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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Congress  |  COSATU Speeches

Closing remarks by COSATU President at the 11th COSATU National Congress

Held from 17th-20th September 2012, Gallagher Estate, Midrand, Johannesburg

We would like to thank Gallagher Estate particularly the workers who gave us excellent service.

We would like to thank the staff members of COSATU for their tireless commitment to give service to this workers organisation. You make us proud!

We would like to congratulate all the recipients of awards which included our staff members to the first Shop Steward. These awards represent workers gratitude on your commitment to our revolution. We know that the service you provide to our movement is priceless.

Comrades, we would like to thank you for demonstrating your trust in this leadership. We do not take your decision to retain this leadership for granted. We will not succeed without your support.

We will not disappoint you, we promise and commit to work as a collective and ensure unity and coherency amongst the NOBs and in the federation as a whole.

The unity of this Federation will be based on simple things, which include the fact that this collective you have elected will have the right and responsibility to whip over unions. You have told us that a strong COSATU must mean a strong coordinating centre with authority to direct our struggle. We want affiliates that respect and implement their own decisions in the federation.

In this context there shall be no union that is above COSATU and there shall be no individual who is above COSATU. We shall all subject ourselves to the discipline and traditions of this federation and the Congress movement as a whole.

In the next three years this collective will ensure that COSATU leads from the front to ensure Unity in the Alliance. There is no time for petty squabbles our people are crying out for our leadership.

We will work to ensure that the federation as a whole remains united behind a fighting programme whose primary focus will be to give excellent service to the workers.

We want everyone to know that COSATU will remain strong, COSATU will not die, not now and not at any time in the future.

For as long as there is Capitalism whose existence is about the exploitation of our people COSATU will continue to hit hard. This federation of Wesley Mesina, the federation of Violet Seboni, of Alina Rantsolase, of Chris Dlamini, this federation of Xolile Nxu will not retreat.

No worker no matter how strong, clever, skilful or brave they might be, will ever be able to advance their struggles alone. Small groups as well will never succeed in advancing the struggle of workers. It is in this context that we call on all workers to unite in one movement. That movement is COSATU.

Workers continue to say it loudly that COSATU is their home! We call on all those workers who out of anger left to join other unions. Come back and raise your issues inside the organization. We will address them!

This 11th Congress was a reminder of what COSATU is about and what we have always been about. It reminded us of the declaration of SACTU adopted in its founding Congress on 5 March 1955 when it said "Organize... or Starve! Reminding us that "history has shown that unorganised workers are unable to improve their wages and conditions of work on a lasting basis. Only where workers have organised in effective trade unions have they been able to improve their lot, raise their standard of living and generally protect themselves and their families against the insecurities of life.

The whole experience of the Trade Union Movement the world over has furthermore established the fact that the Movement can only progress on the basis of unity and in the spirit of brotherhood and solidarity of all workers. Trade Unions must unreservedly reject any attempts to sow disunity among the workers, on the basis of colour or nationality or any other basis. Just as the individual worker, or any group of workers, are unable to improve their lot without organisation into Trade Unions, so is the individual trade union powerless unless there is in existence a coordinating body of trade unions which unites the efforts of all workers. For such a trade union federation to be successful, it must be able to speak on behalf of all workers, irrespective of race or colour, nationality or sex.

The future of the people of South Africa is in the hands of its workers. Only the working class, in alliance with other progressive minded sections of the community, can build a happy life for all South Africans, a life free from unemployment, insecurity and poverty, free from racial hatred and oppression, a life of vast opportunities for all people. But the working class can only succeed in this great and noble endeavour if it itself is united and strong, if it is conscious of its inspiring responsibility. The workers of South Africa need a united trade union movement in which all sections of the working class can play their part unhindered by prejudice or racial discrimination. Only such a truly united movement can serve effectively the interests of the workers, both the immediate interests of higher wages and better conditions of life and work as well as the ultimate objective of complete emancipation, for which our forefathers have fought."

Every week in every workplace there will be a union leader to speak and listen to the workers.

In every community struggles there will be a COSATU local at the forefront working with our communities.

Comrades we will continue to maintain a link between workplace struggles and the political struggle.

We draw lessons from international experience where workers who ignored political processes suffered the consequences.

In the next three years, South Africa will see Unity in Action. The streets of South Africa will be covered with red T- shirts, of COSATU and the SACP, the Black Green and Gold t- shirts of our ANC. We will be marching side by side with SASCO, with COSAS, with the ANCYL, with ANCYWL, with the Progressive Women`s Movement, with workers in the informal sector, with church leaders and the progressive civil society!

One thing we will not do is allow ourselves to be associated with those that want to liquidate our movement and sow disunity amongst our people and inside our movement. It is for this reason, that we are not friends with any groups that use and abuse the name of our movement. This is our movement and we will defend it with everything we have.

The battle cry is one - we want total emancipation! We want to live in the South Africa of the Freedom Charter and not of the National Development Plan unless such a plan is predicated on the vision articulated in Freedom Charter.

We want a decisive ANC that can return the economy of our country back to the masses.

Masses did not elect the National Treasury to power, they elected the ANC led alliance and we want the ANC led alliance to use this power. Our freedom cannot be delayed by Bureaucrats.

We want decisive action and not just words; we want to practically see radical changes in favour of the working class as a dominant defining feature of the second phase of our transition.

We want government to start with one simple thing - Ban Labour Brokers!

The radical Second phase of transition requires a leadership that is decisive about transferring the economic power to the people. The breakthroughs that we see in Brazil, in CUBA, in Venezuela and the other parts of Latin America and the world were as a result of both the heightened struggles by the masses and the decisiveness by the revolutionary leadership.

We go out of this congress to report back to our members and to immediately start mobilizing our people for action. There may never be such a moment in the history of our revolution where the current leadership of the movement as a whole is as ready as the masses to push forward for a decisive breakthrough. Such moments are rare in history.

We are now going out to prepare for Mangaung and we hope the ANC will take lessons from this congress and the Congress of the SACP. We have seen extension of social protection, the extension of grants to all vulnerable children, and income support for the unemployed; and the adoption of National Health Insurance as government policy. If you can do this what will stop you from taking decisive steps to make the freedom charter a reality in our life time.

Comrades as we leave this Congress let me restate what we said in the opening taking from the words of the Great Oliver Tambo Oliver when he closed the Morogoro Conference in 1969, "wage a relentless war against disrupters and defend the ANC (and the Alliance as whole) against provocateurs and enemy agents. Defend the revolution against enemy propaganda, whatever form it takes. Be vigilant, comrades. The enemy is vigilant. Beware of the wedge-driver, the man who creeps from ear to ear, carrying a bag full of wedges, driving them in between you and the next man, between a group and another, a man who goes round creating splits and divisions. Beware of the wedge driver, comrades. Watch his poisonous tongue."

We wish all of you safe journey home!