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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech Delivered by COSATU President Comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the 4th International Police Symposium, held from 27th – 30th April 2013, Zambia

The chairperson of the Session comrade Tshenuwani Farisani,

The President of the Republic of Zambia His Excellency Comrade Michael Chilufya Sata,

The Zambian Minister of Labour the honourable comrade Fackson Shamenda,

The member of Central Committee of the South African Communist Party comrade Charles Setsubi,

The POPCRU delegation led by the President of POPCRU comrade Zizamele Cebekhulu,

Chief Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Correctional Services Mr. Teboho Mokoena,

The Secretary for the Safety and Security Sectoral Bargaining Council, Mr. Kgomotso Mosoane,

Representative from University of Zambia – Mr. Grayson Koyi,

Representatives from the Human Rights Commission of Zambia, Mr Kebby Malila,

Comrades and compatriots

Please receive revolutionary greetings from the South African working men and women who are members and supporters of the Congress South African Trade Unions.

They said I must tell you that as South African freedom loving people, we like and admire the courage and fortitude of the Zambian people. You were with us through and through during the most difficult period of our struggle.

I must confess that it is personally an emotional moment to speak on the Zambian soils representing COSATU as part of the South African Liberation movement.

This is because Zambia was a home to our freedom fighters and the liberation movement for many years and provided space to launch a war against the apartheid regime which was finally forced to retreat through the 1994 breakthrough which was marked by the elections and victory of the ANC under its first president, our comrade Nelson Mandela.

This is indeed an emotional moment if we recall that it was here in Zambia that SACTU our forbearers had their Head Quarters and it is here in Zambia where a consultative meeting between SACTU, and COSATU leadership took place to consolidate the two federations into a single federation within the Congress Movement which would give a final blow against the apartheid regime.

It was from here in Zambia that the liberation movement operated and coordinated the activities of MK in various parts of Southern Africa. Recruits who left South Africa via Lesotho or Mozambique ended up here before they were sent for military training.

It was here that the first process for a negotiated settlement in South Africa started during the early 80’s. Zambia was a point of convergence for attempts to create an environment that would facilitate a transition to democracy in South Africa.

It was here in Zambia that after their release from prison, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Walter Sisulu and other Rivonia Trialists came to attend their first ANC NEC meeting held from the 1st -2nd March 1990 to decide on how the regime was to be engaged in the last lap of our political marathon towards a democratic breakthrough.

It is the Zambian people who suffered the most when our liberation movement was attacked by the regime and its forces.

We can recall with pain that on 2nd of July 1985 a bomb was thrown over the wall of the ANC headquarters here in Zambia, on 19th of May 1986 the SADF launched simultaneous raids in Lusaka, Harare and Gaborone during the visit by Commonwealth Eminent Peoples Group, in September 1987, a parcel bomb exploded, killing one person and injuring seven others as postal workers unloaded a train from South Africa, in 7 December 1985, a parcel bomb exploded in Lusaka, injuring one ANC member, in December 1985, two men were killed while trying to kidnap ANC members from a transit camp here in Zambia, in 20 January 1988, the ANC’s Lusaka offices were bombed, and four Zambians were injured, In December 1988, a car bomb exploded in Livingstone, Zambia, killing two people and injuring 13 others, in January 1989, two bomb blasts in Zambia killed two people and in February, a bomb explosion in a private house in Lusaka failed to kill ANC secretary-general Alfred Nzo.

It is here that the 1985 National Consultative Conference of the ANC was held at Kabwe from 16 to 23 June 1985, sixteen years after the ANC Morogoro conference was held in Tanzania in 1969.We know that Zambian troops surrounded the conference hall not to kill and arrest our people but to provide protection from possible commando raids by Pretoria hit squads.

We also know that ZIPRA forces also helped MK in Zambia to detain those suspected of being spies for the apartheid government. We salute you the Zambian people!

So our coming here today also represents a reconnection with a critical element of our history, it is like reconnecting with our roots!

We are also encouraged by the fact that this meeting is about giving tangible meaning to those who serve the state in the post colonial era. Our discussions will be focusing on the Police and Correctional Services workers under the theme “Advancing Sound Labour Relations in Policing and Correctional Services within the African Continent

Comrades let me declare from the onset that as COSATU we approach issues from a Marxist – Leninist perspective. So allow me to open my address by summoning from the grave Louis Althusser on “ideology and Ideological state apparatus” when he said that “every State Apparatus, whether Repressive or Ideological, ‘functions’ both by violence and by ideology, but with one very important distinction which makes it imperative not to confuse the Ideological State Apparatuses with the (Repressive) State Apparatus. This is the fact that the (Repressive) State Apparatus functions massively and predominantly by repression (including physical repression), while functioning secondarily by ideology. (There is no such thing as a purely repressive apparatus.) For example, the Army and the Police also function by ideology both to ensure their own cohesion and reproduction, and in the ‘values’ they propound externally”.

These words from Althusser captures what I consider to be the main content of our discussion today because we have come here to discuss advancing Sound Labour Relations in Policing and Correctional Services within the African Continent but comrades as you are all aware , this theme is not innocent or neutral. It is about how the Police also function by ideology both to ensure their own cohesion and reproduction, and in the ‘values’ they propound externally”.

But the police are conceived and understood as “state apparatus”, in other words as instruments of the state which serve to protect and defend the interests of the ruling class who have constructed the state machinery in the image of their own interests.

This theme is therefore centrally and dominantly about the content and character of the state in which we can be able to advance “sound Labour relations for the Police and correctional services”.

The values that the police should “propound” externally are shaped by the form, content and intentions of the state they serve.

The state is a strategic centre of power and it is not class, gender and racially neutral. Each class, even within gender and racial categories, constantly seeks state power because invested in such power is monopoly over the police, army and intelligence structures which can be used for repressive and covertly for ideological purposes.

The history of class struggles has taught us that state power provides authority to develop policies which will serve class intentions. State policy expresses intra-class and inter-class dynamics, it serves as a co-ordinating mechanism to enact the interests of underlying class forces, depending on which class wields power. The class, race and gender character of the state normally flows from the pattern of ownership of the means of production.

In this context, nothing is done by the state for its own sake. For an example building state capacity, restructuring its organs and redefining its role in the economy in particular can either serve to deepen and escalate the exploitation, oppression and domination of the working class or it can reduce and ultimately eliminate such phenomena.

Proceeding from this understanding of the state it means that sound Labour Relations in Policing and Correctional Services can only be advanced under a state that do not just see the police as its coercive apparatus but a state that is mass-based in its approach, that enjoys the support of a broad array of social forces at the head of which is the working class and see the police as agents and force of change that it wants to achieve for the working class.

This therefore means that if we are to achieve sound labour relations in Policing and Correctional Services, our strategic focus should be on working class access to state power.

Going back to what Althusser said that there is no such thing as a purely repressive apparatus and that every State Apparatus, whether Repressive or Ideological, ‘functions’ both by violence and by ideology, we must make a call that our cadres who serve in the police and in correctional services needs to predominantly function and be guided by ideology which advances their class interest – the working class interests.

The cadres serving in the police must first comprehend that achieving sound labour relations will be a function of struggle which consciously seek to change the balance of forces inside the state on who is in charge of the state machinery and whose class interest are dominant in state policy making processes. In this context the achievement of sound labour relations will be seen as part of the broad class struggles and the revolutionary processes which continues post independence in our countries.

The reality we are confronting in the African continent is that our states continue to be constructed based on the interests of the Imperial colonial ruling class and the capitalist class in general even from our own ranks. I know about this not from a theoretical point of view but from practical experiences in my own country and in other African countries. The central issues in our revolution are about the content and direction of the growth path we the country must pursue and this is manifested in the open class contest both from within and without our movement.

The reality is that in our continent we have a serious task to execute. We still even have a situation like Swaziland where there are simply no labour rights; instead trade unions are banned. It is encouraging that POPCRU has consciously taken up an ideological responsibility to build capacity of trade unions in Swaziland to confront the mighty of Tinkhundla regime in the context of the broader liberation struggle in Swaziland.

Here in Zambia, we should say openly that it is unacceptable that the Industrial and Labour Relations Act (No 27 of 1994) of Zambia provides for the freedom of workers to join trade unions and to collectively bargain. However, the Minister of Labour in consultation with the tripartite consultative labour council may exempt any person or class of persons or trade industry from any of the provisions of the Act. As a result, this Act does not apply to the Police Service, Defence Force, the Prison Service, and the Security Intelligence Service or to Judges, Magistrates and local Court Justices.

It is also encouraging that the comrades in government here in Zambia have a political will to engage trade unions and we hope that such engagement will ultimately yield good sound labour relations in the police service. But if it does not happen, comrades must know that freedom is never received in a silver platter but it is consciously fought for. This will mean that our Zambian comrades in government must brace themselves for a serious fight from unions if they can’t accept that police too are workers and must have their rights enacted in legislation.

It is unacceptable that in Malawi the whole country has 300 staff members on Prisons cluster, It has 7 prisons in total, and yet there are 2100 prisoners within the Central Region, 25 of which are females leading to is overcrowding in prisons; the constitution provided that there be 01 (guard) – 05 prisoners; the warders do not receive any form of counselling (employee wellness is not in place).

Comrades we must say that we note with concern that there is an attempt to use the definition of essential services to take away rights of trade unions in particular in the public sector and particularly in the police service.

For an example in Botswana workers within the security cluster do not have rights to associate as they are categorised as essential services. This simply means that the police and correctional officers in Botswana, like the majority of SADC countries, do not enjoy their rights like any other workers.

Even in South Africa where there is a perception of sound labour relations legislation, capital is doing everything to reverse our gains. There has been an attempt to define essential services as referring to all those who do work on behalf of the state. This means that all public servants were an essential service. We engaged with our comrades in the ANC and in government and currently the matter has been put in abeyance. Again this was a function of the balance of class forces and class consciousness by cadres inside government. But we also promised a fight as unions and we were clear that we were not going to take what the government was saying lying down, we simply promised and took practical steps for an open fight in the streets.

This is a demonstration of the fact that government as a concentrated expression of state power needs to be contested by the progressive working class formation.

The fact of the matter comrades is that the working class because in many instances is not the ruling class will never receive their rights in a silver platter but must fight bitter struggles to secure, to defend and to advance their rights. We know from our own experience that what Althusser says somewhere else is true that “ideology has a material existence” and on among others this material existence manifest in state policy.

Secondly “ideology represents the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence” and if the state is driven by forces whose conditions of existence makes them to see the working class as a threat to their interests or just something to provide labour power and nothing more that will manifest in the type of policies being advanced by such as state and it will extend to the type of labour relations which exist under that political setting.

This places a heavy responsibility upon all of us to ensure intensive ideological training among the police cadres so that even if the space is created to develop a sound labour relations policy, we can have capacity to construct policies that can dominantly favour the working people.

This is a battle which continues everywhere. Even on the conditions of work in South Africa we have identified a number of challenges and made proposals based on class interests and these included the following:

We have argued that whilst acknowledging the priority to fight against crime and corruption, it is important to note that there is a need to consider broader co-ordination between and within different institutions making up what is called the Criminal Justice Cluster System.

In other words, while looking at the need to create safer communities (particularly for women and children), it is necessary to look at other sectors in the cluster, which include the judiciary, Correctional services and getting communities more involved in dealing with crime

There are a number of challenges that have to be addressed in the cluster:

  1. There is insufficient and inequitable resourcing across the criminal justice system: There is generally an unacceptable ratio of police per population. Given the challenges that the country faces, fuelled by high unemployment, a ratio of 2.7 police per 1000 is not adequate. In some areas, there is not enough equipment, e.g. police patrol cars and vans.
  2. There is lack of collaborative relationship between the different sectors in the cluster, which also relates to the fact that certain law enforcement agencies (including the Criminal Record Centre and the Forensic Laboratory) are uncoordinated and operate autonomously – often leading to lack of evidence inadequate resources, e.g. fingerprint expertise, delayed cases and missing documents.
  3. The process of rehabilitation of offenders also becomes a significant challenge in the fight against crime. The Department of Correctional Services should face some of the challenges relating to:
    1. Over-crowding and under-staffing in prisons: Some prisons operate 277% above capacity
    2. Sexual offences (leading to HIV/AIDS) in prisons
    3. The safe custody of juvenile offenders
    4. The eradication of gangsterism in prisons

Because of these challenges, the process of rehabilitation is reversed, and released prisoners become more violent rather than rehabilitated because of these experiences in prison

Key priorities that need to be addressed in this cluster include:

  1. The reduction of overcrowding of prisons: In 2004, prisons were operating in excess of capacity by 61%. In some places, prisons were operating at far higher levels; Durban Medium C was in excess of capacity by 287% and Umtata Medium was 277% above capacity135].
  2. Improved working and prison conditions and address under-staffing: In 1996 the prisoner warden ratio was 5.5, which was estimated to reflect under-staffing by “developed” country standards. In 2006 the ratio had slightly fallen to 4. However, there is massive variation across prisons. In Mogwase, Pretoria Central and Lichtenberg the ratio exceeds 15[136].
  3. Improve systems: ICT and administration for effective data capturing, analysis and monitoring. The Minister has identified this as a matter that requires urgent attention because currently, for example, it is difficult to assess the number of women who gave birth in prisons, prisoners who are mentally disturbed, are HIV infected and thus require proper medication, etc[137].
  4. Eliminate Private-Public Partnerships in the operation of prison facilities
  5. The development of a policy on HIV/AIDS: Overcrowding increase the probability of violence and rape in prisons and also allows for communicable diseases such as TB to be easily spread. It was estimated in 2006 that HIV prevalence in the South African prison population is 45%, second to Malawi at 75% in Africa[138].
  6. A review of the rehabilitation perspective of the criminal justice system: In 2004 the rehabilitation process was overly biased towards spiritual care and social work sessions, which both claimed 85% of participation by prisoners. Training and education programmes reached only 12% of the prison population. Of the existing posts by for educationists in the Department of Correctional Services, 33% were unfilled. In those provinces where there are facilities for the provision of formal education, each educationist confronts on average, 211 sentenced offenders[139].

Our proposed interventions are that there is a need to[140]:

  1. Increase resourcing of the police service and transform the training component of the whole criminal justice system in terms of culture, methodology and content. Move away from militaristic and authoritarian behaviour towards a more socially-oriented approach. This will ease the burden faced by police, improve working conditions and make it possible for communities to actively participate in crime-fighting initiatives.
  2. Strengthen institutions, especially community policing forums: These forums can be used to mobilize young people and as transitional structures to train young people into the police and criminal justice system, or to offer incentives for them to train in various areas that are needed by the developmental state.
  3. Improve service delivery through capacity building which will include the following:
    1. Increased public awareness around crime prevention and combating
    2. Recruiting, attraction and retention of highly skilled personnel in departments within the Justice Cluster to deal with, for example fast-tracking of cases ,Sentencing of offenders: Between 1995 and 2001, the number of unsentenced prisoners rose to 176% from 22282, and have since declined to 48306 in 2004[141]
    3. Rehabilitation of offenders and combating of repeated offending behaviour: The failure of the rehabilitation process is reflected in estimates of repeat offenders as a proportion of the prison population. It is estimated that this could be as high as 94% of the prison population[142]. Rehabilitation must be linked to employment opportunities through:
      • A structured social-reintegration system: when an inmate completes a sentence, they must be linked to the employment guarantee system, which offers prospects for further training and skills development
      • Rehabilitation should be bias towards skills development, training and education. This means prisons should have the necessary infrastructure to provide these basic services

We have called for the skills development and training of staff, particularly on:

  1. Statement taking and writing
  2. Continuous proficiency testing of employees to identify skills gaps
  3. ICT training and upgrading
  4. Allow for skills and information flow between prosecutors and investigators
  5. Career-pathing

In terms of institutional development, there is a need to:

    1. Streamline the law-enforcement agencies and consolidate them to reduce their proliferation and improve co-ordination
    2. Speed up the de-centralisation of Forensic Unit
    3. Strengthen and improve the witness protection program, parole, community re-integration and restorative justice system
    4. Emphasis must be put on combating corruption in the system
    5. The structures of Criminal Justice Cluster System must be aligned, viz., police, justice, and correctional services to municipal boundaries
    6. There should be a smooth handing over of work, from the police to justice and corrections without any blockages
    7. Community Safety Forums must be established to monitor and coordinate the functioning of the Criminal Justice System at all levels, i.e. monitoring mechanisms system should cover the whole investigative and the prosecution process
    8. Encourage community participation on parole boards, rehabilitation and re-integration initiatives as means to increase capacity to deal with rising volumes of the prison population
    9. People that display consistent commitment and diligence in community policing forums must be given guaranteed options for further skills development and training, employment and career options must be made available for them, this will be particularly important for young people
    10. . Strike a balance between sentence length, paroles and alternative measures and the need to maintain the integrity of the justice system

The system of monitoring the cases will lead to the police, courts and the prosecutors concluding the cases within a required period without any delays.

  1. Reverse the introduction of Private-Public Partnerships, Privatisation of Prisons, outsourcing, casualization and the use of labour brokers in the system as a means to create decent work[143]
  2. A quality management system should be introduced and adopted by all departments within the Criminal Justice Cluster to ensure that the turn-around time in terms of the whole circle of prosecution, including examinations by the forensic science laboratory, is up to acceptable standards
  3. Alternative measures to imprisonment and sentencing must be considered, especially for petty crimes, this will go a long way in reducing over-crowing and the hardening of criminal attitudes, given current prison conditions[144]
  4. Address the failures of rehabilitation, build capacity for prisons to provide proper education and training to prisoners
  5. On HIV/AIDS in Prisons[145]:
    1. Increase the distribution of lubricants and condoms
    2. Disseminate information, education and communication materials
    3. Increase access to ARV treatment
    4. Develop guidelines, and implement them consistently across prisons, for HIV testing
    5. Improve access of the prison population to healthcare, including regular medical check-ups.

The issue comrades is not just sound labour relations but it is about whether those in charge of the state machinery have the political will and the necessary consciousness to use their access to state power in favour of the working people. That is what is central in our discussion and that is what must be central in the struggles that must be wage moving forward.

Our strategic objective must remain that of seizing state power in order to destroy the existing bourgeois state apparatus and, in a first phase, replace it with a quite different, proletarian, state apparatus, then in later phases set in motion a radical process, that of the destruction of the state.

The end of state power will mark the end of every state apparatus but in the meantime let us transform our states to create possibilities for a Socialist future.



[135] See Prison Overcrowding and the Constitutional Right to Adequate Accommodation in South Africa, J. Steinberg, Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, 2005. This means that Umtata and Durban need 3 more prisons, by Department of Correctional Service’s standards. In fact, the study proceeds to show that during democracy, the prison population rose by 58% compared to the figure in 2003. We thus eagerly await the report and recommendations of the 3-member task team set up by the Minister to look at overcrowding.


[136] See: The Relationship Between Assault and Overcrowding in South African Prisons, Civil Society Prison Reform Initiative Newsletter, 2007.


[137] See: Minister Deploys Task Team on Overcrowding, SA Corrections Today, February—April 2010, p.6.


[138] See: HIV and Prisons in Sub-Saharan Africa, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2007.


[139] See: Offender Rehabilitation in the South African Correctional System: Myth or Reality, C. Cilliers and J. Smit, Acta Criminologica 20 (2), 2007.


[140] See COSATU Submission to the Public Sector Summit, 2010.


[141] See Prison Overcrowding, J. Steinberg, 2005.


[142] See Offender Rehabilitation, Cilliers and Smit, 2007.


[143] See Resolution 3 Cluster 2, COSATU 8th Congress.


[144] See Resolution 19 Cluster 5, COSATU 8th Congress.


[145] These are in line with the UN recommendations.