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COSATU Today  |  Affiliates Speeches

Address by President Jacob Zuma at the 12th COSATU National Congress

22 November 2015, Gallagher Estates, Midrand

President of COSATU, Cde Sdumo Dlamini
Acting General Secretary, Cde Bheki Ntshalintshali
All National Office Bearers
Members of the COSATU Central Executive Committee
Leadership of all affiliate unions
General Secretary of the SACP, Cde Blade Nzimande
Leadership of the ANC present here
Leadership of SANCO
Distinguished Guests
Comrades Delegates

Receive revolutionary greetings on behalf of the entire membership and leadership of our glorious movement, the African National Congress.

This National Congress is convened under the theme "unity and cohesion of COSATU to advance the National Democratic Revolution".

The theme is most appropriate because the unity of COSATU is imperative so that the federation can play its role as the spear that fights for workers and which protects and advances their interests.

COSATU must emerge from this congress stronger than it is now at the beginning of congress. That is the challenge that all delegates face today.

This means delegates must put the interests of the federation and workers first in deliberations and in the focus of the congress. In this way, COSATU and workers will emerge as winners at the end of the congress.

The correctness of this theme is also grounded on the fact that the advancement of the National Democratic Revolution in South Africa requires the unity and cohesion of the Alliance and all its individual components.

Let me re-emphasise the importance of unity.

In July this year we held an extra-ordinary Alliance summit which took place over five full days and which was convened specifically to deal with the unity of our enduring alliance and all its individual components.

We convened that summit because we believed that there had been various worrying political developments, some of which relate directly to what we think each other's individual organizational role must be in this Alliance.

We felt the need to deeply reflect on the strategic relevance and importance of this Alliance in our society and also think of ways to reassert its leadership role in our country.

We need to continuously reflect on the concrete material conditions that necessitated the formation of the separate components of the Alliance.

Indeed it is important to stress the point that ours are separate organizations that entered into an Alliance because of historic conditions.

We must ask ourselves whether those conditions still prevail today.

If they do not, then we must define the new conditions and determine the basis and place of our organizations and alliance.

This exercise is important because we can never achieve the genuine unity of the Alliance if we do not fully comprehend where it comes from, and worse, if we doubt its relevance in present day South Africa.

When we do this exercise, we must bear in mind the instructive words of our late President OR Tambo when observing the sixtieth anniversary of the SACP in 1981, he said:

"Ours is not merely a paper Alliance, created at conference tables and formalized through the signing of documents and representing only an agreement of leaders.

"Our Alliance is a living organism that has grown out of struggle. We have built it out of our separate and common experiences."

In order to appreciate the value of our Alliance, these words of Comrade OR Tambo must be read together with the equally powerful words of his predecessor, President Chief Albert Luthuli who said when referring to COSATU's forerunner that:

"SACTU is the spear, and ANC the shield."

All these point to the fact that the alliance partners need each other and that the relationship is a symbiotic one. Our view as the leader of the Alliance is therefore that the Alliance remains as relevant to present day South Africa as it was before 1994, if not even more now.

Our organizations must play different but complementary roles towards the achievement of our common objectives.

These common objectives and shared dreams are derived from the basic policy document upon which the Alliance is based, the Freedom Charter which was adopted sixty years ago by the congress of the people in Kliptown.

As we said recently at the National General Council of the ANC, it is important to always remember that the ANC is a multi-class National Liberation Movement advancing the National Democratic Revolution, the primary objective of which is the establishment of the National Democratic Society which is mainly defined by non-racialism, non-sexism, democracy and prosperity.

It is also important to reaffirm that the ANC remains biased to the working class and therefore a disciplined force of the left. The fact that it is a multi-class movement does not contradict this latter point.

The SACP on the other hand is the vanguard party of the working class advancing a socialist revolution aimed at creating a society characterized by the dictatorship of the proletariat.

A socialist society is still a class divided society. The SACP must thus deal with class divisions and eradicate them to create a classless society, communism.

From each according to his ability to each according to work performed as we are told in terms of socialism.

One of the key questions for the party is how do we deal with the dictatorship of the capitalist class? They dictate everything every day. Who decides the price of bread? It is dictated to by the capitalist class.

There is no meeting to discuss the price of bread. They will say 20c today and tomorrow it will be 25c. When the price of oil goes up they decide to raise the price of petrol. Whether you like it or not, you must buy the bread and petrol. These decisions are taken to promote class interest, somebody must make a profit somebody must decide.

Once the classes no longer exist you have reached the communist stage. That is what the SACP is fighting for.

COSATU is a progressive trade union federation fighting for and defending the rights of workers and aiming to protect workers from the super-exploitation by the capitalist class. It continues to fight for the rights of the workers. It is situated within the capitalist and its job is to fight for the workers all the time. The workers are important for COSATU. But how far do you go with the workers?

What is our view on the unemployed who are part of the working class. Can we put them aside and say they are not important? The task of the unions is more complex today because computerization, IT and mechanization have complicated the lives of the unskilled workers. They no longer go to the factory and say I am looking for a job.

You have a mass of workers who are not only unemployed workers but are unemployable. We tend to focus only on the employed working class and ignore the unemployed. We do that because we are located within the capitalist class.

Lastly, we have SANCO which is a civic movement and a critical component of civil society which mobilizes and organizes communities behind their bread and butter issues.


I am outlining these roles because we ought to pay sufficient attention to this question of the separate but complementary roles each Alliance partner must play in accelerating the pace towards the creation of a society truly based on the Freedom Charter.

This is important because we will never be truly united unless there is absolute clarity among us on who must perform what task and why.

For example, COSATU is not and has never been a political party. It is a trade union federation that has got a clear responsibility to advance workers' interests and defend their rights. This does not mean COSATU must pursue a narrow workerist agenda that is totally devoid of any appreciation of the broader political context and economic systems.

But workers at this point in history, especially given the economic climate domestically and globally, where inclusive economic growth and new jobs remain elusive while existing jobs are threatened in some sectors, workers clearly need a strong, united and focused COSATU.

COSATU is the real home of the workers in our country.

It is in this context that we must emphasize that COSATU must rise above the challenges it is confronted with today, and remain strong and united in the interests of the thousands of workers who see in it as the indispensable defender of their hard won rights.

We call on all affiliate unions of COSATU to do everything possible to build and defend the unity of COSATU and make it the fighting force that it has been since its establishment in 1985.

Delegates must ensure that COSATU emerges from this congress more united and stronger than ever before.


Last week we met as former liberation movements of Southern Africa in Maputo, Mozambique. We reflected on serious challenges facing the former liberation movements in the continent.

The Summit reminded us that unity is paramount given the balance of forces that are stacked against the liberation movement in the continent.

The progressive forces in SADC resolved to work closely together and to also promote unity within the various movements in the continent so that the forces that seek to divide are unable to achieve their goals.

This means that petty squabbles within the mass democratic movement must not be entertained. Political maturity is critical.

Within our own country, we have a mission and that is to achieve full economic emancipation, building on the political freedom we gained in 1994.

There are three things that countries stronger and through states are built. The first is political power. You must know how to use it otherwise you will surrender to other people and they will use it against you.

The second is economic power. The majority of our people still do not have economic power.

The third is security power. With these three pillars in place you have a strong state.

We must debate economic power. What do we mean by it and how do we want to achieve, that is what the Alliance must discuss as its imperative that we achieve it.

We have to achieve a truly united, democratic, nonracial, nonsexist and prosperous South Africa. We must promote inclusive growth and create decent work for our people through the manner in which we manage the economy.

And we must keep focused on these goals that will take us to a better life without poverty, unemployment and inequality.

We do not want to be diverted from these goals and should not be diverted.

We don't want to be diverted from our unity.

Let us not allow those who don't like us to divert us and to divide us.

We will be together for a long time as the struggle continues.

For as long as there are poor people in our country, the struggle continues.

For as long there are bad working conditions, the struggle continues.

As the Alliance we are the political force in this country that can contribute immensely to deal with these challenges.

But if one component of the Alliance is limping it will not work.

We need to be focused, we need to work hard.

If as a federation we have lost unions, work hard to gain more and to conscientise those who left correctly. It's the job you must do.

Unity is the key.

One of the old men we know most, used to say that this national liberation movement was founded on unity which is the rock.

Don't fight with your comrade.

There is a bigger fight to fight with the enemy.

Don't waste your energy.

We wish you all the best and a successful congress.

It is the wish of the ANC that this congress must put the problems that have affected COSATU behind and emerge as a stronger federation.

We will support you in every corner and in every step you take .I thank you.



All power!