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  |  Affiliates Speeches

Address by ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at COSATU 6th Central Committee Meeting

30 May 2017, St George's Hotel, Irene

President of Cosatu, Cde S'dumo Dlamini,
General Secretary of Cosatu, Cde Bheki Ntshalintshali,
Central Committee members,

I greet you in the name of the African National Congress on the occasion of this critical Central Committee meeting.

As the African National Congress, the people's movement, we salute you, COSATU, the leading representative of the workers of this country.

We salute you for the tremendous struggles you have fought and for the great victories you have achieved.

We salute you because you are the most progressive and the most potent weapon that the workers of this country have.

We salute you because Cosatu is the home of the workers of this country.

It is through Cosatu that the workers of this country have a voice.

It is through Cosatu that they exercise their power.

It is through Cosatu that they fight for their rights.

The unity of Cosatu is therefore paramount.

We should never lose sight of our founding principle of 'one industry, one union' and 'one country, one federation'.

We know from the history of workers' struggles in this country - from our lived experience - that we are stronger united, and that we are at our weakest divided.

We know that discrimination, exploitation and injustice will never be defeated until the workers are united.

For as long as workers are not united, poverty, unemployment and inequality will remain the defining features of our society.

It is therefore imperative that we work to advance unity within Cosatu, within its affiliates and within the Alliance.

It is imperative that Cosatu and its affiliates reach out to unorganised workers.

It is imperative that Cosatu and its affiliates engage with other federations and unions on common platforms of action.

Cosatu is the home of all workers not simply because it claims to be.
Cosatu is the home of South African workers because it has demonstrated that it can organise, mobilise, recruit, negotiate and advance the interests of workers most effectively.

With Cosatu as the spear and the ANC as the shield, we fought alongside our people to liberate this country from the tyranny of apartheid.

Together, we have written a democratic Constitution, which guarantees equal rights for all people and requires that we progressively strive to redress the injustices of the past.

Together, we have built strong democratic institutions, provided basic infrastructure and services to millions, and made important progress in providing skills, jobs and opportunities to our people.

Now, with Cosatu as the spear and the ANC as the shield, we have entered a new era of struggle - a struggle for fundamental economic transformation and rapid, inclusive and sustainable growth.

At the centre of this effort must be the creation of decent work.

We cannot accept a situation where over a third of working age people are unemployed.

Not only is it unsustainable, but it is an affront to human dignity.

As leaders, our every waking hour must be dedicated to creating jobs for the millions who are unemployed and improving the wages and conditions of those who have work.

We must demonstrate, through action, our bias towards the working class and the poor.

It from the hands of workers that millions of our people receive their daily bread.

It is by the sweat of your brow that the wheels of our economy keep turning.

It is ultimately you, the workers of South Africa, who produce the wealth of this country.

And yet, for as long as can be remembered, you have been denied your share of the riches of this country.

As we meet here at this important meeting of the Central Committee, we must pledge that we will not rest until the workers are able to equally share in that wealth.

We will work together to ensure that our substantial investment in infrastructure is leveraged to achieve lasting benefits for our economy.

As we build new roads, bridges, dams, pipelines, power stations and ports, we will work with each other to develop our own industrial capacity.

We will steadily and deliberately source our materials, skills and technology locally and we will, with time, export these to other parts of the continent.

We will continue to improve the environment for investment in productive activity in the country - through our incentive programmes, our special economic zones, improved infrastructure, lower input costs and streamlined regulations.

As part of our efforts to transform the economy and provide opportunities for new entrants, we will tackle monopolies and end anti-competitive behaviour.

We will use the procurement spend of the state more aggressively to promote the participation of black companies in the economy.

We will use the regulatory powers of the state to more effectively ensure that workers gain a stake in the companies where they work and share in the profits.

Most importantly, we are investing in education and skills development to ensure that our people have the skills needed to find employment and drive growth.

These are some of the elements of the radical economic transformation that we need to undertake.

Radical economic transformation can't simply be a slogan.

It can't simply be reckless rhetoric and empty promises intended to mask the plunder of our natural resources.

We will not tempt our people into thinking that complex, intractable problems can be easily solved through words that sound revolutionary but are little more than wishful thinking.

Our lived experience tells us that the task of accelerating growth, creating employment and transforming the economy requires strategies that are detailed, evidence-based, properly resourced and effectively coordinated.

Our lived experience tells us that we must undertake the fundamental transformation of our economy in circumstances that are not of our choosing, and that the pace of change depends on our ability to shift the balance of forces in our favour.

In all of these efforts, Cosatu continues to play a critical role.

Cosatu must continue to ensure that all the policies we adopt and the programmes we implement effectively advance the interests of workers and the unemployed.

But more than that, Cosatu - and workers in general - must be integrally involved in guiding, monitoring and effecting implementation.


We are undertaking this work in a difficult economic climate.

Due in large measure to reduced global demand, our economy has experienced an extended period of slow growth.

Public finances are significantly constrained, limiting our ability to expand our investment in infrastructure, social support and measures to stimulate economic growth.

While we maintain necessary fiscal discipline and ensure that public debt does not rise beyond what we can sustain, we nevertheless continue to direct expenditure towards meeting the needs of the poor.

Our efforts to grow the economy have been dealt a significant blow by recent decisions by ratings agencies Fitch and S&P.

It is therefore critical that we marshall all our resources and direct all our efforts to ensure that our sovereign credit rating does not suffer any further downgrades.

It is critical that we work together, as we have been doing for the past 18 months, to address the immediate obstacles to growth in our economy.

The current economic difficulties make collaboration between social partners even more important.

We must therefore welcome the decision of the NEDLAC Exco to establish a task team of all the constituencies to work with the Minister of Finance to practically address the impact of the ratings downgrades.

It demonstrates the determination of all social partners, despite whatever misgivings they may have, to continue to work together to advance the national interest.

This places a particular responsibility on the Alliance - and specifically the ANC - to ensure that in our pronouncements and in our actions we do nothing to undermine confidence in the political, economic or social stability of our country.

We must build on the progress we have made as government, business and labour to craft solutions to the challenges we face.

The historic agreement reached earlier this year on a national minimum wage and labour stability demonstrates what is possible.

Despite what some detractors may argue, the agreement on a national minimum wage is a great victory for workers.

It is a great victory for Cosatu, which has been at the forefront of this struggle and which was central to its achievement.

It is a significant breakthrough in the struggle for a living wage.

We will do everything within our means - together with our social partners - to ensure that it is implemented and that compliance is universal.

We will use this advance to continue the struggle to reduce wage inequality and ensure that every worker enjoys a decent standard of living.

Yet, if we are to unite society, if we are to promote cooperation among the social partners, we need to ensure that we ourselves are united.

The unity of the Alliance is essential for the advancement of economic and social transformation.

The unity of the Alliance is essential for the achievement of a national democratic society.

We must acknowledge that there are today significant areas of difference within the Alliance and within the ANC.

These differences are not ideological.

They are not differences about the objectives or the content of the National Democratic Revolution.

Rather the differences within the Alliance and within the ANC are about who should occupy positions of power, prestige and reward within our society.

Until we find effective mechanisms of resolving that conflict, we will struggle to achieve unity.

Until we find effective ways to combat corruption, patronage and the capture of the state by outside interests, we will struggle to build a strong, coherent Alliance that is completely devoted to the interests of the people.

We should therefore welcome the decision of the ANC's National Executive Committee on the weekend to support the establishment of a judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture.

It is critical that this commission be established without delay.

It is critical too that its terms of reference allow for a thorough, in-depth investigation of the extent of undue outside influence - from whatever quarter - on the institutions of the state.

The workers of this country are correct to be concerned about the ongoing revelations on state capture.

They are correct to be concerned about the apparent extent to which it has infected the state and the liberation movement.

The workers of this country - Cosatu in particular - need to take the lead in identifying and exposing instances of state capture.

The workers of this country know what is happening in our state owned enterprises, in our government departments and agencies and in any companies that may seek to gain unfair advantage.

We need to build a broad front against corruption and state capture.

And we must do so in a manner that does not promote partisanship or factionalism.


For many decades, you, the workers of South Africa, have understood that the struggle against class exploitation cannot be separated from the struggle against national oppression.

You have been an integral part of the Alliance, a leading force in the struggle for a national democratic society.

Now is the time to strengthen your voice in the Alliance.

You must be able to speak truth to power.

You must jealously guard the unity, integrity and effectiveness of Alliance.

Assert your role as a strategic partner.

Reclaim your right to consultation and participatory decision-making.

Understand that to remain silent in a sea of graft and theft is to betray your struggle.

Stand by your demands for honest, capable and ethical leadership.

As we work to build Cosatu, to strengthen the Alliance, let us live and act according to the words of Amilcar Cabral, who said:

"Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone's head. They are fighting to win material benefit, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children...

"Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others.

"Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes and failures. Claim no easy victories. Tell no lies!"

I thank you.

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