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Media Centre  |  Declarations

COSATU International Conference on Africa - Declaration

30 September 2015


Building revolutionary workers Power:

The rising force for a new, industrialised and just Africa


Gathered at a time of unending global crisis and untiring global resistance by workers, extreme poverty and obscene wealth co-existing together, highly unequal power relations and the ravages of neo-liberalism, particularly on the Africa continent and the rest of the developing world, the COSATU International Conference on Africa took placed on the 14th – 16th September, 2015 in Johannesburg.

It offered workers and their allied formations the necessary and critical space to understand deeper, contextualize and clarify the nature of these crisis and contradictions. It provided the space necessary to rejuvenate the forces for alternatives and hope in order to lay the foundation for the emergence of anew, just and better Africa.

After three days of intense deliberations COSATU today concluded its three day international conference on Africa under the Theme "Build workers Power for democratic alternatives, industrialisation and progressive transformation of Africa".

The conference was attended by more than 100 delegates, including from COSATU affiliates, our Alliance partners; the SACP, ANC, SANCO and Mass democratic structures, international solidarity organisations, as well as international guests from Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Zambia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Cuba, Palestine and Western Sahara.

Day One was spent receiving inputs and holding plenary discussions on international solidarity for the struggles in Swaziland, Palestine and Western Sahara. The Conference vowed to step up Africa wide and world-wide solidarity for all three struggles. A very rich input was made on the history, essence and context of the Swazi struggle, which has been in some spaces deliberately distorted to suit emerging agendas and narrow financial interests of certain groupings.

The input dispelled several myths and clarified the genuine aspirations of the people to democracy and to rid themselves off the yoke of royal oppression and semi-feudal backwardness.

It was followed by very inspirational inputs on Palestine, Cuba and Western Sahara, which clearly demonstrated the centrality of solidarity, mass struggle and robust engagements with different forces inside and outside the country affected. Conference also took note of the crisis in Syria resulting from imperialist aggression against the Syrian people and the resultant forced migration into Europe, in which case, it must take a measure of responsibility for the conditions the people of Syria and Libya find themselves in.

In this regard, Conference saluted, once more, the heroic Cuban people, particularly the five heroes for their courageous defence of their country from US aggression and their recent visit to our country. On Palestine, Conference committed to more decisive action in support of BDS and the total isolation of the Israeli apartheid state, which still wields enormous power in certain sections of our country. We must take the campaign against Woolworths and all the companies doing business with the apartheid state to new heights.

This coming together as delegates, internationalists, activists and working class cadres of our great continent, Africa has robustly generated a momentum of hope and inspiration in the struggle. In particular, to outline and clarify the tasks for the working class and all progressive forces in the forward march to an Africa free from underdevelopment, inequalities, poverty and unemployment.

COSATU convened this important International Conference on Africa to create a platform and space for the federation, our alliance partners, sister unions from various parts of the continent and fellow international solidarity organizations and other progressive forces to focus on the state of our continent and the imperative of its fundamental transformation.

This platform was meant to harness a deeper analysis and share perspectives on the situation facing Africa in order to develop viable and sustainable alternatives.

The Africa we have and the Africa we want

It is estimated that approximately 1.07 billion people live on the African continent, which has about 54 different countries. The economy of Africa consists of the industry, trade, agriculture and the rich human resources, who are the people of the continent. It is a resource-rich continent but with many African people as poor. It is estimated that by 2050 Sub Saharan Africa is expected to reach a GDP of $29 trillion, but income inequalities being a key hallmark of that. The current growth on the continent has in large part been due to growth in sales in commodities, services and manufacturing in particular.

The 4th Joint African Union Commission/United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Conference of African Ministers of Finance, Planning and Economic Development, held in 2011, mandated the Economic Commission for Africa to establish the high level Panel on Illicit Flows from Africa.

According to the Report of the Panel, which was led by the former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, “over the last 50 years, Africa is estimated to have lost in excess of $1 trillion in illicit financial flows (IFFs). This sum is roughly equivalent to all of the official development assistance received by Africa during the same time frame. Currently, Africa is estimated to be losing more than $50 billion annually in IFFs. But these estimates often exclude some forms of IFFs that by nature are secret and cannot be properly estimated, such as proceeds of bribery and trafficking of drugs, people and firearms. The amount lost annually by Africa through IFFs is therefore likely to exceed $50 billion by a significant amount”.

This picture as painted above reflect the depth of the challenges facing our continent and the need for radical and decisive measures from our side as workers and the whole progressive movement to roll back and defeat the scourge of hunger, diseases, income inequalities, ecological destruction, massive unemployment and the social destitution characteristic of our continent.

It requires a new resolve from the forces of progress, new and more sophisticated forms of organization and new forms of leadership that inspires more hope and rallies all our people into effective action and united responses throughout the continent.

The Africa we want cannot be explained outside the world we want, in which solidarity and freedom exist side by side with decent working conditions and better living conditions for the majority, women and workers in particular.

This means, we must confront the infrastructure and geography of underdevelopment that serves to reinforce and reproduce the colonial and neo-colonial legacies, that continue to reproduce the deplorable levels of backwardness and suffering for the people. We must build engines of the new Africa , at the centre of which are the people and their interests.

The Conference deliberated on Commissions on six interrelated topics.

The report went on to say that, “Poverty remains of serious concern in Africa in absolute and relative terms. The number of people living on less than a $1.25 a day in Africa is estimated to have increased from 290 million in 1990 to 414 million in 2010 (UN, 2013). This is because population growth outweighs the number of people rising out of poverty. Moreover, GDP per African country was around $2000 in 2013, which is around one fifth of the level worldwide (IMF, 2014). Poverty in Africa is also multidimensional, in the sense of limited access to education, healthcare, housing, potable water and sanitation. This situation puts the loss of over $50 billion a year in IFFs in better perspective”.

1. On stopping the illicit financial flows, looting and plunder of Africa’s natural resources and wealth to harness the means for development on the continent:-

Conference noted that this phenomenon is caused by weak and ineffective proper governance regulations, weak institutions and the minimal role of the state in the financial sector, and increased corruption driven by both agencies and individuals within both the private and public sectors. It further noted that these outflows keeps the revenue base of African countries extremely low, thus contributing to our inability as a continent, to effectively pursue redistributive and people-centred development policies and practices.

It therefore, called for a set of key recommendations to the 12th National Congress of COSATU, but the broad thrusts of these are;

· A New and progressive Macro-economic and industrial development Policy for the continent, that eliminates regressive taxation, unnecessary concessions to Multinational companies, corruption and its sources in all its forms, cronyism and all forms of parasitic accumulation, as well as build the required institutional capacity of the state, in all spheres, particularly technical, professional and strategic elements necessary to drive this critical agenda. This policy intervention must also enhance job creation and the skilling of workers and communities.
The beneficiation of our raw material or mineral resources to create jobs, confront structural underdevelopment and improve the living conditions of the people, particularly women and children. This should be supported by a progressive industrial and trade policy that supports local procurement and stimulate local production in both downstream and upstream industries, thus boosting the involvement of local people in real productive economic activities, control and ownership of the economy

· Effective and evidence-based regional integration, strengthening the common markets initiatives, building a healthy and productive workforce and paying workers and their families decent incomes as inherently crucial elements to the success of this bold initiative.

2. On Deepening a democratic and developmental state and model of governance in Africa based on transparency, accountability and participatory policy making

Conference noted that key characteristic of a developmental state is active citizenry and general populace, both in policy development and implementation, as well as in holding governments to account, drawing in the active involvement of all social forces, workers in particular to defend and advance the interest of the poor and society in general.

It is important to understand and clarify the relationship between democracy and development. This means, its developmental character is derived from its democratic essence and its democratic essence is integrally tied to its developmental orientation and structure.

In that regard, Conference resolved the following broad thrusts:-

There can be no sustainable development without genuine democracy and the full participation, rights and a culture of respect for the interests and aspirations of the people. Therefore, development is a fundamental condition for the people to increase their effective participation in public affairs and make informed decisions about their lives

· The increased participation and respect for the rights and interests of the people must lead to qualitative improvement in their lives and that of the whole society, hence the clear link between democracy and development in the welfare of society and the people as a whole

· The current form of the state is unable to drive a decisive developmental agenda, hence the need to capacitate it for a very effective and progressively transformative role in society, guaranteeing full rights, accountability, transparency and equality for all

· The structure of African societies, to a large extent, still reflect, the class, gender and racial bias of the colonial and neo-colonial legacies. In this regard, a very thoroughgoing and fundamental transformation process must unfold to decisively change the character of the state, society and its institutions towards serving all the people, workers, women and the youth in particular. This includes specifically catering for the most marginalised and vulnerable groups in society.

3. On Advancing Peace and Security, Justice and Human Rights and Democratic Leadership Principles in Africa:-

Conference noted that peace is integrally linked to justice, security and the respect for human rights. The absence of one or some of these important and inter-related elements affects the others directly.

It is also important to note that peace is not just the absence of war. The conditions that result in war constitutes a serious threat and potential for war, often called low intensity warfare in different conditions. Lasting peace, security, stability and justice in African countries is a pre-requisite for sustainable development on our Continent. Conference further note and welcome the various efforts aimed at peace making and keeping, but it believes that military solutions and concessions only with elites, to the exclusion of the people and society in general, have proven not to last in most cases.

The biggest Problem facing Africa is the lack of sufficient capacity with the AU and other continental multilateral bodies to effectively defend citizens and the continent in general. The AU Peace and Security Council is in the process of evolving into a fully fledged institution, but facing funding and capacity problems.

Conference noted that African voices on justice issues, including human rights, gender justice and international justice activism need to be heard or taken seriously in order to create a positive climate for sustainable and lasting solutions on the continent.

Conference insists that democracy is of special importance to the trade union movement, and must be defended and advanced by us as we pursue the agenda of shedding our colonial legacy and all forms of oppression, occupation, injustice and human rights abuses.

In this regard, the following areas of focus were highlighted;

· We call for the strengthening and capacitating of the African Human and Peoples Rights Court to enforce human rights, democracy, the rule of law and redress for victims of terror, genocide and injustice. This should enhance our call on the AU to do more when countries, multinational companies and individuals violate human and workers rights.

We must work to promote a school curriculum that is based on the ideals of justice and human rights, coupled with mass public education to build a new culture of respect for the rights and freedoms of other people and society as a whole

· We must do active work in promoting Africa wide progressive labour migration policies which amongst others must address issues of xenophobia, national security and terrorism in Africa

· African governments must maintain, strengthen and develop clear standards of accountability, transparency and participatory governance and civil society participation at all levels of society

4. On a new and robust industrialisation path for Africa to beneficiate our natural resources, effect job creation and confront poverty, hunger and unemployment

Conference noted that despite being endowed with a wide and rich range of resources including land, minerals, and human capital, post colonial African governments have inherited and adopted a distorted industrialisation path focused on single primary commodity producers and stuck in colonial trade relations. A combination of deliberate interventions by our erstwhile colonisers, WTO trade barriers and restrictions, the actions of mercenary forces to overthrow progressive governments, as well as widespread corruption which diverts resources from national development and industrialization initiatives to private personal projects, have all served to perpetuate this pattern.

Conference further noted with serious concern the new scramble for Africa in the form of land grabs, as well as foreign control, particularly the mining and construction sectors.

Conference also noted that where economic growth measured in terms of GDP is occurring this has is neither inclusive nor sustainable, and certainly is not creating decent work.

Conference recommended to the 12th National Congress, the following proposals in order to redress the situation:-

· We must redirect all worker-controlled funds as well as the public sector retirement funds towards a pro-Africa industrialisation, development and labour-intensive trajectory.

· Our economic policies must target the most marginalised groups for economic integration. This includes women, youth, the displaced, migrants as well as those in the informal sector.

· We must socialise our economies by expanding co-operatives in all sectors

· In respect of education and skills development, programmes to redress the shortage of skills must be pursued, in particular skills needed for beneficiation. Such programmes must include a requirement that foreign investors transfer skills to local workers.

· We must challenge the trajectory and role of the African Development Bank and related financial institutions on the continent and beyond in order to play a direct and positive role in our industrialisation agenda

· Our pursuit of progressive industrialisation policies must include the framework of the ILO Decent Work agenda including the promotion of quality jobs. In this respect we call on trade unions across Southern Africa to support the ILO process which brings together SADC Labour Ministers through the ILO Decent Work agenda to explore ways of coming up with a regional framework to integrate all workers and migrant workers within the region.

5. On Building and strengthening the African trade union movement to anchor a Progressive African movement against imperialism, corruption, wars and ecological destruction/climate change.

Conference noted that the continent lacks a very cohesive and broad solidarity movement on the continent, to unite and strengthen the forces of progress in their various struggles and efforts in different countries.

It further noted that disunity and fragmentation of our trade union movement has been brought about by a combination of capital`s onslaught against workers, as well as corruption and elitism, resulting in the emergence of opportunism in our own ranks.

Conference recommended that our response must include the following:-

· Building our own robust movement at local and national levels to mobilise our people around issues affecting their daily lives

· This movement must bring together all the forces against hunger, corruption, poverty, anti-crime, fighting gender and children abuse, as well as for access to health justice and climate justice
· Building solidarity between different unions and with other progressive civil society forces

· Ensuring worker control and the democratic control of civil society organisations, including trade unions, against bureaucratic and labour aristocratic tendencies. In this regard, trade union should closely work with community organisations to unite the people around issues that matter

· Affiliating only to international trade union federations that are committed to anti imperialism and genuine class interests of workers

· Building an anti imperialist solidarity movement on the African continent, free from external and undue influences by donors and other such forces of domination

· Our campaigns and actions must include a focus on white collar crime and corporate capture as particularly dangerous forms of corruption

· We must strengthen internal accountability in our own ranks
· The law should be more firm against corruption, complemented by popular mobilisation of the people and all social forces

· Conference called for the reaffirmation of all our resolutions on climate change, and step up our campaigns on climate change and to promote the notion of a just transition to a low carbon economy which grows new clean jobs

· We must empower workers to have a strong voice in debates on ecological issues.

· Our unions must create conditions for the mass recruitment of migrants and refugees into the trade union movement.

· We recognise the connection between environmental destruction and forced migration and that our actions against climate change must be integrated into our organising work with migrant workers.

· Conference recognised that women bear the brunt of conflicts of imperialism and that gender struggles are integral to our struggle for a new and just Africa

· We must implement our clear resolutions on organising vulnerable workers and those in the informal economy

Affirming our solidarity traditions – Veteran and stalwart, Ahmed Kathrada and experiences from Robben Island

Conference ended with a very inspiring input and humble address by our own Veteran and stalwart of the revolution, Cde Ahmed Kathrada, who shared his experiences and that of the whole Rivonia trial detachment.

He drew these lessons to enrich and strengthen the struggling peoples of Swaziland, Palestine and Western Sahara, who still have political prisoners languishing in Jails.

He emphasised the importance of perseverance, self motivation and keeping in touch with the flows and ebbs of the struggling forces inside and outside the country, as they offer their own solidarity with political prisoners and the struggle as a whole.
COSATU International Priority Action focus points;

· Special and dedicated focus on doing solidarity and strategic work on the African continent, with our sister unions and other progressive forces. In this regard, a clearly outlined COSATU Programme of action for Africa must be developed soonest.

· Priority focus on our Trilateral Cooperation structures as strategic levers and engines of our international policy, with due consideration to their proper alignment in the emerging spaces

· Building solidarity against the ruthless might of Multinational companies, foreign forces, as well as corrupt elites responsible for the looting of our natural resources

· Transformation of the international trade union movement towards more focus on the global south, militancy, unity and class consciousness

· Transformation of international and multilateral bodies, with particular interest on our own continent to serve the needs and interests of the people.

· Strengthening of solidarity work with the people and workers of Swaziland, Palestine, Western Sahara, Cuba and various other progressive forces and countries
· Strengthening alliance cooperation around international issues and towards that end, the development of a Joint alliance International Programme is critical and urgent. This includes the strengthening of our own International Relations Committee (IRC) to drive this bold programme

· Promotion of public debates and actions around key and strategic international issues remain central to our mass mobilisation of the people and workers round important global questions and critical issues facing humanity, particularly against hunger, poverty and inequalities

· Intensification of the COSATU International Practitioners Development and Training Programme to support all our comrades and deployees doing international work at various levels

Issued by COSATU

Cde Bheki Ntshalintshali

COSATU Acting General Secretary