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Media Centre | COSATU Speeches
Closing address by Willie Madisha, COSATU President to the COSATU 7th National Congress
19 September 2000
We have come to the end of the four days of the 7th National Congress. I want at the outset to thank all the comrades who have made it such a success. And I promise that you will not be disappointed. Re-elected COSATU President Willie Madisha dleivers the closing address to congress
This millennial congress has been a watershed not only for COSATU, but the entire country. As the leading progressive force for organized workers in this country, we were faced with a challenge at the start of the Congress. That challenge was to chart the direction for working people over the next few years in our country I believe that we have successfully done that. We have met the challenge and we are clearer on where we need to go from here. What we have been able to do this and have seen over the last three days has been the best traditions of the labour movement: frank open debate, with no attempt to stifle dissenting views; worker leadership; and practical strategic perspectives in dealing with problems. I congratulate you comrades on the maturity and leadership you have shown. I must emphasise that this has been one of the best Congresses since our inception. Thank you!
Our allies, the ANC and the SACP have joined us in a constructive spirit in confronting the challenges we face. Their message was clear: That was that none of the Alliance organizations alone can take this revolution forward to its ultimate conclusion. The ANC needs the working class to drive the NDR. The workers need the ANC to lead the NDR. We can only ensure that we advance, deepen and defend the NDR and place our country on the path to socialism through the successful organization and mobilization of the masses of our people led by the Alliance, with workers in the forefront of that struggle.
The SACP needs the working class to build socialism. The working class needs the SACP to lead the struggle for socialism. In short comrades it is clear to us that we have reaffirmed the centrality of the working class in driving transformation and development in our society. The workers are COSATU, the SACP and the ANC. Without the workers of this country there would be no NDR. Nor would there be any economy, or society to speak of.
If there is one theme that emerges from all our deliberations it is that victory for the NDR is not a certainty. The forces of reaction, capital, the Dinosaurs Alliance and other vestiges of apartheid are aggressively challenging the NDR. Further, we as an Alliance are in danger of losing our grip on the reins of state power. The Alliance still needs to develop a decisive programme to drive the government and all organs of state before we can truly say that we have constructed a state of national democracy. As the leadership of COSATU we pledge to ensure that this programme becomes a reality.
We need to ensure that we leave this Congress, and go back to our workplaces, with our battle orders clear in our minds and that we implement these. Let me outline some of the challenges we must address comrades.
There are many contentious issues we will have to face when we leave the Congress. But you have directed us on these issues. We know now, not that we have ever doubted it, that the workers of this country reject the proposed amendments to the LRA and BCEA that seek to take back the hard won rights of the working people of this country. We must ensure that every worker, organised and unorganised knows about our programme of action and participates in it. We believe that our programme will bring government and business to their senses. There is no way that we will allow the fundamental rights which so many workers fought and died for to be tampered with. Remember what Comrade Madiba said to us at our 1994 Congress: “if we violate worker rights, you must do to us what you did to the apartheid regime!” Therefore let us say to our government and to business that if they destroy our basic rights, that is what we will do to them.
Comrades, we are gathered here as trade unionists. We have passed many resolutions on how to build this federation of ours. One illness we have detected is that we do not necessarily implement the very resolutions we pass at such meetings. This leadership of the federation is going to be ruthless in driving all of its members and official to implement these resolutions. To the letter! We must make COSATU a home for all workers in this country, whether in the informal sector, so-called atypical workers, or professionals. But comrades we must go beyond recruiting new members. We must service existing members, and ensure that we entrench our culture of mandate and reporting back.
Some of these resolutions are difficult, such as those dealing with investment companies. I have stated before that we, the very supposed beneficiaries of these companies, are fudging the issue of investment companies owned by trade unions. We are going to control, direct and manage these companies and make them accountable, and if they refuse to be controlled why should we not shut them down? We are not capitalists, but workers who live in a capitalist society. We cannot build the future by acting like the worst elements in our society.
In relation to the challenge of taking our country forward we have said that we are going to ensure that we drive programs and agreements through the structure that we gave life to, which is NEDLAC. We will use those structures, such as the MLC, to help advance our interests and the interests of the country as a whole. But we are clear in our own minds that NEDLAC remains the only viable structure for ensuring that we reach agreement on the issue of the socio-economic transformation of our country.
We have agreed to actively engage in the economic transformation of the society through building the socially owned sector, in particular co-ops. We must campaign together on this issue with our allies, to benefit working people and the poor in our society.
Similarly, we must intensify the campaign aimed at the financial institutions, and turn out in our thousands on Red Saturday. It is our money that is feeding the fat cats of the banks, the micro-lenders, and the insurance companies, that do not benefit us at the end of the day. We must intensify COSATU`s call for community reinvestment legislation to force the banks to invest in our communities; and prescribed asset legislation to direct our savings in retirement funds and the insurance industry into job-creating investment, and the creation of infrastructure. Say no to foreign listings, and disinvestment! No to speculation on the stock exchange! Yes to investing local and buying local!
It is clear that despite the tactical differences that have existed between the ANC and COSATU, anything less than an overwhelming victory for the ANC in the forthcoming local government elections will be a tragedy for our country. We cannot have traveled so far in our quest for non-racialism, non-sexism, democracy and equity to live under the local government of the Dinosaur`s Alliance. All of us must mobilize for that victory in the forthcoming elections, in line with our resolutions. But we organize to ensure that elected representatives of the ANC in local government do not bulldoze restructuring programmes which are detrimental to our membership and the interests of the poorest of the poor. We do not want to see what is going on in Johannesburg with iGoli 2002. Once elected these comrades must be true to the sprit of comrade Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, and others who have led us to the freedom and democracy we now cherish so much.
Of course comrades, to win this election we must strengthen the ANC, the SACP and the Alliance. The ANC is not as strong as it should be, If this is so we must take responsibility as workers to build our national liberation movement. The SACP, while it has been revived and has grown from strength to strength over the last year, needs to be consolidated. We must build the Communist Party, at work, at home and in every sphere of our society.
You as the delegates of this Congress have vigorously confronted the issue of HIV/AIDS. Our challenge is to leave this hall and mobilize our families, friends, the bosses and even the government to ensure we act as a unified people to defeat this scourge. What would be the use of all our resolutions if we were to pass them and then have to listen for eternity to the agony of our fellow South Africans, our mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and children, who are dying as we speak.
We as workers are proud of this Federation. It has brought us up. In the fifteen years of COSATU we have seen our conditions improve, not because of anyone`s good will, but because of COSATU`s strength and because of the workers who are organised in COSATU.
The best way to celebrate our fifteenth birthday on December 1st this year is to ensure that we give life to the Declaration of this Workers Parliament.