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Shopsteward Volume 27 No. 3

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech delivered by COSATU President at the 2018 NUM National Congress

The President of the NUM comrade Piet Matosa The entire NOB collective and the leadership of NUM from all levels Invited Guests Comrades who are delegates to this Congress, representing the aspirations and views of the membership

Please accept warm and revolutionary greetings from COSATU

We want to salute the outgoing NUM leadership collective and all leaders from all levels of NUM for keeping the union intact under very difficult conditions.

We thank you the delegates and all the members of NUM for your continued belief in the NUM and defending the NUM when it was severe attack.

Our enemies including some employers have deployed all types of resources in their plan to attack, undermine, weaken and destroy the NUM. Many had long written the NUM as dead. We have seen how employers have invested in building new unions to replace NUM.

We have seen how some HR departments have connived with opposition unions to steal NUM membership forms so that NUM could lose recognition agreements in some workplaces.

Many have counted years and had even given a date on which the NUM will be finished but it is you the members of NUM who stood up and said loud and clear that NUM is our union.

It is you who reminded those who may have forgotten that the continued improvement of working conditions in the mines are as a result of the struggles waged by the NUM

It is you the real owners of the NUM who declared openly that, this union of Elijah Barayi shall never die.

As COSATU we want to state right from the onset that we need a united and strong NUM. We want a successful NUM congress, which must not only confront elections but on uniting workers to mount a deadly fight against our class enemies, particularly to target all arrogant employers and teach them a lesson about the strength of unity amongst workers.

We want to see delegates communicating a message unity in the NUM. We want this congress to be about strengthening the NUM.

We have come to this congress to tell NUM members that, we must be ready to fight for that which belongs to the working class. NUM must actively participate in the process of amending the mining charter and reassert the principles, views and positions which will advance the agenda of changing economic ownership patterns in South Africa to be in favour of the working class and the poor. This will require a united NUM.

The challenges confronting the working class, the arrogance that is being displayed by employers needs a strong NUM.

As the working class, we are currently going through a period where our patience is running out and our resilience and organisational strength is being tested.

We came from the ANC's 54th National Conference in high hopes. Comrade Cyril had been elected as the president of the ANC as we had wanted as COSATU.

The resolutions of the conference directed that there was no other way out but to advance a second more radical phase of the National Democratic revolution, which will be characterised by radical socio economic transformation.

We embraced the optimism of the post NASREC Conference which the ANC has characterised as the New Dawn. But this optimism and the new dawn is devoid of radical content. It is reminiscent of a period of the truth and reconciliation commission and the period leading to a democratic breakthrough in which optimism for a new South Africa coexisted with violence particularly in KZN and in Gauteng. The very truth and reconciliation process was not linked or translated to an aggressive implementation of the freedom charter from which the oppressed stood to qualitatively rip the benefits of their struggle.

Just as we were in high hopes, government announced the introduction of an increase in the VAT without even calling a meeting to discuss the matter. We have requested to engage with both the ANC and government to reverse the VAT increase policy. We have also said we will engage with the process of identifying and increasing zero rated goods and services. But our first price is to get the policy reversed and if those engagements fail, we will meet in the streets.

As if that was enough employers after employer, particularly in mining started sending notices to unions on their intention to retrench workers. It is clear that employers in South Africa think that they can take workers and all of us for granted. They are not prepared to invest in the South African economy and yet government has been giving a number of incentives. They don't even support buy local campaign which is aimed at boosting our economy and create jobs.

The painful reality is that procurement rules apply to government yet 70% of the economy is controlled and owned by the private sector. As a result private sector procurement is very minimal and sectors including mining sector have continued to buy goods and services from overseas supplies and have robbed SA of jobs and local production. The financial sector is buying its IT services from foreign overseas monopolies which will make it difficult for SA to train and capacitate its local IT industry, to create skills in this sector and to participate in the fourth industrial revolution.

Just as we were trying to make sense of these negative developments, government signed IPPs into law.

As COSATU we are very clear that Renewable energy IPP contracts that have been signed by the Department of energy must be reversed. Eskom should be the only entity driving renewable energy production because energy is sensitive security matter.

These contracts were signed in secrecy and without consultation and the benefits and costs have not been disclosed.

The introduction of renewable energy IPP's poses a threat to jobs and sustainability of Eskom and it amounts to privatisation and privatisation means the death of trade unions in the form of short time, retrenchments, low wages, little or absence collective bargaining, corruption, state capture and enrichment of an elite in the governing party and in the business sector. ANC does not have a resolution to privatise Eskom or any other state company. Countries such as Norway have invested in renewable energy but this has not stopped them from using fossil fuels/crude oil and gas to create high standards of living and one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world.

As we meet here today ESKOM which is State Owned enterprise, has just gone back to the negotiating table after presenting a zero increment offer.

We want to tell you members of the NUM, ESKOM is an employer like any other employer. If they are arrogant, you must be prepared to fight arrogance with mass power in the streets. You must never compromise workers' demands in the alter of political understanding. Workers must guide you until the end of negotiations with ESKOM.

But comrades, it is important that we accurately describe the current developments. Our observations include the following:

  1. Since the 54th National Conference COSATU have led successful May Day celebrations all over the country and in the process defeated attempts by our detractors and the media to question and undermine the victory on National Minimum Wage. Many COSATU Unions have been and continue to be on the streets demanding a living wage in their sectors. COSATUs interventions on corruption and state capture, on leadership questions in the ANC, on the National Minimum Wage and on various policy struggles have earned it both respect and more enemies.
  2. For an example in the recent past towards the May Day celebrations, it has become clear that the media was hell bent to market and elevate the new federation whose declared aim is to liquidate COSATU. Even though these attempts continue to fail but the project of liquidating COSATU has not been aborted. More space continues to be given to those who oppose COSATU. However as the federation we have not been aggressive in defending ourselves from this onslaught which is reminiscent of an onslaught by the apartheid regime which saw COSATU house being bombed on the 7 May 1987 for which Adrian Vlok later admitted to have planned and executed.
  3. There is now an inevitable open political rapture inside the Democratic Alliance which could not be contained given the fundamental racist character of the DA. Its growth strategies has been predicated in winning black and African votes and this resulted on an increase on membership from working class communities who have been disgruntled with the ANC on matters of service delivery promises. But this change in the membership profile of the DA has not resulted to policy changes which recognises and prioritises the need to address racial inequalities and skewed racial property ownership patterns in South Africa. This is the basis of the current implosion in the DA.

There are increasing internal contradictions and tensions based on two pulling forces represented by the DA core constituency tendencies of defending white privileges and the growing majority of blacks who associate with the ANC s clarion call for radical socio economic transformation which prioritises addressing the legacy of apartheid and colonialism.

The DA has profited from presenting itself as a clean party of uncorrupted clean and white leaders but the recent revelations points to the reality of corruption which has been pursued and hidden through strong and forceful central leadership control.

The movement stands a better chance to secure electoral advances in the Western Cape under these conditions however the continued infightings in the ANC will not allow it to make such advances. One things has become clear and it is that the DA is more and more getting exposed for a racist organisation that it is but observing that on its own is not enough unless it is turned into a political opportunity to exploited for electoral and ideological objectives.

  1. There has been more talk about the Unity of the ANC and attempts to achieve this have been seen in how matters relating to deployments have been handled. This included accommodating comrades from all factions based on their capacity to deliver. But this attempt towards unity has also coexisted with policy incoherency.
  2. We have also seen the ANC in parliament zigzagging and being indecisive to a point of losing the strategic initiative to opportunistic opposition like the EFF on the resolution of land expropriation without compensation. The ANC in parliament have also been dithering when it came to pushing its own resolutions for an example with regard to nationalisation of the Reserve Bank, the establishment of a state pharmaceutical company, the implementation of the NHI, etc.
  3. Given the policy dithering and factional divisions in the movement, capital has become more emboldened and there is a rise in their arrogance and more policy space has been created and given to them on a silver platter.
    This has seen the appointment of a new chairperson of the ESKOM board (Jabu Mabuza) despite his track record of butchering workers through retrenchments. There has also been an establishment of an investment council which include people (such as Trevor Manuel) who were at the head of implementing the failed neo liberal Gear policy.
  4. The neo liberal policy paradigm is being forcefully and aggressively imposed based on the argument of achieving economic growth.

It is true that there has been a decline in economic growth and standards of living in-terms of GDP per capita. But this is consistent with a high inflation rate that has been growing since 2013 till present. High inflation and low real wages continues to weaken household spending and there is a persistence decline in investment. The devaluation of rand whilst it may help exporters it would negatively affect the poor in the short term.

The inability to move poverty, inequality and unemployment, and continued racial and class imbalances in these, is a major feature of South Africa over the past twenty years, and a central focus of debate on macroeconomic challenges facing our economic presently. These imbalances have been at their peak since the 2014 democratic elections. In the 2017/18 financial, SA's unemployment rate is approximately 27.5 percent relative to 24.7 percent that was recorded for the year 2013/14.

The structural reasons for persistence of income poverty and inequality in South Africa include poor quality of education of the majority, inequalities in the returns to skills, unemployment and low labour income formal and in the self-employed informal sector.

It is unfortunate that this negative condition of the economy has been used to blackmail government to accept economic policies which failed dismally in the past. This has included calls for an exclusive focus on achieving economic growth.

As COSATU we know from experience that the focus on economic growth is false start and has failed SA since 1996. We have had positive economic growth as measured by GDP since 1994 until 2008. Yet the same growth did not create jobs. Recently the focus has been on satisfying the needs of the credit rating agencies despite SA low public debt levels.

The public sector salary bill has been raised as threat to finances and government has imposed austerity measures in the form of natural attrition which is a form of retrenchment, and the government is reportedly considering privatisation in order to address the high debt levels. There has been a decline in economic growth and standards of living in-terms of GDP per capita. This is consistent with a high inflation rate that has been growing since 2013 till present. High inflation and low real wages continues to weaken household spending and there is a persistence decline in investment. The devaluation of rand whilst it may help exporters it would negatively affect the poor in the short term.

The inability to move poverty, inequality and unemployment, and continued racial and class imbalances in these, is a major feature of South Africa over the past twenty years, and a central focus of debate on macroeconomic challenges facing our economic presently. These imbalances have been at their peak since the 2014 democratic elections. In the 2017/18 financial, SA's unemployment rate is approximately 27.5 percent relative to 24.7 percent that was recorded for the year 2013/14.

The structural reasons for persistence of income poverty and inequality in South Africa include poor quality of education of the majority, inequalities in the returns to skills, unemployment and low labour income formal and in the self-employed informal sector.

The focus on economic growth is false start and has failed SA since 1996. We have had positive economic growth as measured by GDP since 1994 until 2008. Yet the same growth did not create jobs. Recently the focus has been on satisfying the needs of the credit rating agencies despite SA low public debt levels. The public sector salary bill has been raised as threat to finances and government has imposed austerity measures in the form of natural attrition which is a form of retrenchment, and the government is reportedly considering privatisation in order to address the high debt levels.

If we do not stand up and fight the imposition of the neo liberal agenda against the realisation of a second more radical phase of our transition which should benefit the working class and the poor, we should know that both the trade union movement and the ANC led liberation movement will lose the confidence and trust amongst the masses of our people

We wish this Congress all the success.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794

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