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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Address by the COSATU President at the NEHAWU Western Cape Shop Stewards Council

4 February 2014

The provincial Chairperson NEHAWU
The entire provincial leadership
Alliance leaders present here today

Comrades Shop Stewards and activists of the entire labour and liberation movement, who understand that you are first members of the society before you are workers.

This year of the 5th Democratic General elections coincide with 59 years since the adoption of the Freedom Charter in 1955, a document which articulates a common vision and defines the content of the strategic objectives of the National Democratic Revolution and thus unites all progressive South Africans behind this common vision.

The Freedom Charter constitute an organic political glue which unites and keeps intact the ANC led strategic revolutionary Alliance which is at the forehead of marshalling the motive forces in pursuit of the strategic objectives of the National Democratic Revolution whose content is the liberation of blacks in general and Africans in particular from the political and economic oppression and the creation of a unite, democratic, national - racial, non-sexist and prosperous South Africa.

One of its clauses says that "The People Shall Share in the Country`s Wealth, the national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people; the mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole; all other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people; all people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions"
The freedom charter also says that "The Land Shall be Shared Among Those Who Work, restrictions of land ownership on a racial basis shall be ended, and all the land re-divided amongst those who work it to banish famine and land hunger; the state shall help the peasants with implements, seed, tractors and dams to save the soil and assist the tillers

It is these sections of the freedom charter which are the focus of our socio-economic demands which we submitted to NEDLAC as part of our demands and as part of our campaign to achieve a radical phase of transition which is a shared resolution amongst all the alliance partners.

In these demands, on amongst others we have argued that nationalisation is a fundamental strategic intervention that is required to truly transform the South African economy.

We argued that strategic nationalisation should meet three objectives:

a) stimulate economic growth,
b) determine the strategic direction of the economy and
c) enlarge available resources.

One criterion for selecting industries or companies to be nationalised is that certain areas that may have to be addressed would require resources that are under "natural monopolies", which the apartheid state had started privatising. But this does not preclude the state from identifying strategic industries and sectors through which it can influence the direction of the economy, in line with the framework of a genuinely new growth path which would direct us from a less extractive to a more productive and sustainable economy.

We propose the following sectors for strategic nationalisation:
a) banking,
b) petrochemicals,
c) forestry,
d) cement,
e) metals fabrication (especially steel),
f) construction (to address infrastructure backlogs),
g) pharmaceuticals,
h) machinery and equipment
i) telecommunications and
j) mining.

We also argued in our demands that at the centre of what needs to be done in South Africa to achieve a radical phase of transition we need to a suitable micro - economic Policy.

In this context we said that, government must develop a growth and development path framework document, to which macro, micro, spatial and rural development policy must hang; the Reserve Bank must abandon inflation targeting and target economic growth and employment targets; the South African Reserve Bank must intervene in the foreign exchange markets, or announce its intentions to do so; there must be a move towards a 100% state owned Reserve Bank, completely independent from the undue influence of capital through its shareholding and participation in the governance and policy making bodies of the bank; there should be reinstatement of capital controls to prevent the asset stripping of South African industry.

We were clear that there should be an introduction of redistributive tax interventions through progressive tax system, with an introduction of a tax category of the super rich; we called for a solidarity tax, whose aim is to cap the growth of earnings of the top 10% and to accelerate the earnings of the bottom 10%; we said that there should be tax on both domestically produced and imported luxury items, but a higher tax on luxury items which are imported; there should be an increase in the secondary tax on companies to encourage re-investment, job-creation and to reduce the financialisation of company assets; we called for the imposition of a land tax to aid the process of land redistribution; we said that there should be zero-rating of basic foodstuffs, medicines, water, domestic electricity and public education;

We also specifically called for transformative taxes to support industrial development. These include export taxes on strategic minerals, metals and other resources to support downstream industries and to promote value-addition; Investment tax credits to encourage local procurement of machinery and equipment; tax on financial transactions including capital gains tax above a certain minimum threshold to limit short-term capital flows and to encourage productive investment, and speed pumps on short term capital flows to discourage hot money; and tax on firms that are stubborn in closing the wage gap.

But these demands cannot be advanced outside the programme to build strong organisation both as a labour movement and building strong alliance partners. We cannot have this programme becoming a success outside building a strong SACP and a strong ANC
In simple terms we cannot achieve a radical phase of transition or win any of our economic demands outside the 2015 plan. The 11th congress and all our previous congresses have always emphasised this point and this is a reason why the 11th congress was even more precise in that we need to resource the SACP so that it can have capacity to drive the struggle for socialism and that we should drive a programme to support the ANC leadership and raise issues in a principled manner where we have identified issues. Raising issues in a principled manner also means tactically knowing where and when to raise them; it also means knowing why we are raising such issues. It should never be to raise such issues to gain popularity or weaken the movement

It is in this context, comrades, that I want you to allow me briefly report to you about the state of COSATU as an organisation which is an important and strategic organ for the people`s movement which has a responsibility to drive the radical phase of transition.
An organisation that was founded on the principles of solidarity is today fighting a tendency of unions deliberately weakening each other through poaching and openly destroying each other even to an extent of having others working with opposition unions who have an open agenda of destroying the federation.

An organisation that was founded on the principles of putting the organisation first above individuals is today at the verge of being weakened by the elevation of individuals as being bigger than the organisation. Today COSATU has to spend its financial resources, not fighting the real class enemy but fighting to defend itself against its own leaders and unions who have the guts to take us to courts for implementing our own constitution and our code of conduct.

An organisation built and sustained on the basis of respect for its internal democratic processes is today confronted by a situation where the principle of democratic centralism is being conveniently undermined to suit the agenda of weakening the federation. Lies and half- truths have replace principle, and it has become easy for comrades to use the media to insult the federation and spend sleepless nights using the resources of unions in hotels planning to undermine decisions of senior structures.

"We know that the strength of the working class is organization. Unless the masses are organized, the proletariat is nothing. Organized, it is everything. Organization means unity of action, unity in practical operations".

Lies are peddled in the media, the outcomes of democratically arrived at decisions gets undermined in the open. There are even plans to march to COSATU house in the same way that the DA marched to our offices as it now plans to march to ANC headquarters, as Inkatha Freedom party marched to Luthuli House some years ago.

All these things which are being said and done are intended to weaken the federation as the organisation of the organised section of the working class

Comrades we want to report to you that we will not wait for Special Congress to defend COSATU; we will defend it from those who seek to weaken it. We will defend COSATU from lies which are being peddled against its leaders, we will defend COSATU against any form of attack whether such attack comes from within or from outside. We will expose the lies for what they are!
We will counter the lies which are being peddled at the public about the federation and leaders of the federation including the Alliance.

These lies are being used to make our people concluding the fact that the comrades who were elected into the ANC NEC are sell-outs who are looking for an opportunity to be deployed to government. This lie comes together with an attack on the COSATU leaders serving in the Central Committee of the SACP.

The truth is that the decision to have COSATU comrades deployed in the ANC and in the SACP emanates from old COSATU resolutions in particular the COSATU 2015 Plan which instructed all COSATU members to swell the ranks of the ANC. Towards Mangaung after evaluating weaknesses in the implementation of the 2015 Plan we took a decision to have serving COSATU leaders being deployed into the ANC NEC.
There was even a proposal for COSATU to have a quarter of the ANC NEC. It is this decision which allowed the CEC to develop a list of many COSATU comrades who were to be deployed to the ANC NEC. Some of those who are using public platforms to peddle this lie were also part of this list. We can circulate the list which was agreed upon by the CEC.

Those who refused to be deployed did so against the policy of COSATU and were actually undermining the federation`s policy.
The other lie is to present the position of COSATU on the National Development Plan as if COSATU has totally rejected the NDP and present the SACP as having totally accepted the NDP.

The fact of the matter is that both the SACP and COSATU have rejected some aspects of the NDP, in particular the economic chapter.
The fact of the matter is that the political commission mandated by the CEC met on 6th June 2014 crafted and agreed on COSATU`s position on the NDP and later had this as a proposal presented and adopted by the CEC. COSATU position as of now with regard the NDP says that "COSATU together with our Alliance partners has over many years advocated the need for a long-term national planning process to guide the country`s development.

While we have serious concerns about the form and content of the current National Planning Commission and the 2030 Plan, we nevertheless still hold the view that such a planning process remains desirable and necessary to move the country forward, and that deficiencies in the current planning process need to be urgently addressed.

We said that the NDP either contradicts or fails to take forward key progressive policies, including on the need to fundamentally transform the structure of our economy, and promote a new path of growth through redistribution; the need for a massive concerted push to industrialise our economy, and that of the region; the need to place the creation of decent work for all at the centre of economic policy; and to place redistribution and combating economic inequality and poverty as a fundamental pillar of economic development. The NDP does none of these things. We went further to identify those areas in the economic chapter and we also communicated them in the recent Alliance Summit.

Based on its own observations the CEC then resolved to, among others, call for the redrafting and fundamental overhaul of the core economic chapter of the Plan, and any other aspects of the NDP in conflict with Alliance policies, or undermining the radical economic shift, which we all agree, must form the main content of this phase of our transition. This redrafting should be based on agreed Alliance positions and this is part of the agreement which was reached at the recent Alliance Summit and which is currently being processed by the Alliance Task team under the Auspices of the Alliance Secretariat.

Today in the federation we operate under conditions in which drums of war are being beaten throughout the night, mobilising comrades to war. Financial resources have been mobilised for this war, we are told, journalists are being approached with envelopes, given stories to paint this or that leader to plant a seed of doubt to these leaders and to put into question their credibility . There is commitment to a war to remove some individuals who have been defined as enemies because they sit in the ANC NEC and in the SACP Central Committee. When you ask as how could the comrades who have acted in accordance with our political strategy be seen as enemies to a point of seeking to remove them, the answer is that they must be removed!

The NOBs are being threatened that they will be removed; they are being insulted for doing the work for which they were elected. Attempts are being made to deepen divisions amongst the members of the NOB collective

So everyone moves to protect his or her space and counter battles get waged in the night and in the open day light in marches when the office of the president of COSATU gets dragged down in the mud because the person currently occupying that office dares to stand up and defended the constitution and the integrity of the policies of COSATU.

No, so says these comrades, the most immediate task which must be undertaken is not to confront finance capital and the white monopoly capital as our principal enemy; it is not to table alternatives macro-economic policies. Instead the most immediate task is for comrades to maintain their so called "names" built over the years through sacrifices.

So this becomes a new struggle to which resources are deployed to wage war against this or that comrade who is tarnishing their egos. It`s like there are comrades who say," when everyone fears us, how dare can he or she not fear us like the rest who fear us". Our organisations are being dragged into battles to protect egos of individual comrades.

The organisation is being held into ransom about executing its own policies and programmes. We have said COSATU must be allowed to implement its own policies free from any pressure to accommodate and bend our laws to suit individuals.

Our assessment as the leadership has been that we were beginning to see opportunities opening up in many fronts making it less difficult for us to advance a Socialist agenda; we hear unions such as NUMSA contemplating a possibility of moving out of COSATU and moving out of the Alliance.

We are concern about this because we have always understood that advancing a class struggle within the context of an international and domestic balance of forces where capitalism is dominant will require resilience and a political stamina which does not include retreating out of our political strategy to contest for the political space within and outside of the Alliance.

We are trying to understand as to why is NUMSA coming up with these proposals when we have just been in the 5th Central Committee and later in our 11th National Congress where these matters wee comprehensively considered. Even before NUMSA went public about what these considerations are, we have been observing a conduct from our union which was beginning to give a signal that the union is independent from any resolutions and decisions taken by the federation and will only support those which favour them.

So when the union made a public announcement about what it was contemplating , including seeking a mandate whether it should remain or continue to be in COSATU and to be in the Alliance, this could not be divorced from its public posture which appeared to be that of replacing its role to that of a federation. We have seen how of late NUMSA has adopted a conduct of saying to hell with the CEC decisions, if the union fails to have its views supported in the constitutional structures they simply make a media statement and directly negate the federations position and policies and where they agree with a position black mail everyone as not being willing to implement those decisions and this is done in the open, in media statements and in press conferences.

The public is not told that actually it is the unions which have the responsibility to implement resolutions and the questions should be whether that is happening and not to apportion blame to the federation. There is dishonesty which is only intended to drive a campaign that would produce the pre-determined outcomes.

There are even attempts to get COSATU pre-occupied with court cases when the organisation is being deliberately paralysed. No comrades we will not allow that to happen. Our main occupation now is implementing COSATU resolutions as a whole and that includes the resolution to mobilise for the victory of the ANC. Very soon we will be launching a booklet on why workers should vote the ANC. We have many reasons which emerged from our assessment of the ANC at the 11th Congress.

These include the battery of labour laws signed since 1994. It includes the proven track record by the ANC to change the lives of the working people trough the building of houses, electrification, roads, and health and education infrastructure, introduction of no-fee schools a move towards the achievement of free education

We were even part of the drafting of the manifesto which includes many commitments to address our demands and put in place processes to address differences in line with the resolutions of the Alliance Summit which include the work of the task team to focus on implementing Alliance decisions and addressing areas of differences in the NDP economic chapter.

On among others the manifesto commits to do the following:
a) To strengthen the enforcement of the Employment Equity Act which requires that employers report unequal incomes in all wage levels and submit plans to reduce inequalities. This is an act which was openly opposed by the DA because it is threatening white privileges
b) To ensure that collective bargaining takes place and is strengthened in all sectors of the economy.
c) To investigate feasibility to implement national minimum wage, which builds on the decisions reached at the Alliance Summit, where there was an in-principle agreement on the national minimum wage.
d) To enforce legislation to eliminate abusive work practises in atypical work and labour broking and to improve the capacity of the Department of Labour to enforce this and all other labour laws. We will be working with government to ensure that this happen
e) A programme to create decent work and sustainable livelihoods for inclusive growth.
f) Accessible, reliable and affordable public transport
g) To allow space for further engagement with grey areas in the National Development Plan in line with the Alliance Summit decision to allow for a discussion and debate to address the concerns raised by the SACP and COSATU

We have demanded the implementation of NHI and the manifesto commits to its implementation and we want to work with the NEHAWU as heath activists to monitor its implementation in a manner that ensures that the working class and not capital benefits maximally from the system.

The manifesto also commits government to strengthen support for co?operatives in marketing and supply activities to enable small scale producers to enter formal value chains and take advantage of economies of scale.

This will include targeting public institutions as primary buyers of agricultural goods and support for small scale producers` access to municipal markets". It also says that government will expand the Food for All programme as part of the national integrated food and nutrition policy for procuring and distributing affordable essential foodstuffs directly to poor communities and will promote local procurement to increase domestic production and the creation of decent jobs by directing the state to progressively buy at least 75% of its goods and services from South African producers and support small enterprises, co?operatives and broad?based empowerment.

The manifesto also says that we will ensure all South Africans have access to adequate human settlements and quality living conditions through programmes that provide one million housing opportunities for qualifying households over the next five years, and providing basic services and infrastructure in all existing informal settlements.

We want to emphasise that the real task which lies ahead includes developing our own proposals about the real programmes which must interpret the commitments in the manifesto. Such a responsibility cannot be left to government bureaucrats alone.

The working class formations have a responsibility to ensure that the common commitment to achieve radical economic transformation becomes a reality.

We must work to build capacity of our own organisations to put forward the real content of what we mean by radical change in the socio-economic conditions of our people and the creation of a powerful developmental state, which intervenes decisively in strategic sectors of the economy.

We must work to put tangible proposals about what we mean about changing the ownership and control patterns of the South African economy which continues to reproduce colonial and capitalist domination and which has increasingly taken a foreign dimension with among others Sasol`s announcement that it will be investing R200bn in Louisiana.
The task therefore does not end with the ANC wining elections it goes beyond that and includes building capacity of our formations to drive development from below and re- impose the notion of a people centred and people driven development away from a bureaucratic centred and know -all driven development.

For this to happen, NEHAWU`s presence must be felt in every jut and corner of this Province!

Comrades we know from our own experience that the demands that have today become law in this country were as a result of struggles waged inside the state and in the streets by activists in the movement.

Even as we identify issues where we still need to engage the ANC and the Alliance but we have more reasons to mobilise for the victory of the ANC where there exist a policy platform and proven track record to implement progressive policies which favours working people. For is elections constitute another site of struggle which must be won under the banner of an ANC led Alliance.

COSATU has developed a clear election programme and our unions have also developed elections programmes which connect to the election machinery of the ANC. Workers from all our unions will be working across the length and breadth of our country mobilising for the victory of the ANC.

It is the ANC which liberated workers in this country when other parties where against the Labour Relations Act. We recall days when we marched side by side with comrade Mandela demanding the LRA and the removal of the lock out clause.

We are very clear that we want our unions to go out and mobilise our people to vote ANC. You have the painful experience of the rule under DA where your children have been called refugees by Zille in their own country. You have seen how the DA went all out to oppose the Employment Equity Act. There is nothing the DA can offer to us. This includes all the new parties which have only offered us slogans and insults against the ANC and nothing more.

Our programme for elections which was adopted by the November CEC includes the following:

Activities for the ID and Voter Registration Campaign September to November 2013 and 2014 February Month

1) To sensitize all workers and their family members to apply for an ID and to register now in order to be able to vote in the 2014 Elections.
2) To target Young workers in all sectors with a special focus on Call Centres, Institutions of Higher Learning and FET Colleges on the importance to go and register for voting in the 2014 Elections.
3) To target Domestics and Farm workers to get their ID and register now to vote in the 2014 Elections.
4) To mobilise all workers to begin to check if they are registered and to go and register at their nearest municipality office now.
5) To mobilise communities to go and register on the Open Voter Registration dates set for 9th and 10th November 2013 and in 2014 - 8 and 9 February 2014

Continuous Activities:

1) National Elections Task Team (NETT), to receive reports from mobilisation, communications and the youth desk task teams.
2) Deployment, of leadership into Provinces for mobilisation.
3) CWU and SACCAWU, to identify targeted Calls Centres for target.
4) National Gender Committee, to integrate ID and Voter Registration Campaign into the Domestic Workers Recruitment programme.
5) FAWU and Provinces, to integrate ID and Voter Registration Campaign into the Farm workers Recruitment Programme.
6) Campaigns Coordinator, to follow up the Provinces targeted Industrial Areas for ID and Voter Registration Campaign.
7) Special Provincial Shop steward Councils (PSSC), for approval in secretariat and NOBs meeting.
8) Campaigns Committee Meeting,
9) Deployment, of leadership into Provincial mobilisation programmes
Our immediate focus includes the following:
1) To focus on mobilising workers on the ID and Voter registration campaign and integrate all the mobilisation programmes.
2) Mobilise workers to begin getting their IDs and register to vote as early as possible and develop a programme for the "Open Voter Registration" dates in the coming weekend
3) The COSATU NETT to include the provinces of COSATU or link them through video conference.
4) The election task team coordinators to sit in the NETT meetings for report purposes.
The CEC also reaffirmed COSATU`s congress resolutions to support the ANC and all affiliates committed to pay an election levy. The NOBs would follow up on affiliates who had not pain an election levy

We have no other political organisation with a proven track record of struggle and commitment to transformation and defence of workers gains as the ANC.


Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Streets

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct 010 219-1339
Fax: +27 11 339-6940
Mobile: +27 82 821 7456
E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za