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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech to the COSATU Western Cape Provincial Congress by COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini

18 July 2009, Cape Town City Hall

The outgoing leadership of the province,
The Provincial Executive Committee
Leaders of the Alliance present here today

Comrades and friends please accept warm greetings from the National Office Bearers and the Central Executive Committee of COSATU.

We are gathered here today during a week to celebrate the birthday of our icon, Isithwalandwe/Siparankwe and our Elijah Barayi recipient, comrade Nelson Mandela. The two million members of COSATU said I must tell you that the mere thought that you are still alive and you are around give us hope and take away despair even in the most difficult times.

Thank you for teaching us to always stand and work with and for the poor. Thank you for teaching us to stand by our virtues and principles even when deviation from principle would have provided a shortcut to our objectives. Thank you for teaching us to honour the principle of non racialism even when our oppressors persecuted us on the bases of our skin pigmentation. Thank you for teaching us to adopt a principle of respecting the value of life for all humanity even in our armed struggle despite the fact that our oppressors made killing the core of their strategy.

Thank you for teaching us the art of waiting and perseverance, thank you for teaching us that liberation would never be given on a silver platter but it must be struggled for, thank you for teaching us honesty and frankness as the basic virtues of our liberation struggle.

Thank for teaching us to become true internationalists. Because of your teachings we will not rest until the people of Swaziland; Western Sahara and the CUBAN five are free. We will not rest until the conditions of freedom in the DRC and for the Zimbabwean people are certain. Tata we will not rest until a just world comes into being for you taught us that through our struggle another world where there is complete economic and political justice is possible!

Thank you Tata and all your comrades for helping to building our movement into a giant that it has become, we will never let you down! Thank you Tata uMadiba! May you be with us to see the total liberation of the working class and the poor!

We hope that all in the province regardless of political affiliation have heeded a call by the president of the Country to dedicate 67 minutes of our day into doing something good for humanity. We also hope that the 67 minutes will increase into 67 Hours and years and into everyday activity to do good for humanity particularly for the poor.

Comrades and compatriots as we celebrate the life of this Giant we have mixed feelings that on one hand we have entered the period of real hope where we have a government that is prepared to listen ,engage with us and act on its commitment.

The recent interventions by government and the ANC in the OSDs in the public service, in the doctors strike and to see the minister moving quickly to intervene in the construction sector is encouraging. We hope and trust that all the outstanding negotiations on OSDs and the wage negotiations that have just commenced in the public service will be resolved to the satisfaction of all parties without each party resorting to using power.

We are encouraged by all our ministers in particular the bold stance taken by the minister of trade in the DOHA negotiations and on the practical steps he wants to take to ensure that the country has an industrial policy.

We are encouraged by the pronouncements made by the Minister of higher education to ensure access and affordability in higher education. The statement by the president to ensure that all educators have an access to computers and to have them own computer laptops gives hope to our education and to the most needed teacher development and support programmes.

We are happy with the stance taken by the minister of health on the implementation of the NHI; he has refused to bow before those who want to create a perception that the NHI was impossible.

We are confident that the minister of home affairs will change the situation around in that department. All COSATU unions in the Public Service are committed to ensuring quality public service delivery and we hope that all involved will honestly make a contribution including making all the required resources available to create a conducive environment for quality service delivery. We support government endeavour to deal with corruption and remove all those involved even where that involves our members.

We have confidence in all our ministers; we can for the first time see that the decent work agenda is going to be taken forward. We know that comrade Ebrahim Patel and all the ministers with our support and the support of the country as a whole will make the dream of decent jobs and increase in employment a reality.

For as long as the government continues to show decisiveness in intervening on behalf of the working class and the poor we will support them openly but where we are not convinced about their commitment on the implementation of the Polokwane Resolutions we will not hesitate to engage them , point out weaknesses and provide alternative solutions.

We are serious when we say this term of office must benefit the working and the poor and we will spur none of our energy to ensure that this becomes a reality!

On the other side comrades, we are worried that the situation in the SABC is not getting better , just when we thought the employer was moving in the right direction they have just chosen to renege from their latest offer and reverted to their initial offer which will obviously be rejected by the workers. All we are calling for is that negotiations must be conducted in good faith. This to and fro movement cannot be accepted!

Comrades we are worried that the world is faced with an unprecedented economic crisis and some want to use this crisis to argue for an economic policy trajectory that will take us back to the Gear years. We are beginning to once again hear some voices in different platforms arguing that the reason why South Africa has not been severely affected by the global economic crisis is because we adopted gear policy.

From where we stand we know that that is half of the whole truth. It is us as the workers who are at the cold face of unemployment and poverty. As we speak today I know that hundreds of jobs are being lost .An estimated total of 208,000 jobs have been lost, almost two thirds (143 000) of them in retail, just under a third (62,000) in manufacturing and the rest (53,000) in agriculture, transport and the public service. This increased the number of officially unemployed people in the country from 3, 9 million to just fewer than 4, 2 million. These exclude those who are discouraged of looking for a job.

What is painful is that around 3, 2 million or 75% of all unemployed people in South Africa are between the age of 15 and 34 years.

There are predictions that this year alone, almost a million workers will lose their jobs, which means that the number of unemployed will rise drastically, far more than earlier predictions that job losses for this year would peak at 250 000.

Those who want us to believe a lie that Gear helped us must be reminded about the painful reality we had to go through and whose legacy still haunts us up to this day. It is us the workers who because of those policy options we had to face retrenchments. As we speak today we are sitting with the problem of ESKOM to which some despite our call refused to make the necessary investments because there were plans to privatise it. Today it is the working class and the poor that is expected to foot the bill.

As if this was not enough we are receiving reports that the escalation of food prices continues. The report by the National Agricultural Marketing Councilís Quarterly Price Monitor (February 2009) is not promising any improvement.

According to this report, food prices remain on an upward trend. In terms of the report, the year-on-year (January 2008-January 2009) prices of basic food have increased drastically. Most of the food items whose price continues to increase form the backbone of what is eaten by the working class and the poor.

Thanks to the Competition Commission for being proactive in probing the possibility of price coalition in the whole food value chain. Indeed Karl Marx was correct to assert that the intention of Capitalism remains that of maximising profit if they happen to dress or feed the nation that is by sheer coincidence!

We are worried comrades that when every country in the whole world is calling its people to come together to find a solution to the crisis, in our country there are institutions such as the reserve bank which continue to hide behind the label of independence and continue to apply monetary instruments that punishes the poor.

We want to repeat it that as far as we are concern the current economic situation and the developmental posture taken by the government requires that the policy of inflation targeting should be reviewed. It is not true that the constitution mandates the Reserve bank to exclusively focus on price stability.

On among others the constitution says ďThe primary object of the South African Reserve Bank is to protect the value of the currency in the interest of balanced and sustainable economic growth in the Republic.Ē Where is this exclusive mandate of only ensuring price stability at the expense of everything else?

As COSATU we continue to argue that no one must threaten and black mail us with independence when there are these levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality in our country.

While low inflation levels are desirable, COSATU does not regard inflation as the foremost problem in the current economic situation. Then Reserve Bank like all of us and all the institutions in our country must focus on the developmental needs of the country. Our unemployment rate and inequality gap are amongst the highest in the world and the Reserve Bank cannot be allowed to stand in its corner and be aloof to these realities.

Inflation targeting should reflect the relative gravity of economic problems, rather than elevating the reduction of inflation over other economic objectives, such as job creation.

Priority should be given to lowering interest rates and the promotion of a monetary policy which will be conducive to employment creation. Inflation targeting should not be pursued as a tool of restrictive or inappropriate monetary policies.

If we are not aware we are going to have a grouping both in government and in our movement that will claim an exclusive right and privilege to deviate from the developmental objectives as set out in Polokwane. Even when there is a framework agreement to deal with the current economic crisis some in government refuses to provide leadership and instead leave this important matter to officials who donít even care about the Polokwane commitments and who will do everything to undermine the ministers.

As COSATU we want to call on the government to provide leadership. This situation of having government literally being run by bureaucrats must come to an end!

We therefore need to be vigilant that both in government including in provincial governments and in our movement no one deviates from the national government development programme.

Where there should be detours, there must first be meaningful engagement and consultation which all of us.

The ANC Ė led Alliance remains the strategic centre of power and we will not accept attempts to reduce the alliance into some political debating club which is only relevant for public relations purpose towards and during elections. That chapter was closed in Polokwane.

It is in this context comrades, that this congress must discuss the political life of the alliance in the province. We want to tell you comrades that more than at any time in the history of our struggle we need a strong alliance. In the Western Cape we need it even more. The functionality of the alliance in provinces and particularly here in the Western Cape must not be a matter of choice, convenience and for political expediency but must be a matter of must.

It is only when we have a functioning alliance based on honesty; hard work and unity that we can have this province back to the movement. But for as long as we continue to nurse each otherís egos and donít tell each other on the face about our weaknesses the people will continue to punish us in the polls.

We will continue to have an only white male dominated provincial government where to be black and to be women means ignorance and incompetence.

The ANC is our political home and as COSATU we have every right to demand action when we see that there are comrades who by their actions are destroying it. We did not lose this province to the DA because the DA was strong, but we lost it because we consciously chose to remain weak even when there were early warning signals that we were heading for a disaster. We hope that the ANC is really working to address the challenges in our province.

It is not correct that the majority of the previously oppressed opted to vote against the ANC when we had all the policies and resources to address their plight and at the centre of the concern was that they were excluded on the bases that they were either so called coloureds or Indians. If these allegations are true, it means that is where we should start to correct our wrongs.

We are hoping that the Alliance in this province is meeting regularly and there are visible programmes to inspire the masses and to have those who left to come back home. The forthcoming Local Government election will be a test to check whether we have been doing any work.

May this congress be a success!