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COSATU 10th National Congress - Closing address by President Sidumo Dlamini

24 September 2009

Members of the Workers’ Parliament
Distinguished guests

Congratulations to you all on such a successful Congress. It is undoubtedly the best in our 24-year history! I am sure you will all remember these momentous four days for years to come.

On behalf of the new National Office Bearers I thank you for demonstrating your trust in the six of us. We stand here today in front you very aware of the heavy responsibility you have placed on our shoulders, but consoled by the knowledge that we will be leading an organisation of members who have never hesitated to act when the leadership sounds the call to action.

I thank you too for the exemplary and dignified way in which you have debated the issues and recommitted the federation to its historic mission. You, the delegates, have proved yet again, beyond any doubt, that COSATU is the most democratic, representative and dynamic organisation fighting on behalf of the workers and the poor majority in South Africa.

The resolutions you have passed here this week lay the basis for advancing the interests and aspirations of the oppressed and exploited masses of our country for the next three years and beyond.

You have acknowledged our debt to those pioneers of our movement and paid tribute to our fallen heroes and heroines who sacrificed their lives to build our mighty workers’ movement.

In particular you have dedicated this Congress to our late Deputy President Violet Seboni, whom we lost so tragically in April this year. You have done exactly what she, and other past leaders, would have wanted as the best way to honour their memory - to struggle to make sure that all the resolutions you have passed this week are implemented to the full.

This leadership collective in front you will remain true to the values and vision of our forebears. We promise that we will not betray the hopes and dreams of our people. Vuyisile Mini and Elijah Barayi, Oliver Tambo, Joe Slovo and Violet Seboni must rest assured that we will not destroy the organisation which remains the only instrument in the hands of the working people.

You have recommitted the federation to fight tirelessly to defend workers’ constitutional and legal rights - to be treated with dignity, paid a living wage, protected from unfair dismissal, receive the benefits they are entitled to, and be free from racism and abuse. You have made it clear that casualisation and labour broking have no place in a civilised society and they must not be regulated – they must go!

You have been adamant that the workers in uniform, in the ranks of the SANDF, are equally entitled to all their se rights. You have resolved to fight any attempt to ‘deunionise’ the SANDF and deprive soldiers of their constitutional rights to form and join unions. We shall now be engaging in urgent talks with government to convince them to reconsider their over-hasty and unconstitutional plan to ban unions and dismiss their members for taking part in demonstrations.

Banning unions would set a very dangerous precedent and could pave the way for similar moves against other public sector unions. It will also do nothing to help resolve the soldiers’ genuine grievances. On the contrary, strong well-organised trade unions provide the best basis for resolving disputes peacefully through negotiations.

You have also rightly expressed grave concern at the ill-discipline exhibited by some of our police on workers’ and community protests, with the unprovoked and unjustified use of rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas against demonstrators. We demand that new rules be imposed to oblige the police to co-operate with the unions in jointly managing demonstrations.


We met against the grim backdrop of a world economic crisis, which has already led to a job-loss bloodbath and threatens tens of thousands more jobs.

You have insisted, and you are absolutely right, that workers cannot be expected to be the only ones to pay the price for a crisis which is none of our making. On the contrary, the struggle to improve working conditions and to defend jobs under conditions of economic crisis has to be sharpened. More than ever COSATU unions need to fight to the bitter end to secure the best agreements for our members.

The economic crisis reflects the deep structural problems of the capitalist system, its mode of operation and a growing dysfunction in the techniques of managing capital accumulation.

The very bleak economic climate is however accompanied by an exceptionally bright political climate. COSATU Congresses are always addressed by the leaders of our allies - the ANC, the SACP and SANCO - but this year it was definitely not a protocol formality, but a real comradely exchange of views between allies, who are working closely together as an alliance.

We are greatly encouraged by the knowledge that we are in alliance with the ANC, whose leadership are busy rebuilding the organisation and getting our revolution back on track after a period when it went temporarily off the rails.

You have instructed us to seize the moment created by Polokwane and to walk through the open doors. That task will begin by ensuring that we build the Alliance into a really strategic centre of power and ensure that it is functional at all levels.

Our hopes are strengthened by the inspiring leadership that continues to be provided by comrade Jacob Zuma. With him at the helm we know that both in words and in action he hold the interests of the workers dearly in his heart.

We are also heartened by the continued solidarity with the SACP. You have told us that we must no longer pay lip service to building and supporting the SACP, but take practical steps to actually provide material support to the party.

Alliance partners this week disagreed on a few matters, but were able to argue them out in a friendly, dignified and positive fashion and will continue with this dialogue in the months to come. But on all the central challenges we face, the alliance partners are working together to lead the nation out of recession.

We also salute the ANC Youth and Women’s Leagues, the YCL and all our other allies and friends from South Africa and around the world.

We know that our international friends give us an extra arsenal in the battle against the exploitation and abuse of workers by imperialist and dictatorial governments of the world. In this context we condemn the brutal repression and arrests of the Mexican miners and the inhumane action by the Mexican government. How can a government refuse to save lives of its own people?

Comrades and friends

We are united in our efforts to implement the ANC Government’s priority policies in health, crime, rural development, education, poverty alleviation, decent work and economic development. The political victory of Polokwane in 2007 is now being converted into concrete policies to overcome the recession and improve the lives of the majority.

At the centre of these is the Framework Agreement, South Africa’s response to the world economic crisis and its many excellent policies to roll back the recession, save jobs and create new, decent ones. Government and labour are fully on board and we shall be keeping up the pressure on business to stop dragging their feet.

Congress has said that we must make the state focus on nothing else but to serve our people and not business interests. We are sending a warning to any who think corruption has become a way of life in government and in society. We are going to openly name and shame those guilty of corruptly using public office for private enrichment. Any officials, including those in unions, who are involved in corruption must resign now and face the might of the law.

You have committed us to take forward and realise the vision of our 2015 plan. So as we go back to our unions and structures we will be preparing and sharpening our instruments of war - reinforcing our ideological foundations, building cadres, and uniting society behind a common programme for socialist transformation.

We must also focus our energies on building our organisations, meeting our recruitment targets, making sure our engines are functional and we are providing top-of the range service to our members.

This Congress has said that we want a national democratic revolution that is working-class led and with a truly working-class bias. This means we must take the revolution along the socialist path not the capitalist path.

From now onwards COSATU’s presence will be felt and our socialist voice will be heard right inside the corridors of power. Whether on issues of the planning commission, monitoring and evaluation, budget priorities, deployment of cadres, economic policy, industrial strategy we will be there to contest neoliberal tendencies wherever we see them.

We also send a warning from this congress we will no longer tolerate employers who ignore their obligations to protect the health and safety of their workers and fail to implement measures to keep our environment clean. As we did with HIV and AIDS we will work with civil society organisations to stop the reckless pollution and destruction of our environment. Issues of climate change are matters of life and death!


I must move a vote of thanks to all those who made this Congress such a triumph:

  • The sponsors who provided the resources for the event
  • The staff of Gallagher Estate who hosted and fed us, and Aurant communications who provided all the audio –visual services
  • The Tshego Production team who have been making a DVD of the Congress
  • The media, especially from City Press and The Star who have produced special supplements, and the SABC and ETV who have given us live coverage
  • The staff of COSATU and our affiliates who have worked for well over a year to prepare for this week
  • My fellow NOBs who have toiled tirelessly under enormous pressure
  • And, most important you the delegates who are the heart and soul of the Workers’ Parliament

Let us seize the strategic initiative and ensure that we use this moment to consolidate and multiply our gains as we intensify our struggle for socialism.