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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech by COSATU President Sidumo Dlamini to the Mpumalanga Alliance meeting

5 July 2009

The Provincial Chairperson of COSATU, Comrade Raymond Mnguni
The Leadership of the Alliance present
Comrades and friends

We would like to thank you for inviting COSATU to discuss to discuss the important matter about the political life of the Alliance in the Province

It is now about one year and six months since that historic 52nd Morogoro-like Polokwane Conference of the ANC took place. Because the gist of our discussion in this meeting is about the alliance I would like to spend some time just to trace where we are today since Polokwane.

I will also attempt to draw to the attention of this meeting some of the issues that we will need to confront as a collective in relation to the alliance. So comrades you must know in advance that I will be pointing out things which you already know.

On amongst the important reports that were tabled in that conference included the Secretariat Report and on among others the report said the following on the Alliance:

The ANC is the leader of the core of organised forces that drive transformation, represented by the Alliance of the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African National Civics Organisation (SANCO).

All these organisations remain firmly committed to the creation of a new society based on the principles of the Freedom Charter. The ANC in particular, and the Alliance in general, are the organisational fountain from which ideas, strategies, programmes, conduct and demeanour that should inform the project of fundamental change emerge.

The report pointed out that “the traditions that underpin our approach to the Alliance go back at least as far as the Doctors Pact of 1947. Sixty years ago, Doctors Xuma, Dadoo and Naicker entered into a pact as leaders of the African National Congress, the Transvaal Indian Congress and Natal Indian Congress respectively, to pursue a joint campaign of passive resistance. This brought the practice of working together as a united front on a joint programme of action to the fore, and was the precursor to the building of the Congress Alliance of the 1950s”

The Secretariat report also reaffirmed the perspective of the 2002, Alliance Summit which asserted that "The primary task of this epoch is the creation of a national democratic society. All the classes and strata which share this objective, as well as the schools of thought found in the democratic movement, see this as their current strategic objective. There is one NDR, at the core of which the liberation of black people in general and Africans in particular. Among these classes and strata, the working class is the leading motive force."

This report also recommended that an “Alliance Summit be held within three months after National Conference to align the outcomes of all the partners` conferences/congresses and consolidate strategic approaches and programmes”

Emanating directly from the recommendations of this report on among others the ANC 52nd Conference confirmed that “the leadership role of the ANC which places on it the primary responsibility to unite the tripartite alliance and all the democratic forces. The Conference further mandated the NEC to “within three months after Conference, convene an Alliance summit to discuss a joint programme of action, including strengthening local structures of the alliance, and an approach on how the alliance manages with differences and discipline.

Indeed the Alliance Summit was convened on 9th-10th May 2008. This meeting reaffirmed that “we seek to strengthen the Alliance as an ANC led strategic political centre that will act together as a revolutionary formation to advance the objectives of the revolution. It further reaffirmed the Ekurhuleni I and II in relation to the structure and the frequency of the meetings of the Alliance. The Ekurhuleni I Alliance Summit noted that:

“There have been serious problems in the operation of the Alliance. It was agreed that the Alliance should not be reduced to crisis management mode, or to an electoral machine, and that it needs to proactively drive the transformation process. Managing intra-Alliance challenges can be greatly facilitated if there are effective and regular meetings of leading Alliance structures. Our previous agreement was that:

1. The Alliance secretariat should meet twice a month;

2. The extended secretariat plus Presidency should meet monthly;

3. The officials should meet every two months;

4. The Ten-a-Side should meet twice yearly; and

5. There should be one Alliance Summit annually.

This constitutes a framework within which we should endeavour to ensure consistency and regularity of Alliance meetings. We should also ensure that the Alliance co-ordinates effectively at all levels provincial, regional and local- and that we establish these structures where they don’t exist.”

On Governance the summit reaffirmed the ANC-led Alliance as the strategic political centre and said that “Steps need to be taken to strengthen the capacity of the ANC and the alliance to play this role.

On Transitional measurers towards a new administration, the Summit committed itself to ensuring that, as we move towards elections next year, we will work to ensure that there is a stable and effective transition so that the ANC can continue to meet the objective of improving the quality of life of our people. To ensure that this happens, mechanisms of consultation will be put in place between government, the ANC and the Alliance partners including with regard to key deployments.

Comrades will recall that as COSATU we went to this Summit calling for a Pact and the SACP was calling for the reconfiguration of the Alliance. The meeting did not agree on the concept of a pact but instead we agreed to pursue an Alliance common programme. This programme was to ensure a full implementation of the Ekurhuleni I and II decisions including the decisions of that Summit.

This Summit also agreed to convene an Alliance Economic Summit, which indeed was convened on 17th-18th October 2008. On among others this Summit agreed on the (a) restructuring of Cabinet and reconfiguration of government departments (b) Implementation of Decent Work Agenda (c) Macro Economic Policy particular that “decisive action was required to transform the patterns of wealth production and distribution”.

Most of these resolutions were largely incorporated into the Manifesto and are now part of government programmes.

The Alliance Political Council (formerly known as the Alliance officials) have adopted a document tilled “Seizing the moment”, in which we are attempting to develop a programme that may achieve four things: (a) Unite our efforts strategically (b) Build our respective organisational structures (c) Re-build a broader mass democratic movement; and (d) Mobilise popular forces. We hope that the ANC NEC has found time to discuss and adopt that important document so that it can be discussed by all the structures of the movement for implementation.

So comrades as I stand here today I can say with confidence that the Alliance nationally is functioning relatively well both at a level of policy development and on meaningful consultation regarding the deployment of cadres. There are some issues that will still need engagement such as inflation targeting and the detail and content of the work to be undertaken by the current departments.

We are watching government processes with interest in the same way that we are watching the so-called independent institutions such as the Reserve Bank with interest.

Comrades we are equally aware that in some provinces there are some who still see the alliance as a threat or who are using the alliance to pursue their own personal battles. Both of these are extremely wrong.

We have noted in the past that “one of the major sources of irritation within the alliance has been a tendency for elements (who have, for instance, failed to be elected on to the ANC branch executive) to use an SACP (or SANCO) branch to launch a rival claim. This kind of activity is often closely bound up with inter-personal rivalries and election-list processes.” It is wrong to use the structures of the Alliance opportunistically.

We are equally aware that in some provinces, as comrades prepare themselves for positions, everything is being done to sideline COSATU comrades even those who are activist and members of the ANC in their own right.

We want to warn everyone who is in this meeting and elsewhere that we cannot afford to go back to the dark period before Polokwane where comrades resorted to destroying each other and to destroying our glorious movement for positions.

Once we have evidence that you are putting your interest before principle and the interest of the organisation, we will not hesitate to crush and remove you from the structures, whether you are an ANC member or a COSATU or SACP member who serves in ANC structures. We will defend our movement with everything we have.

Comrades as we meet here today we must know that the world and our country are engulfed by a dark cloud of economic recession.

As I speak here today the 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.

Under these circumstances, for workers, the future looks grim. 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.

And the official figure of 4, 2 million unemployed people does not include the 1, 2 million others who are deemed to be too discouraged to look for employment because there is either no job available in their area, or there is no work requiring their skills. The majority of discouraged work seekers are young people who have lost all hope of ever finding a job. Around 3, 2 million or 75% of all unemployed people in South Africa are between the age of 15 and 34 years.

Our view as COSATU is that this situation does not need people who are arrogant and that are why we cannot understand the attitude of the Reserve Bank. Why is the reserve bank not drastically decreasing the interest rates? Why this religious marriage to inflation targeting. Currently the reserve bank is the only institution that is not accountable to society, insofar as its decisions are not being influenced by public demand.

Is it not time that labour, business and government agree on a common approach, particularly on the Reserve Bank. Under this crisis South Africa cannot afford to have an institution that stands aloof and instead behaves as if it was business as usual.

There must be an acceptance by all that it was the policies of the past that got the world into this mess, so solutions to the crisis should not just try to apply the same prescriptions. The crisis is an opportunity for rethinking approaches and paradigms, and to rebalance policy packages, both nationally and internationally.

This was to remind you that more than ever before we need a strong alliance in all the provinces including this province so that you can give political meaning and provide collective political and decisive leadership to society during these difficult times.

May this be a successful and fruitful meeting.