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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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COSATU Today  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech Delivered by the COSATU President Comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the Gauteng Shop Steward Council on the 9th April 2014

10 April 2014

Comrades please accept revolutionary and warm greetings from your federation COSATU.

This Shop Stewards Council is taking place following the Special Central Executive Committee which took important decisions which this meeting has a duty to discuss. I will return to this matter later.

This Shop Steward Council is taking place during the month of April an important month in the history of our revolution. This is a month which the great Oliver Tambo described as a “month which carries momentous events in our history and a month decorated by “a galaxy of epoch making events”.

Given the challenges confronting our federation and our revolution as a whole it is important to do as comrade Oliver Tambo did when he was addressing the 7th Congress of the SACP held on the 1st April in 1989 to reflect at these events as we attempt to find our own moral and political compass and to revisit the fundamental reasons for our existence as the organisation.

It was on the 6 April in 1652, 362 years ago that Jan Van Reinbeck sets his ill foot on our soil;
On the 17 April, 1658 the first formal School was opened at the Cape intended to increase the usefulness of the slaves to their slave owners.

Even this day of the 9th April could not escape the colonial events which must always remind us of where we come from and the tasks that still need to be undertaken. Let me remind comrades that on the 9 April, 1679, 27 years after settlement at the Cape by Jan van Reinbeck the first census was conducted and it excluded the indigenous inhabitants in the Cape as this exclusion on matters of development continues up to this day under Helen Zille and her DA who follows in the footsteps of her ancestor Jan Van Reinbeck.

It was on this day of the 9th April in 1820 that the first British Settlers, known as 1820 Settlers arrived in Algoa Bay, now called Port Elizabeth.
They numbered about 4500 and included artisans, tradesmen, ministers of religion, merchants, teachers, bookbinders, blacksmiths, discharged sailors and soldiers, professional men and farmers. It was this process which marked the consolidation of exclusion of blacks and Africans from the main stream economic activities.

It was also on the 9th April 1960 that the first assassination attempt was made on the life of Prime Minister H.F. Verwoerd at the Rand Easter Show here in Johannesburg by a disgruntled White farmer, David Pratt, who fired two shots at the Minister at close range.

It was on this very same month on 1st April 1961 that South Africa`s Apartheid government declared Robben Island to be a prison, and that it would be used for both high risk and political prisoners and it was from this prison that the road map to South Africa’s freedom was designed.

On the 2nd April 1944, the ANCYL WAS founded with Muziwakhe Anton Lembede elected as its first president and adopted a constitution which said the aim of the ANCYL is on among others to assist, support and reinforce the African National Congress, in its struggle for National Liberation of the African people
On the 25th April 1969 the history making Morogoro Conference was convened which amongst others elevated the supremacy of the strategy and tactics which has always have always kept our movement on a superior combat position and a step ahead of the enemy. Zille and her DA know this truth.

On the 6th April 1979 the people`s hero Solomon Mahlangu is martyred. Do we still have amongst us people who at the point of death can say "My blood will nourish the tree that will bear the fruits of freedom? Tell my people that I love them. They must continue the fight." These words of bravery continue to inspire us as we pick the Spear to continue with the fight against colonialism and Apartheid.

On the 10th April 1993 comrade Chris Hani was killed by the Apartheid mercenaries and that very same month on the 24th April the great Oliver Tambo passed away.
On the 27th April 1994 South Africa , for the first time black and African people voted marking one of the greatest achievements in human history , marking a democratic breakthrough ,
I am sure comrades will not accuse me of exaggerating historical events which coincide with the month and even to take it further to look at those events which coincide with the 9th day of the month of April.

On the 9th April 2005 on the midnight of the evening of the final certification of results of the 2006 local government elections, the federal council of the New National Party agreed to disband the party. Of the13 members of the council, eight voted in favor of the motion, two disagreed and three abstained. The council decided to join the African National Congress (ANC) and fight all future elections under the banner of the ANC.

Comrades, the dates which we mention above are not just time lines of our struggle which must be repeated mechanically but an expression of the historical material bases which is a source of data that must inform the continuous development of the theory of our struggle.

They must help to crystallise the journey we have travelled and the lessons we should draw from this journey as we celebrate the 20th anniversary of our 1994 political breakthrough and as we work towards the achievement of the vision articulated in the Freedom Charter. These are a reminder of the heavy responsibility imposed on the shoulders of all our cadres on the realisation of the objectives set by our movement to construct a future based on the Freedom Charter.

Today we stand here, once again during this month of April which is characterized by a galaxy of epoch making events and If I were to paraphrase comrade Oliver Tambo, I will also say might it be comrades, that the month of April in the year 2014 will add our yesterday’s CEC and this Shop Steward Council to its galaxy of epoch-making events. Our entire movement is waiting to hear and to see”.

In our Special CEC which was intended to discuss and take decisions on some of the most critical issues confronting our federation we were forced to pause and revisit the fundamental reasons of our existence when the leader of Society, the ANC arrived at the meeting.

The ANC arrived at the Special CEC and made a plea to all of us that we should accept that the federation is confronted with challenges and that the movement wanted to intervene.
All of us in the CEC without exception, we accepted that indeed we needed the ANC’s intervention. This intervention is standing on Four Pillars:

1. The first pillar is that the strategic objective of this intervention is to preserve the integrity of the unity of workers under COSATU. In other words the central intention of this intervention is to re – assert the fundamental reasons for the existence of COSATU which in the main is to unite workers under the banner of COSATU based on the slogan “an injury to one is an injury to all” and based on the principle of “one union one industry”.
2. The Second pillar is that for this intervention to succeed all of us and this means all affiliates and all leaders of the federation and members should stop all negative and disruptive activities which will militate against the achievement of this strategic objective of preserving the integrity of the unity of workers under COSATU. This means that we all must work towards creating conducive conditions for the successful intervention. All of us must work to achieve the unity of the federation. NOBs have been tasked to highlight all the activities which have the potential of undermining the process.
3. The third Pillar is to postpone the CEC. Indeed the CEC as we speak stand adjourned and the CEC agreed to have been convened in 14 days. This means all the CEC agenda items have been put in abeyance until the CEC is reconvened in 14 days.
4. The Fourth Pillar is to have the process of intervention to commence and set up the team, systems of work and terms of reference in place. It is envisaged that this work will take a month to finalise. It will be evaluated at that point and decided on how to proceed forward.

It is the responsibility of all of us to defend this process and give it a chance to succeed. Anyone who will do things that will militate against this process will face the wrought of the movement as a whole.

It is in moments like these where our discipline gets tested. This moment can be likened to the suspension of the armed struggle, where the comrades who had reservations with the decisions were the one who led from the front and became the best in articulating and explaining the decision. We all have a responsibility to own this process as ours even if we may have held different views in the meeting. That is the discipline of our organisation.

As a federation we have reached that stage of organisational maturity described by comrade Lenin when he said “frankly acknowledging a mistake, ascertaining the reasons for it, analysing the conditions that have led up to it, and thrashing out the means of its rectification—that is the hallmark of a serious party; that is how it should perform its duties, and how it should educate and train its class, and then the masses”.
We have now reached a stage where we have to de-teach ourselves and unlearn certain behaviours which have led to comrades thinking that booing leaders is how we communicate our different views. Yet COSATU tradition is that we engage and we persuade each other until there is agreement amongst ourselves.

It is not correct, it is not acceptable and it has never happened to have no-go arrears for some leaders in COSATU
It is not a normal thing to take your organisation to court and celebrate victory nor is it a normal thing to have the organisation taking its leaders to court. This cannot be equated with the organisational responsibility to defend its policies.

We want to repeat that even as we engage and giving the ANC intervention a chance but we should always assert the primacy of the organisation above individuals. No individual must ever be accorded a status of being above the federation.
Even as we give the ANC’s intervention process a chance, this does not mean that COSATU activities of defending workers rights and challenging policies which threatens those rights should stop.

COSATU will continue with its campaigns to call for the total ban on Labour brokers. We will continue with campaigns to challenge policies which have the potential of undermining workers rights. We will continue to demand a legislated minimum wage.

But we will not allow for the continuation of using COSATU campaigns to have unions compete against each other instead of cooperating with each other. We will not allow having COSATU campaigns being used as platforms to de campaign the ANC or to insult leaders of our movement. Our clarion call remains that of “taking war to our real class enemy” which is white monopoly capital.

We will not stop to expose and fight against campaigns which are anti SACP campaigns! Which are anti ANC campaigns! Campaigns intended to weaken and liquidate the federation and turn it into an instrument at the service of forces pursuing a different agenda from that of the liberation movement and the revolutionary working class.

We will not stop to expose those who dress themselves in borrowed robes, who call themselves Communist or Socialists and yet embark on campaigns to undermine the very same communist programme as led by the SACP.

In his writings “combat Liberalism Mao Tzu Teng on among others said that “Liberalism is extremely harmful in a revolutionary collective. It is a corrosive which eats away unity, undermines cohesion, causes apathy and creates dissension.

It robs the revolutionary ranks of compact organization and strict discipline, prevents policies from being carried through and alienates the Party organizations from the masses which the Party leads. It is an extremely bad tendency.

Liberalism stems from petty-bourgeois selfishness, it places personal interests first and the interests of the revolution second, and this gives rise to ideological, political and organizational liberalism.

People who are liberals look upon the principles of Marxism as abstract dogma. They approve of Marxism, but are not prepared to practice it or to practice it in full; they are not prepared to replace their liberalism by Marxism. These people have their Marxism, but they have their liberalism as well--they talk Marxism but practice liberalism; they apply Marxism to others but liberalism to themselves. They keep both kinds of goods in stock and find a use for each. This is how the minds of certain people work.

Liberalism is a manifestation of opportunism and conflicts fundamentally with Marxism. It is negative and objectively has the effect of helping the enemy; that is why the enemy welcomes its preservation in our midst. Such being its nature, there should be no place for it in the ranks of the revolution[1].

If we succeed on the attempt of working with the ANC to preserve the integrity of the unity of workers under COSATU, it will mean that we will be shifting away from having unions spending their resources fighting to liquidate each other. It will mean having unions focusing on workplace issues and servicing members. It will mean developing campaigns which consolidate solidarity and unity amongst unions and heightening war against the employers.

Comrades , in our 11th Congress we said on amongst others that “We shall at all times engage strategically with the ANC to ensure that it builds capacity and has the necessary confidence to act decisively to lead the Alliance and society”. This moment is calling on us to demonstrate our commitment to this call by the congress.

Those who never stood for unity of the workers and unity of the federation shall be exposed by this programme of unity of the federation.
Our most immediate tasks comrades where our unity can be consolidated in action is to heighten the election campaign toward the ANC‘s decisive victory on the 7th May. We need to go out in our numbers to mobilise every worker to vote ANC. It is encouraging to see many NUMSA members participating in the election campaign for the victory of the ANC. Now is the time to unite workers, unite the Alliance and close ranks against the enemy.

We therefore call on you as workers and shop stewards who built this federation. We want to repeat the words by the late comrade Oliver Tambo when he said “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."
Forward to the unity of COSATU!
Forward to the Unity of the Alliance!