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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech delivered by COSATU President, comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the COSATU 30th Anniversary Rally

5 December 2015

We come from the 12th National Congress which followed from the Special National Congress clear about our weaknesses and confident about our existing strength and even more confident about our future.

Today we are celebrating not only the 30 years of the formation of COSATU , but also the fact that this year marks 60 years since the formation of our predecessor SACTU and 60 years since the adoption of the Freedom Charter.

Today we have to relive the pain of being reminded that on this day of the 5th December 2013 comrade Nelson Mandela, Isithwalandwe, the volunteer in chief in the active resistance, the first real commander in Chief, of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the first black president of the democratic South Africa, a rare human being who added in the galaxy of iconic symbols representing the best in humanity to ever walk on planet earth passed on.

Comrade Nelson Mandela, remains an outstanding revolutionary of all times, compared to such other outstanding iconic revolutionaries as Simon Bolivar who led the Hispanic American people's revolution, Samora Machel who led the liberation struggle in Mozambique, Antonio Agostinho Neto of Angola, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Patrice Lumumba of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in CUBA . All these are leaders who wanted nothing for themselves but everything for their people!.

Each class produces leaders in accordance with its social character, its position in society and the tasks it has to perform. For the leaders of the working class, for example, special qualities are needed: the revolutionary determination and daring that are demanded by the very nature of the proletariat's historic mission; theoretical ability, essential because the struggle of the working class relies on scientific theory; close ties with the masses; ability and experience in organizing the masses; faith in the creative power of the working people; the ability not only to teach the masses but also to learn from them.

Heroes in various periods are those who come to the fore to answer the needs of the struggles of the masses; that every time history presents a new task of struggle, heroes who lead the masses in it are bound to emerge and such was a great leader of our revolution, comrade Nelson Mandela .

Those who chose to go to other nations of the world to undermine our revolution and the leaders of our revolution must be ashamed of themselves . They have lost their soul. There is nothing to learn from them except to discard them as nothing but demagogues whose only pre-occupation is their own popularity and hollow heroism.

Let them at least learn from Franz Fanon when he said "each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it, in relative opacity." Comrade Mandela and his generation did their tasks and made enormous sacrifices, our tasks
as this generation is to discover our mission and fulfil it. . We recall the days when as workers we marched side by side with comrade Mandela demanding the LRA and the removal of the lock-out clause.

Comrade Mandela never called people to a march and then take a luxury flight to Mauritius for an expensive party when and leave the very people he called to a march hungry. Nelson Mandela never went overseas and speak ill of his own people. Comrade Mandela never bought a R3 million rand house and demolished it to build a new one when our people live in shacks and go to bed without food. Comrade Mandela never sold his people, he and his comrade did what was possible, necessary and a priority in their time. They saved our country from a civil war, they made led us to a democratic breakthrough. They created a firm bases for us to advance to new heights. It is those who were honestly involved in the struggle who will cherish and understand the advances we have made as a country.

It was during Mandela's term of office in government that the country signed into law a constitution which has a Bill of rights that elevates and protect workers right to strike, it was during his term of office that the country signed into law various labour legislations which seeked to protect workers' rights.

This constitution which was signed by comrade Mandela has section 25 which allows our government to effect laws that will ensure redistribution of wealth to the people.

Comrade Mandela signed these legislations despite serious and heightened campaign by the DA led opposition who went all out to mobilise against those laws.

There is no difference between the DA who upon his death claimed the glory which came with being associated with comrade Mandela and those who go to other nations to insult our leader even when he is no more to respond for himself. We the living who knows the truth, will not allow the history of our revolution to be distorted and misrepresented. We will respond to defend this great revolutionary against a calculated onslaught to destroy everything he fought for.

As workers we know, respect and cherish comrade Mandela as our own leader, and as true freedom fighter. It is comrade Mandela who insisted that "the organisation of the workers have a crucial role to play, ensuring that the poor and the working people remain at the centre of our national efforts, thinking, planning and execution"

We are now focusing in economic freedom because Mandela and his generation struggled and won the struggle for political power and our task is to continue the struggle and take it to new heights for economic freedom in our life time. Tell no lies and claim no easy victories!

Comrade Mandela warmed that "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 are coming from our 12th national Congress, which elected new leadership and gave us a new mandate. Please allow me to introduce to you the newly elected leadership. The 1st Deputy President comrade Tyotyo James , the 2nd Deputy President comrade Zingiswa Losi , the National Treasury comrade Freda Oosthuysen , the General Secretary comrade Bheki Ntshalintshali , the Deputy General Secretary comrade Solly Phetoe.

As this collective leadership we have come here today to tell you that your organisation is still intact. We have laid and solid foundation towards lasting unity. Your organisation is alive and is more than ready to fight on!

We are coming from the 12th National Congress which instructed us to begin from the beginning and indeed we chose to hold this 30th Anniversary on a spot where COSATU's umbilical cord was cut.

It is here in this very same stadium in which 30 years ago workers declared that we 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. It is these principles which we have continued to practice and defend with our lives.

As this leadership collective including leaders from all our affiliates, we are ready to lead you to battle based on these principles based on our battle cry "An Injury to one is an Injury to All"

The National Congress has given us a three legged Priorities:

1. The first priority is - Back to Basics - based on advancing a programme to build our organisation on the ground

Going Back to Basics means going back to ensuring that leaders, organisers and shop stewards must spent their time and the resources of the organisation servicing workers at the workplace. No leader must spend the resources of the organisation on anything else except on advancing workers interests. Leaders' primary responsibility is to defend workers interests and not employers' fears and profits.
No one must go to a constitutional meeting without a mandate from workers. We are going back to ensuring that leaders report to workers about every decision and resolution taken in meetings.
We are going back to ensure that for everything we do, it is done on the basis of mandate from workers
We are going back to defend the constitution, the founding principles and policies of COSATU
We are going back to fight corruption inside our ranks, in the private sector and in the public sector.
We will work to ensure that COSATU remains independent and is conscious of the dangers of being co-opted by employers and politicians.

We will continue to strike a balance between the immediate concerns of our members to the need for 'stability' and 'national development' without subordinating each to the other.

The task will include building COSATU on the ground based on campaigns. It will include working to strengthen the African and international trade union movement.

2. The Second Interconnected Priority is an aggressive Political Programme

Building the Alliance:

It includes waging campaigns on the ground to build the Alliance. We will work on the ground to build an alliance which respects and implement its own resolutions. We want an alliance which is at the centre of driving the National Democratic Revolution.

We want to build an alliance on the ground which collectively deploys and collectively recalls those deployees when they refuse or fail to implement progressive policies.

We will not stop to raise issues about some sections of the NDP in particular the economic and labour market sections. We want the concerns we raise together with the SACP to be addressed now!

Our back to basics means building a strong SANCO which leads visible struggles in communities.

It means building and strengthening our ANC to leading a working class biased and radical National Democratic Revolution.

Building the ANC based on asserting the centrality of the working class as the primary motive force in the NDR

This will include openly contesting and defending the centrality of the working class as the primary motive force in the NDR.

It will also include openly contesting and defending the working class biasness and the mass based character of the ANC through visible programmes on the ground.

Part of the task will be to develop programmes aimed at linking mass power and state power.

All we want is a strong , united ANC that remains grounded on the people as a disciplined force of the left whose policies and programmes remains biased to the left.

As COSATU we will avoid getting into the electoral internal processes of the ANC but this does not mean we are not interested on who will be the next president of the country . The CEC has been mandated by the National Congress to debate our principled approach on the matter.

We however remain concerned about the extent to which the untimely debates on leadership succession has continued to deepen divisions in the ANC as a leader of our revolution.

Building and strengthening the SACP to advance the struggle for Socialism

We will also consciously work to build a strong SACP that has the resources and capacity to advance the struggle to deepen and advance the NDR as a direct to socialism.

This work will include consciously working to strengthen the socialist axis under the leadership of the SACP to advance in a programmatic way the struggle for socialism. This will also include participating in the SACP process towards a decision on how it will relate to electoral politics in the future guided by our 9th Congress resolution and the SACPs 12th National Congress and its Special National Congress resolution in this regard

As part of the task to develop political consciousness, we will run joint programme with the SACP focusing in ideological training of our leaders and members. In this regard we will focus on ensuring that unions put aside 10% of their budget for political education and that COSATU head office has enough capacity for this formidable task.

The ANC and the SACP are our organisations. We will influence them and we allow to be influenced by them based on the principle of mutual respect for each other's independence.

Mobilising towards the ANC victory in the forthcoming local government Elections:

We are going back to our communities to mobilise our people for the overwhelming victory of the ANC in the forthcoming local government election.

This mobilisation will be a principled mobilisation based on ensuring that all the concerns raised by our people in the previous elections are addressed. This will include removing from the lists those candidates who are known for being corrupt, ill disciplined and those who are not being supported by the majority in communities.

The campaign will not just be a walk around to ask for votes but will be about ensuring that the demands of our communities are address effectively.

3. The Third interrelated priority is a Programme to heighten and intensify our struggle for radical economic transformation on the ground :

Campaign against Neo liberalism:

The first thing we want to say is that Neo - liberalism has failed and our government must stop pursuing an economic policy trajectory which is based on the neo- liberal paradigm

We want a more visible role of the state in the economy. We want government to continue increasing social expenditure.

We want government to intervene in the economy to ensure that our economy is taken away from the hands of the white monopoly capital to the people as a whole

Re- industrialisation of the African Continent

Campaign for the re-industrialisation in the African Continent as a whole.

In the same that Neo - liberalism has failed in South Africa, it has also failed in the continent as a whole when it was presented as structural adjustment programmes.

Our continent continues to be colonised. Some in the continent continues to pay colonial tax to France. Millions of our money in the continent continues to leave our borders through illicit outflows. We want to build a strong African trade union movement to advance the struggle for radical economic transformation in the continent as a whole.

Campaign for the Nationalisation of strategic sectors:

We want our government to nationalise specific strategic sectors of the economy. We want a state mining company, we want a state bank, we want a state pharmaceutical , We want SASOL and Accellor Mittal to be nationalised now . We want the implementation of the National Health Insurance now. We want free Education at all levels as agreed in Polokwane and in Mangaung.

Campaign of a National minimum Wage

We want government to work with us until we arrive at the figure for a National Minimum wage. This work cannot be outsourced.

Intensify the Struggle for Free Education:

SASCO and the progressive youth Alliance has led the way in the fight for free education which included demands against outsourcing in many higher education institutions.

We applaud SASCO for leading the struggle for Free Education in South Africa. This is the struggle which must be taken to its logical conclusion. In this regard working with the PYA, the Education Alliance, and the federation will convene a meeting to take forward the broad based struggles on the education crisis and the realisation of free education. This will be linked to a programme focusing on the transformation of basic education and the expansion of vocational education and training.

On Annual National Assessments - Defending the principle of central bargaining

We are moving forward to demand that the Department of basic Education must respect the agreement it reached with educators to postpone the implementation of Annual National Assessments.

We will work with SADTU to strengthen and heighten the campaign to reject the Annual National Assessments (ANA) in their current form, because they are not in the best interests of learners and will do nothing to improve the quality of education. At the centre of this campaign shall be to force employers to respect collective bargaining.

The Department of Basic Education has joined the national treasury in the art of displaying arrogance against workers demands and to undermine existing collection agreements. We call on the DBE to reverse their decision to proceed with the implementation of Annual National Assessments in the current form.

We want our government to cconvene an urgent education summit which will on amongst others address issues relating to the realisation of free education, transformation of the curriculum, availability of resources in our schools etc.

Campaign against Taxation Laws Amendment Act.

We want our government to know that we are against the Taxation amendment Act, We must go back to NEDLAC for a sober discussion.

We are angry by government's insistence to continue with the implementation of this Act.

We want to say very clearly that this action but our government will be met with 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.

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.

If government is not prepared to listen, we are going to meet in the streets!

Campaign against the ban Labour Brokers: We shall heighten the campaign for the total banning of labour brokers. This campaign shall include our demand on Equal pay for work of equal value! We will not accept any form of blackmail including convenient and right wing interpretation of the constitution which places the right to trade above labour rights . Labour brokers are not involved in any form of productive activity nor do they add any value in the creation of jobs. No economy shall grow on the basis of slavery!

Campaign against Youth Wage Subsidy: to demand the scrapping of the Youth Employment Incentives Act in favour of a comprehensive youth employment strategy. Noting that majority of Youth Wage Subsidy funds have gone to labour brokers.

We will be filing a section 77 notice at NEDLAC declaring our opposition to the youth wage subsidy and calling for it to be scrapped!

Fighting Corruption in our ranks and in Society Generally

We will be leading a campaign exposing corruption in the private and public sectors and call for decisive punitive action against perpetrators. The current framework is not hard hitting enough against offenders in the public sector .It allows business to pay their way out and go away with murder as in the cases of collusion as exposed by the competition commission. We demand the strengthening of the legal framework so that responsible company executives can face prosecution.

Building on the spirit of our Special National Congress with regard to the scourge of business unionism, we shall systematically develop binding policy frameworks, which must address challenges arising from our investment arms, union-linked retirement funds, procurement of goods and services and fund raising.

Campaign against Police Killings and attacks against Public Servants

We will fight against the killing of the Police and attacks directed at public servants. We have noted with anger the continued killing of the police and merciless attacks directed at public servants and civilians which happens with impunity.

We have seen nurses and teachers raped and physically attacked at work and in our view all these are intended to undermine the state and the security establishment of the country. We are worried that the state security capacity continues to be dwarfed by the capacity of private security firms who are three times more resourced and more armed than the state security agencies.

What is even more worrying is that these are foreign owned and remain unregulated. We will heighten our campaign in defence of the police and public servants. We call on government to impose strict regulatory measured against private security firms. Police killings should be treated as treason!

The killings in Hostels

We remain worried about the killings happening in Hostels. In reality, it is workers who are killing each other. These are the very same workers who formed COSATU and are members of this glorious federation. We cannot fold our arms when workers are killing each other.

National Day of Action:

We will launch a radical campaign against privatisation which goes beyond section 77 based protests but a protest action which will include rolling mass action.

We call for the convening of an Alliance Economic Summit to discuss issues relating to policy differences in the Alliance including on the concerns we raised with the SACP on the economic and labour Market sections in the NDP.

In 2016 we will target a day in a quarter for a National Day of Action. This action will focus on our demands for a National Minimum wage, ttransformation of the economy, abolition of Apartheid wage structure, transformation in education etc.

Comrades, it is clear from our tasks that the experience we have acquired from the path we have travelled has taught us to always measure our cloth seven times before we can cut it.

We know the battles we must pick up and we know which ones we must not take up.

We understand very clearly that we should invest our energies at the work place, confronting and addressing issues affecting our members

We know that we must maximise our resources and deploy them to heighten our offensive against our primary class enemies.

We will not spend much of our time on those who speak because they long to be in COSATU but the organisation has rejected them because they could not respect its policies.

We will not spend our time on them and yet we will not ignore them. When necessary we will respond to deal with misinformation which is what is at the centre of their campaign against COSATU.

All workers in South Africa must know that COSATU is a home of all workers.

We call on all metal workers in South Africa to liberate themselves and come back to COSATU. This is your real home and you will always be welcome!

We are clear that the current moment calls on us to focus our energies on building the strength of our organisation on the ground.

We know and understand that there is no battle we will ever win without us consciously acting to assert our presence on the ground.