defend COSATU.

It is you who must generate new ideas and a new set of activities to build this Federation of Elijah Barayi, John Gomomo and Violet Seboni.

But I also raise these things because I am aware that those, who are attacking COSATU are likely to use the youthful membership of COSATU as a point of entry as they seek to destroy COSATU or to impose their views to redirect the federation to a new course which goes against what COSATU was formed for in the first place.

As the document presented at the 1985 ANC Kabwe Conference puts it that historically youth has become prey to demagogues and can easily be swayed into positions that are counter to their interests.

Thus a young worker could seek false comfort by abstaining from class battles or even by joining the exploiter`s state machinery.

Seldom, young people are enticed en masse to adopt social and cultural value systems alien to their interests.

The reason is not because the youth is not clever or cannot see through the lies. But is because by their nature youth is that section of the population who are avidly searching for a rational understanding of the surrounding world and therefore displays curiosity, rebelliousness, impassioned and uncontrolled enthusiasms and quickly forms judgements as it abandons others.

Everyone who wants to succeed in a war effort wants to tap from the energy, the ideas and time from the youth.

History has taught us that all societies in general and classes in particular, pay special attention to the youth.

For any people or class to shirk this responsibility is to do great harm to itself.

This applies particularly to peoples struggling to break the shackles of oppression and exploitation.

No revolution can be victorious without the effective education, organisation and mobilisation of the youth into political action.

It is none other than the youth (especially the working youth) who form the core of the `political` and `military` armies of the revolution.

Their youthful energy enables them to perform great feats in the theatre of battle; their vigour enables them to be the most active transmitters of ideas and skills; their zeal spreads into their surroundings like wild-fire.

Having said all this comrades, I want to declare that I am coming here not as a neutral person but to tell you that COSATU needs you as we go through these challenges.

We want your ideas, your energy and your time and we are making a call that you should make yourself available to defend your Federation.

This is the only instrument of war in the hands of the workers to advance against our class enemies.

We are aware that already the NUM is leading a serious offensive on the social media against those, who uses the social media to attack COSATU.

We are also aware that they have blocked NUM tweets because you have consistently exposed every single lie which was being used to attack the Federation.

We now want to see NUM youth mobilising activities on the streets working together with other youth formations such as the YCL, the ANCYL, SASCO and COSATU.

We want you to be part of the Progressive Youth Alliance not based on your affiliation to the political youth formation (which is also important) but based on your organisational presence as a COSATU youth forum.

So, what are these challenges I am talking about?

As I speak here today, the working people and poor people of African origin have been killing each other and KwaZulu-Natal, like Gauteng has become a killing field of the African working class being set against each other.

As COSATU, we are against the xenophobic killings we have seen taking place in the recent past.

We want to repeat that as COSATU, we totally abhor xenophobia - hostility to people of a different race or nationality.

It sets worker against worker and the poor against the poor, when we should be uniting our class in our common struggle for liberation and a better life, against those who exploit us.

We have been listening to some desperate individuals who were once within our ranks continuing to peddle the lie that it is the ANC that is the cause of the xenophobic violence.

They have even gone further to single out the ANC president.

Surely these people do not apply their minds and all they want is to find the ANC or the ANC president guilty of everything which happens in society.

Even if there can be an earthquake, they will say the ANC should have done something to stop the earthquake.

Even as we approach winter, we will hear them saying the ANC should do something to stop winter.

As COSATU, we believe that the roots of this problem lie with the apartheid regime`s deliberate strategy to destroy the economic infrastructure of our neighbouring countries and support counter-revolutionary movements in order to destabilize them.

As a result some of these countries today still face huge problems of underdevelopment and poverty and there has been a constant stream of economic refugees into South Africa, looking for work and an escape from poverty.

These economic refuges compete with the millions of unemployed South Africans for too few jobs.

COSATU has always argued that largely because of the unemployment the crisis will become even worse.

These are the challenges which as a liberation movement we are confronting as part of the process of transforming the colonial and apartheid legacy which constitute the real basis of these challenges.

The demons of violence and of xenophobia frequently appear in community service delivery protests.

While we must condemn such violence, especially the destruction and looting of foreign-owned businesses, schools and libraries, we must understand people`s frustration at the quality, or even absence of basic services in poor areas.

At the same time we need to debunk the notion that the working class from other African countries competes with the local working class, and thus by coming to South Africa, is responsible for declining services and lower wages.

The primary source of declining services and downward pressure on wages comes from the mobility of capital, its ability to relocate to other countries.

It is this pressure that acts as a disciplining force that ensures that the South African state sticks to economic policies that put an emphasis on "growth now and redistribution later", that ensures that the South African state dare not raise the taxes on corporations to fund service delivery, and that ensures that the South African Reserve Bank is the most vigorous advocate of low wages in South Africa.

That is why as COSATU we are in a campaign for the national minimum wage.

We reject the fallacy that minimum wages lead to more unemployment, on the basis that many firms will not be able to pay them and so will retrench workers or close down.

International experience discredits these claims for what they are: propaganda and lies.

A national minimum wage would be a significant first step towards greater equality and start to drag millions of poor, overwhelmingly black, workers out of poverty, and help us to defeat the demon of social divisions which is bound to appear in such an unequal society.

The emergence of these xenophobic attacks should be fought in all fronts.

This includes heightening our campaign for quality jobs based on equal pay for the work of equal value!

The Xenophobic or Acrophobic attacks are essentially about African workers and the working class set against each other.

As COSATU, we need to respond to these inhuman acts as a united force.