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COSATU Today | COSATU Speeches
Opening Address by COSATU President comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the 12th National Congress, held from the 23rd - 26th November 2015
23 November, Ghallager Estate, Midrand, Gauteng
Members of the Central Executive Committee,
The delegation of the ANC led by President Jacob Zuma
The delegation of the SACP led by the General Secretary comrade Blade Nzimande,
The delegation of SANCO led by its President comrade Richard Mdakane
The delegation of the ANC Women`s League led by its President Bathabile Dlamini
The delegation of the ANCYL led by its President comrade Collen Maine
The National Secretary of the Young Communist League, comrade Mluleki Dlelanga and your delegation
The President of SASCO comrade Ntuthuko Makhombothi and your delegation;
The General Secretary of COSAS comrade Mondli Skosana and your delegation;
The President of FEDUSA Koos Bezuidenhout and your delegation;
The President of NACTU Joseph Maqhekeni and your delegation;
The General Secretary of ITUC comrade Sharon Burrow and your delegation
The General Secretary of the WFTU comrade George Mavrikos and your delegation;
Our distinguished International guests;
Please accept revolutionary greetings on behalf of the millions of COSATU members
We give special greetings to the delegates drawn from all COSATU unions coming from all the economic sites of our country where they are organised and waging relentless struggles against employers and our class enemies. You come here representing the common aspirations of millions of workers organised within and outside of COSATU.
We want to thank all our members all over the country for remaining firm and for keeping the flag of COSATU flying high. Even during the most difficult times in our organisation you were never shaken, you stood firm occupying the front ranks in defence of your federation.
When they were recruiting you to form new unions outside of COSATU, you said no we know our home!
When they called for the formation of a new federation you told them that we currently have 180 registered trade unions in South Africa, and that there are currently 23 registered trade union federations in the country. This means enough divisions which weakens workers unity. Forming yet another federation when we are supposed to unite the existing federations is absurd
Those who are forming a new federation are nothing else but power mongers who want to remain leaders perpetually. They think that trade unions are milk cows which must be used to advance personal business interests.
Just yesterday, these divisive characters stood in platforms presenting themselves as being principled super revolutionaries and talked about unity of workers condemning those who were forming new unions and new federations.
We are refusing to believe that FEDUSA and NACTU are part of the nefarious plans to form a new federation aimed at destroying COSATU.
If this is true, we want to communicate a single and simple message to all of you, you will fail as those who came before you also failed spectacularly. Don`t stand on our way we will crush you!
Comrades, COSATU is emerging from a dark period of manufactured organisational challenges into a period of bright sunshine characterised by robustness, organisational unity and cohesion.
We come from a period where we had to choose between a union with big numbers but which had taken a decision to undermine and destroy COSATU. We were patient, we tried to reason, we sent comrades to talk sense to the leadership of this union, we had alliance partners talking to them and it was all in vein. Finally we chose COSATU!
We come from a period where we had to choose between the cult of personality which has been allowed to grow over many years and the organisation which had been built trough the sweat of workers over many years. Again we were patient and tolerated open defiance and ill discipline over a long time. We spent monies of the organisation, which could have been used for other programmes and paid facilitators and it was all in vein. Finally we chose COSATU!
We had to use worker`s money to defend the federation in the courts of law because people wanted to impose their minority views over the majority using the courts. As if this was not enough, the organisation had to live with the burden of servicing costly contracts, which had nothing to do with the core business of COSATU.
Those who signed these contracts are going around shouting that COSATU is in a crisis and are not explaining how it got there, because they were leading it at the time.
We said that one day the real truth about the essence of the challenges we have been going through will come out. They called us conspiracy theorists, when we said they were sponsored from outside to steal COSATU and use it for their narrow political projects. Today the country knows the real truth; the real plan which we refused to have executed in the name of our federation is out in the open.
We now know that USA was approached to provide VIP security to this very same former leader. We now know that a trip was taken to the USA to raise funds of forming a new federation against COSATU and a new political organisation to challenge the liberation movement.
We now know that many of our union leaders have been taken to the USA to undertake various trainings. We have raised these concerns directly in our meeting with the USA embassy.
We now know that books have been funded and various articles written to deliberately spread misinformation against COSATU and paint a picture of an ongoing crisis in COSATU .
This is done by people who during the day stand in various platforms and proclaim to be revolutionaries that are anti-USA when in reality during the night away from the TV cameras and away from addressing rented mass meetings they are the agents of the Americans.
If we were to answer as to what the real crisis in COSATU has been, we will answer without any ambiguity that the real crisis in COSATU has been the existence of an illegitimate political agenda which was planned and driven from outside but was being imposed to coexist with the legitimate COSATU policies planned and driven from inside COSATU`s constitutional structures.
The two could not co-exit, the other one had to give way for the other and in this struggle COSATU won!
The glaring evidence of COSATU`s victory was seen in the Special National Congress, it was seen in the protests actions organised by the federation post the Special National Congress as it will be seen in this 12th National Congress.
This is a sign showing that even though we may not have reached our peak but we are definitely not weak!
No single individual must ever claim victory which has led us to the relative stability we see in COSATU today but the members of COSATU!
I still have vivid images of the historic Special National Congress held from the 13th-14th July this year, where workers stood up and said "we want to unequivocally declare that we want unity of COSATU.
They said, this federation remains a home of all workers and workers will be better organised under the leadership of COSATU.
They demanded discipline within the federation and in affiliates. They said, they want a COSATU that is based on its constitution and founding principles of one Country - One Federation, One Union - One Industry, Paid Up Membership, Worker Control, worker Solidarity, non-racialism and Unity.
Comrades we can report that all the unions who had decided to boycott the CEC have come back full force and were participating actively in preparations towards this 12th National Congress.
The two unions who have not yet attended the CEC tendered their apologies. We are still waiting for them to come to a meeting to deal with whatever concerns they have including the challenges in their structures.
Comrades we come to this 12th National Congress having travelled an odious path of our struggle. We carry scars, we had to endure insults, and we had to take political punches for deciding to stand in defence of COSATU. We had to accept new enemies in our lives rather than to make false friends whose hidden mission was to destroy COSATU.
This National Congress must continue on the directives of the Special National Congress to re-affirm the character of COSATU as a militant and radical federation of trade unions, which is class oriented and that COSATU is not a political party.
We have come here to continue with the work of building a federation that must remain occupied with broad social and political issues, as well as the immediate concerns of its members. A federation which continuously strive to remain a social force for transformation.
We have to continue on the tasks given by the Special National Congress to continue building a COSATU whose influence on society remains based on its organised power, its capacity to mobilise, its socio-economic programme and policies and its participation in political and social alliances.
This Congress must take forward the instructions given by the Special National Congress to build a COSATU that remain committed to worker control and democracy, and to maintaining its independence being conscious of the dangers of being co-opted by employers and politicians.
This Congress must take forward the instructions of the Special National Congress to build a COSATU that must remain conscious about striking a balance between the immediate concerns of its members to the need for `stability` and `national development` without subordinating each to the other.
The Special National Congress said in keeping with the true traditions of our federation, we will now initiate a process of introspection; we will study how affiliates and COSATU structures operate in practice. This must be with the view to subsequently elaborating and enriching the content of our Back to Basics perspective, as discussed by the 11th Congress and the 2013 Organising and Bargaining conference.
We can say without fear of contradiction that we come here today to mark the 30th anniversary of COSATU with our heads up. Despite all the challenges we were going through but our unions remain having a deadly fighting capacity. Many of our unions could still rely on strikes as a weapon against employers.
The Department of Labour`s Report on Industrial Action in 2014 shows that over the period 2009 to 2014 there has been a constant increase in the number of reported strikes. In 2012 alone, there were 99 strikes; in 2013 there were 114 strikes. In 2013 alone, almost two thirds of all working days lost to industrial action were due to action taken by COSATU affiliates.
This year we saw public sector unions mounting one of the biggest march, which was followed by a resounding national day of action on the 7th October 2015 this year which left our enemies wondering if indeed it was true that COSATU is weak!
Comrades we must give a standing ovation to ourselves for the fact that we stood firm with COSATU members and defended this federation of Vuyisile Mini, of ;Lesley Masina, of Elijah Barayi, of Violet Seboni, of Allinah Rantsolase, Pretty Shuping ; of Ray Alexander, of Elizabeth Nanna Abrahams, of Elizabeth Mafikeng, of Ruth first and many others to whom we owe the very existence of this federation!
We stand here today on the 30th Anniversary Congress of our giant federation proud to tell you the members and owners of COSATU, that here is your organisation, here is your COSATU, we hand it over back to you still intact . We must continue to build it into strong organisation that is ready to mount a deadly offensive against our class enemies.
For us as workers, organisation is everything, without organisation we are dead. It is the only weapon we have at our disposal to confront our class enemies. We therefore need to always proceed from an understanding that building COSATU remains our first priority before everything else. There is no battle we can win without a strong organisation whose presence is visible and felt on the ground.
Comrades since 1994 our country has made enormous strides. We have a legislative framework which has allowed for more protection of workers` rights. In the recent past there had been the strengthening of the legislation to protect the rights of workers in the vulnerable sectors such as Domestic Workers; Hospitality sector; Contract cleaning ; Civil engineering sector ; Private security sector ;Taxi sector ; Wholesale and retail sector Farm Workers
Since 1994, access to health care has been improved with more than 1500 health facility infrastructure completed and thus making it possible for communities to access health care within a 5km radius of where they lived.
Government continues to support the automotive sector and the clothing and textile sector.
The number of social assistance beneficiaries has increased from 2.7 million people in 1994 to 16 million people in 2013.
Between 134 and 106 buses for Johannesburg and Cape Town Metros to be manufactured locally (minimum local content is 80%); Clothing, leather and footwear have been designated for 100% local procurement by government; 70% of capsules and tablets tender sourced locally;
But despite this progress our country continues to be engulfed by a variety of challenges. One of the greatest challenges that we are facing include violence against women and children. The year 2015 marks the 24th years of the Global campaign on the 16th days of activism against gender based violence. Whilst violence against women and children goes across racial and class divide but it is clear that it is rifer against women and children from the working class background.Poverty, inequality and unemployment are conditions under which violence thrives.
We have recently received painful reports that in Cape Town a young African lady was subjected to abhorrent dehumanisation, indecent assault and rape by two South African white men when she responded to the advert for employment. This is a province where the DA once referred to our people as refugees and given such racial statements, incidences like these were bound to happen.
We must eradicate conditions which give rise to these inhuman acts against our women and children. People who do this must not be allowed to live in our communities. They must face the might of the law.
We are also disturbed and angry at the growing rate regarding the killing of our law enforcement officers. This also includes the killing and attacks directed against health practioners including educators. This congress must commit to a relentless struggle against Gender based violence and the killing of the law enforcement officers, the health practioners and educators.
Anyone found guilty of these horrendous crimes must be given a mandatory sentence of a life sentence. Our society has to choose. It is either we become a nation which accommodates criminals or a nation which embraces the law. Police cannot and should not die with guns in their hands!
Our country`s development continues to be constrained. For an example in the past three years the South African economy had continued to grow at a slower pace compared to other economies of a similar size. Now the indications are that the economy might be heading for a recession.
These constraints in our economy are amongst others caused by the fact that our country`s economy continues to be based on the exporting of raw materials and importing value added products.
The global economic crisis has impacted negatively on the entire South African economy; this has been vivid on our steel and the mining sector amongst others where we saw thousands of workers loosing their jobs. Worse could have happened, lets commend the NUM for moving swiftly to secure an agreement which saved thousands of jobs. Part of the problem has been that for many years the steel industry has been using Import Parity Pricing (IPP) which raised the price of this critical input. We have long made calls on government to abandon Import Parity Pricing and this fell on deaf ears.
We are still demanding that any support to the industry should be accompanied by a clear commitment from the steel industry that it will abandon import parity pricing and that it will not revert to it when the economic conditions have improved.
The real reason which constitutes the essence of the challenges confronting our economy is that our economic policy trajectory continues to be based on the Neo liberal paradigm. This paradigm is based on a belief that growth must occur first, and then employment will follow.
It argues that once employment increases, the distribution of income will improve. This is reflected in the persistent setting of growth targets as the primary focus, rather than targets for employment and income distribution.
This fails to address the apartheid economic fault-lines that resulted in the white monopoly capital taking charge and ownership of the economic levers of powers while the black majority was labouring for slave wages.
Unfortunately this neoliberal ideology by capital has captured some elements within the state and the democratic movement, who though aware of the harsh but failed medicine of neoliberals went ahead to impose it on society.
Neo-liberalism survives and thrives under conditions of low-intensity democracy and insulates political leaders from popular pressure so that they can drive unpopular economic policies.
It is against this background that the movement has over the years abandoned the people driven and people centred approach to development. This explains why the structures of the movement remains in disarray and only focuses its energy on narrow electoral campaign and gets revived only during general elections.
It is within this context that the concerns raised by COSATU and the SACP including some within the ANC regarding certain sections of the National Development Plan particularly sections dealing with economic policy and labour market could not be addressed .
This neo-liberal policy paradigm continues to thrive in the context where the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed people of the world is currently the dominant contradiction. It festers in a fertile ground created by the deepening capitalist crisis which expresses itself through the centralization and concentration of capital and wealth; the financialisation of the economy; the systematic attack on the social functions of the State achieved through struggle of the workers and peoples; the commercialization of all spheres of social life in a logic of privatizing all that can bring higher returns to capital; the attacks on international law and sovereignty of the States; the centralization of political power and its submission to economic power and to the strategies of militarization of international relations, all these are features of capitalist policies that dominate most countries all over the world today .
This neo-liberal policy paradigm has been legitimised by the institutionalisation of policies by governments all over the world which increases the rate of exploitation of working men and women marked by a denial of rights and the abuse of workforce in return of increasingly lower wages.
The central axis of this offensive includes cuts in real wages; Intensification of work periods; deregulation and increase in working hours; deregulation of labour relations; widespread casual labour, particularly among the women and young workers; overexploitation of migrant workers. Appropriation of labour productivity gains by capital; Increase in the retirement age; cuts in pensions and retirement benefits; Increase in unemployment rates; regression of social and labour rights; the denial of the right to bargain collectively and to strike.
This open and heightening offensive against the working class also seen in our country is a painful reminder of the words in the Communist Manifesto that "the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes".
This international offensive which intersect with the neo-liberal, anti-majoritirean offensive in our country is rough comrades. It has set us against each other whilst allowing the right wing offensive to gain confidence. It has made our comrades to stop being guided by the policy of the movement and decisions of our organisations. We cannot predict how this battle will end but one thing is certain and that is, we will not take it lying down.
In our country the offensive has taken the form of the failed DA attempts to take away our right to strike. It expresses itself in the form of the Free Market Foundation`s attempts to take our right to collective bargaining. It comes in the form of Employment Incentive Act which was forced to us even without having gone through NEDLAC processes. When we call for the reviewal of the employment incentive act / the youth wage subsidy no one wants to listen!
When we make a call for a ban on labour brokers, no one listens instead labour brokers are given a life line of three months to exploit workers.
We go to the Alliance Summit and raise a concern about the specific sections of the national Development Plan but no one cares to listen to our concerns instead we get subjected to a process which from the onset is intended to yield no results.
When we ask to be given a Comprehensive Social Security and Retirement reform discussion paper, which government has failed to deliver for more than ten years we get given Taxation Laws Amendment Act. When we take this process to NEDLAC government represented by the National Treasury abandon these engagements to pursue its planned retirement reforms unilaterally.
We want to reiterate that this arrogant act of provocation by the Treasury and the entire government will get an appropriate and equal response from the workers. Workers will fight any attempts to impose compulsory preservation of our hard earned deferred wages.
We want to say here and now that there will be no compulsory preservation or any other imposed reforms for us and about us but without us, on our watch. We will spare no effort to stop this tyranny and ill placed overconfidence by the neo liberal hard liners in government concentrated in the National Treasury.
No government has a right to unilaterally decide for workers, as to how and when they should spend their retirement savings. These savings are part of worker`s hard-earned salaries and should be accessible to the workers, as and when they need them in particular in the absence of Comprehensive Social Security.
We demand that government should postpone the implementation of this law until Comprehensive Social Security and Retirement Reform Discussion Paper is tabled at NEDLAC for discussions and an agreement on it is reached by social partners. We want to remind government and anyone who cares to listen that the 1973 Durban Strikes were on amongst others caused by a threat to workers pension funds.
The neo-liberal policy paradigm has made it difficult for government to address challenges of food security. For example, the Marketing Agricultural Product Act of 1996 diminished the role of the state in setting prices in the sector. It also led to government dismantling the marketing boards, and their assets were privatized . This has resulted in exorbitant food prices charged by the food industry.
The neo liberal policy paradigm has resulted to unjust concentrated patterns of ownership in the entire agricultural value-chain. For an example manufacturing and agro-processing is dominated by few large entities (Tiger Brands, Premier Foods, Foodcorp etc), which were found guilty of price fixing by the Competition Commission in 2010. The retail sector is also controlled by five major retailers; with a joint market share of 90%.
We have recently witnessed student`s struggles throughout the country on a demand for free education in universities. At the centre of the struggle for Free Education in South Africa was not the Minister of Higher Education who is wrongly accused of having failed to implement a resolution on Free Education. As COSATU we have been in every ANC Lekgotla and we know the truth about what caused the non implementation of such resolutions as Free Education.
The fact of the matter is that our country`s policy trajectory is still encored on the neo-liberal policy paradigm which has rendered our democratic government to remain cheer leaders to monopoly capital as it keeps the economic power of the colonial rule intact.
The neo liberal policies had a direct impact on derailing the attainment not only of Free Education in South Africa but also the implementation of many other progressive policies such as the National Health insurance, the comprehensive social security including with regard to addressing food security and hunger etc.
The struggles for Free Education have brought to the fore and exposed the impact of neo liberal policies particularly with regard to the impact of the limited role of the state and Fiscal Austerity measures and this is what is at the centre of the struggles for Free Education.
It is the same thing as the fact that we go to conferences of the movement and decisions gets taken about the implementation of NHI but until today we have not even seen a white paper on the implementation of NHI.
Mangaung agreed on the establishment of a state bank but none of that is happening.
Both the Polokwane Conference and Mangaung agreed on a need for qualitative shift in our macroeconomic policy. Polokwane said "the skewed patterns of ownership and production, the spatial legacies of our apartheid past and the tendencies of the economy towards inequality, dualism and marginalisation will not recede automatically as economic growth accelerates.
Therefore, decisive action is required to thoroughly and urgently transform the economic patterns of the present in order to realise our vision for the future. This includes addressing the monopoly domination".
But our economy remains highly monopolised and foreign owned. The financial sector (banking and insurance) is a monopoly industry: Dominated by 4 large privately owned banks (ABSA, Nedbank, FNB and Standard Bank), two of which have significant foreign ownership.
The wholesale and retail trade sector is a monopoly industry, dominated by two firms: Shoprite and Pick `n Pay, which constitute 66% of the market share. The state does not play any role in this sector.
Manufacturing sector is dominated by two sectors, within which there are monopolies: petro-chemicals and basic iron and steel, which are dominated by Sasol and Arcelor-Mittal. Sasol is about 30% foreign-owned and Arcelor-Mittal is 65% foreign owned. The cement sector is also dominated by 4 players (PPC, Alpha, Lafarge and Natal Portland), in which each player has significant pricing power. Actually Mangaung said SASOL and Accellor Mittal must be nationalised but no one is even talking about it let alone having it appear in any report.
The construction sector is also monopolised, dominated by four players: Murray & Roberts, WBHO, Aveng and Group 5.
The machinery and equipment sector is dominated by foreign companies primarily through the major import fronting company in South Africa, Barloworld. The major equipment players are Caterpillar, John Deere/Bell, Komatsu, Manitou SA and Thyssen-Krupp. All these are foreign owned companies that play a strategic role in the country`s capital equipment supply.
The pharmaceuticals sector is a jungle that is ruled by foreign companies: Aspen, Adcock-Ingram, Sanofi, Pfizer, and Norvatis, etc.They all have a significant foreign-ownership
Polokwane also said "a South African developmental state, whilst learning from the experiences of others, must be built on the solid foundation of South African realities. Whilst engaging private capital strategically, our government must be rooted amongst the people and buttressed by a mass-based democratic liberation movement.
Whilst determining a clear and consistent path forward, it must also seek to build consensus on a democratic basis that builds national unity. Whilst acting effectively to promote growth, efficiency and productivity, it must be equally effective in addressing the social conditions of the masses of our people and realising economic progress for the poor".
Instead of this happening organisational mass power is not used for purposes of asserting a people driven and a people centred development but is used to fight internal factional battles to get people elected to positions of power which allows for access to resources. Organisational mass power is not seen as a strategic element to drive the NDR but it get reduced to be used for patronage.
In this regard, the most immediate task to undertake is to consolidate the Unity of COSATU through a Back to Basics Campaign: There is no short cut to asserting our hegemony. We must build COSATU on the ground based on the Back to Basics articulated in our 11th National Congress, the 2013 Organising and Campaigns Conference and as articulated by the Special National Congress.
We must avoid being overwhelmed by the scale of the problem but cut our cloth according to our size. This means accepting first that we are currently not at our maximum and yet our existence and relevance is based on our numbers. This means that our response should prioritise winning the confidence of workers to join our unions.
This will include ensuring that every union has a clear work place programme which will include getting COSATU at all levels to have workplace visits aimed at listening to workers issues.
We must put our weight in working with the SACP to occupy all centres of power in society and to be found where people are as part of the immediate task to deepen and radicalise the National Democratic Revolution in line with the people`s demands.
We must invest in building the unity of the alliance as a vehicle which drives the revolution.
Our anger and frustrations about the challenges in the Alliance must not blind us to see and understand that the functionality and non functionality of the Alliance is based on the struggle we wage on the ground.
Anger alone without a practical and revolutionary plan is not enough! Anger Alone without preparedness to sweat and work to change the balance of forces on the ground is not enough!
Let us heed comrade Mandela`s call when he said "The struggle that will free us is a long, hard job. 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 must stop demanding a reconfigured alliance in every meeting but fight for a reconfigured alliance through asserting our mass presence on the ground through driving programmes and campaigns which addresses the needs of our members and our communities. Let us be present where people are found .Let`s continue to be present in the struggles of the working class.
We must reconfigure the alliance through mass activities which must define the balance of power inside the alliance. There is no short cut to this task.
Whilst we must accept that we have an interest on who become leaders of the ANC and in government but we must firstly avoid getting into the 2017 succession debates prematurely. More importantly we must stand by our policy that the ANC must be allowed to independently decide on its leaders without any interference from any of the alliance partners or anyone outside the ANC. But COSATU members who are also members of the ANC have every right to participate in the leadership debates inside the ANC guided by the policy and discipline of the ANC.
We must invest our energies and time more on building and strengthening the SACP to ensure that it has the necessary confidence and capacity to drive the struggle for Socialism.
We must stop asking the ANC about the content of radical economic transformation but we must wage campaigns which should force it to emerge organically from the ground as recently seen in the free education campaign. Whilst it is important that we should derive lessons from international experience but we must be careful of importing these experiences as if they emerged under similar conditions as in our country.
This Congress must agree that the struggle and vision we pursue cannot be likened to Brazilian situation to a point of being referred to as creating our Lula Moment. Our struggle is based on the concrete conditions obtaining in our country and is based on our understanding of the fundamental contradictions which our revolution seeks to resolve in our own country.
We must revive our section 77 notice on our socio-economic demands and mobilise workers and our people around these demands. It is these struggles which will define the content of a second more radical phase of our transition.
We have got to keep pace with the masses and any honest observation will come to a conclusion that the people are increasing the tempo and pace of the struggle for economic transformation. If we are not careful we will continuously react to their struggles and not provide any strategic leadership.
In our deliberations we must be guided by the words of a German Physicist Albert Einstein who once said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".
This 12th National Congress in now officially opened!