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Shopsteward Volume 27: Special Bulletin

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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Speech Delivered by the COSATU President Sidumo Dlamini at the NUM Shop Stewards Council on 9th April 2014, Boksburg

11 April 2014

The President of NUM comrade Senzeni Zokwana
The National Office Bearers of NUM and the entire NUM leadership from all levels
The Shop Stewards of NUM; you are at the coal face of defending and building the NUM

We want to thank you for your commitment, dedication and readiness to sacrifice your life in defence of the NUM. We know that choosing to be a Shop Steward of NUM is a choice between life and death. No month passes without news of the brutal murder of an NUM Shop Steward or member.

May I request that we all rise to pay our respect and salute the bravery of those Shop Stewards and members who have continued to be in the NUM even when this union was vilified and attacked. We must pay our respects to those who got killed simply because they remained firm and continued to proudly associate with NUM.

We call on the Farlam Commission not to be used as a scapegoat by those criminals who get released on the basis of being witnesses at the Commission, which was never formed to suspend justice but to enhance it and we want to see justice being done.

We want the NUM to know that we can see that the Giant is rising again. Those who have illegitimately occupied your place continue to dig their own grave. We call on all those workers who have left NUM to come back and have their grievances addressed.

The NUM is a tried and tested union in the art and science of war against the mining employers, and that is why they have always wanted to destroy it and that is why employers will never stop supporting those bogus unions who want to liquidate the NUM.

The NUM is the only union we know in the mining sector which has a proven track record and continues to be the only union with a proven capacity to secure victories that genuinely advance the rights and interests of workers.

The NUM knows and understands the value of unity amongst workers. NUM leaders have always been distinguished by their capacity to stand for genuine unity, even under extreme conditions.

As we come from the Special CEC, which emphasised the need for the federation to elevate unity, we rely on experience and capacity of the NUM.

We are holding this meeting during a heroes’ month. This is a month in which comrade Chris Hani and the great Oliver Tambo died. It is comrade Oliver Tambo who insisted on the development of the Harare declaration which articulated pre-conditions which were to be met by the Apartheid regime in order to create conducive conditions which could level the playing field for negotiations.

It was comrade Chris Hani who even without being part of the decision to suspend the struggle but went around the country to explain and defend the decision taken by the movement at the time. We remain inspired by the exemplary leadership demonstrated by the leaders of our movement.

Comrades, we want to report that we are coming from a Special CEC held on 8th April which been scheduled to discuss the burning issues confronting the federation. This CEC agreed to give a chance to a process that has a potential to have a multiplier effect in addressing all these burning issues.

The Special CEC was addressed by the leadership of our glorious movement, the African National Congress, who pleaded with all of us that we should revisit the fundamental reasons for the existence of COSATU.

The ANC 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 accepted that indeed we needed the ANC’s intervention, which is standing on four pillars:
1. The first pillar is that the strategic objective of this intervention is to preserve the integrity and 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 and 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, as we speak, the CEC stands adjourned and will be reconvened in 14 days. This means all the CEC agenda items have been put in abeyance until it is reconvened after 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 important to note that this is not a new intervention by the ANC. It is the continuation of an intervention that has been ongoing but has now entered another phase in which the office bearers will be driving the process informed by the process which had already begun sometime ago.

We are envisaging a thorough process where we will be able to confront issues which are at the core of the challenges confronting the federation. Some of these issues are also about the ANC itself.

We also agreed that all the alliance partners will be part of the process which will be driven by the ANC because some of the issues to confront also require their input.

The CEC agreed to the ANC’s intervention because even though we may not have reached a stage where there is reciprocal destruction of the contending forces but we all know that those who genuinely value COSATU wanted a genuine solution to the challenges confronting the federation.

The choice was between continuing to fight against each other giving space to our class enemies to continuously divide us or to allow a platform to have our challenges dealt with through a collective effort by our allies.

Experience has taught us that when conditions of peace gets created those who have defined their strategy around chaos and disruption will automatically become irrelevant and get exposed for who they really are.

We know that in the process of engagement, the real agenda of those who wanted to liquidate COSATU will be exposed for what it is and those who stand for the genuine unity of COSATU will be unite behind a common agenda of building the federation based on its founding principles.

We are also not blind to the fact that there will be those who will covertly continue with plans to liquidate the federation under cover of a call for unity.

We know that the process we are entering into will not be an easy one. We already carry an experience where the other intervention of a facilitated process got completely undermined by some. But this process has a potential to expose those who are working day and night to divide the federation even where they agree on unity they think that such unity should be achieved in their own terms.

We enter into the process guided by the observations once made by Lenin when they were also going through similar challenges and he wrote, referring to the resolution adopted at the Amsterdam Congress of the Second International in August 1904 regarding Party unity, that "the workers are tired of splits. The workers want unity. The workers are disgusted at the fact that the split sometimes even takes the form of brawling. . ."

The workers do need unity. And the important thing to remember is that nobody but themselves will "give" them unity, that nobody can help them achieve unity. Unity cannot be "promised" -- that would be vain boasting, self-deception; unity cannot be "created" out of "agreements" between intellectualist groups. To think so is a profoundly sad, naïve, and ignorant delusion.

Unity must be won, and only the workers, the class-conscious workers themselves can win it -- by stubborn and persistent effort.

Nothing is easier than to write the word "unity" in yard-long letters, to promise it and to "proclaim" oneself an advocate of unity. In reality, however, unity can be furthered only by the efforts and organisation of the advanced workers, of all the class-conscious workers.
Unity without organisation is impossible. Organisation is impossible unless the minority bows to the majority.

These are incontestable truths. Nobody will question them. The only -- only! -- thing is to put them into effect. That is not easy. That requires effort, perseverance, the solidarity of all class-conscious workers. But without that effort there is no use talking about working-class unity[1].

We see this as a process of finding our own moral, political and organisational compass as we chart a way forward to building a fighting COSATU that is a home to all workers.

This process will allow us to assert the primacy of the organisation above individuals. It will allow a chance to instil in the minds of all that no individual must ever be accorded a status of being above the federation.

This process will give us a platform where we can be able to re assert the supremacy of COSATU‘s constitution above individual wishes. It will remind all of us that even though we have rights to take the federation to court but that has never been our tradition. It will also remind us that our organisations must never be used to butcher its own children.

Both of these constitute extremes which must be considered as a shame when they happen. But does it mean that COSATU should suspend its constitution. The answer is a Big No! Does it mean that COSATU should suspend its programmes and campaigns; the answer is a Big No!

We are clear in our minds that this process of intervention which is essentially a process of rebuilding the federation and reasserting its character cannot be taken to its logical conclusion outside of workers’ activism. But such activism should be directed to issues which unite rather than divide workers. Such activities should be consciously designed to encourage solidarity amongst unions rather than to promote competition.

It must be clear that we are actually entering into a process of rebuilding our federation and to reclaim its militancy and radicalism which have always been advanced under the leadership of the South African Communist Party and not the unguided militancy which has a potential to undermine the radicalism and revolutionary character of the federation.

This process is a call to remind ourselves of the interrelated political and organisational tasks we adopted in the 10th Congress which on amongst others included the following:

Ideological clarity about where we are, what the forces ranging against the strategic interest of the working class are; who are our allies; and clarity about the international ideological warfare.

A programme for transformation setting out the short-term, medium-term and long-term objectives to deepen the NDR and the attainment of socialism. The programme will reflect the multitude of challenges facing the working class at the point of production and reproduction; and in all sites of power, the state, judiciary and the media. To that end, we embrace the challenge to sharpen our ideology and theory of revolution.

An organisational development and building programme to build the organisational machinery of the working class and the liberation movement. The programme will ensure that the organisation has vibrant structures at branch/local, provincial and national level. This will also ensure internal dynamism; democracy through heightened mass education and activism to raise the level of class consciousness.

To reaffirm the historical thesis that the NDR is the terrain upon which to wage a socialist struggle. Socialism is not a deferred struggle, nor is it a deferred perspective. In struggling for basic national democratic objectives, a broad national movement will be rolling back the capitalist market and constructing elements of socialism.

Against this background, we commit to taking forward the task to learn the lessons of history to inform our practice today; to build a socialist movement coalescing around the SACP; develop a critical theory of the present and a theory of the transition to socialism; as well as define a vision for socialism in the 21st century.

To reassert the working class, as a primary motive force of the NDR, which bears the responsibility to unite the broadest range of social and political forces to take forward the NDR as the basis to build the momentum for socialism? To that end, we must strive for unity of the ANC, the SACP and COSATU and a vibrant and strong Alliance.

It is in this context that we will use this period to heighten our campaign to mobilise for the decisive victory of the ANC. We will not make a mistake of not pulling all our forces towards the work of mobilising for the victory of the ANC because we know what will be the consequences if we give space to the DA, which hates the current labour regime with passion. If they were to be given a chance the first thing they will do will be to reverse and take away of the hard won labour rights.

Neither can we give space to those we have run down our organisations through their unquenchable thirst for continuous accumulation through corruption, some even hiding their monies in family trusts, people we know literally ran down Limpopo province through corruption.
We call on workers and their families to vote ANC on the 7th May because we have practical and concrete things we can point to which the ANC has delivered for workers in the past 20 years and in recent five years.

Workers in the automotive sector know about how the ANC have saved their jobs in that sector through injection of massive financial support. We are encouraged to see NUMSA members joining other workers who are hard at work campaigning for the victory of the ANC. Farm Workers, Domestic workers and workers in the hospitality sector knows that the rights they enjoy today is as a result of the ANC government which has led from the front when it came to advancing workers rights.

Comrades we place the life and future of the federation and the movement as a whole on your hands!

Amandla! Forward to the unity of COSATU! Forward to the Unity of the Alliance!

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

P.O.Box 1019
South Africa

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