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Media Centre | COSATU Speeches
Speech by COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini, at NEHAWU Central Executive Committee
19 December 2014
The President of NEHAWU, Comrade Mzwandile Makwayiba
The entire leadership of NEHAWU from all levels
Comrades and delegates
Please accept revolutionary greetings from your federation COSATU
This meeting is taking place at a time when public sector unions are preparing to engage in negotiations.
Let it be made clear that you will be negotiating with just another employer. We must not be confused by the fact that the employer is also our democratically elected government. Like any other employer they will come to negotiations prepared with various strategies amongst these will be to secure compromises. Indeed, the reason why we negotiate is based on acceptance of wining some of your demands and compromising on others and accepting where you will not win.
But we want to warn the public sector unions that you must never just compromise without a fight. You must never compromise on the demands by workers which are meant to ensure a better life such as on housing; you must never compromise on demanding resources at the workplace to ensure quality service delivery.
You must come back from those negotiations carrying a report back that says workers will get a salary increase that will make public servants to be respected, that will inspire workers when they wake up in the morning to go to work and to do their work diligently.
Like any other employer they will come to negotiation not ready to give in and your duty will be to push them to accede to your maximum demands.
You must remember that you are first and foremost a trade union. Your existence is about the improvement of working conditions; it is about better salaries; it is about job security. You have a responsibility to send a message to those workers out there that they can have trust to their trade union and their leaders.
You must send a message to all workers that to be a leader of a trade union is based on being trustworthy, being dependable, being reliable, being faithful, being loyal to workers’ needs and that your work is guided by the needs and genuine demands of workers.
By your own conduct both inside and outside negotiations you must win the hearts and minds of workers. Workers must see a difference between leaders who work to satisfy individual needs and their egos and leaders who genuinely represent the interests of workers and the working class.
There are too many people who call themselves trade union leaders. Some have recently failed dismally in their attempt to start something they call a public-sector union, under the leadership of one corrupt man who was found to have siphoned workers’ money in exchange for a lavish life style.
This person was found guilty for having stolen workers’ money but still has the guts to go out with a straight face to mobilise workers with an intention to form a union. Why should it be that easy for anyone, even such a discredited person to just to go out, lie and woo workers to join him or her?
We should expose that the underlying intention is not only to form a union, wrong as that may be. But to establish another cash cow as a way of maintaining a lavish life style which for a long time has been done through workers’ money.
He has come in handy as part of the overall strategy to weaken and ultimately to destroy COSATU; he, like his masters and all those who came before him, will fail as he has already failed dismally just to convene a meeting in a small hall.
The other line of attack which is part of the overall strategy is to have COSATU pre-occupied with court cases as a way of stretching its resources and to have it appear as being paralysed. It will not work, like all other schemes which continue to fall apart as we speak.
We are being taken to court based on a lie that we have refused to convene a Special National Congress. NUMSA leadership must report to its members that it was there when the President presented his report in the 2013 November CEC.
The NUMSA leadership must tell its members that they were there when the COSATU president was stopped from tabling his report on 8th April regarding preparations towards the Special National Congress and instead allowed for the ANC intervention.
The NUMSA leadership must tell its members that a Special National Congress is tentatively set to sit from 13th to 16th July 2015.
Where is the money of taking COSATU to courts coming from when workers are not enjoying any benefits from their unions? Should this money not be used for something which will benefit workers? Or should NUMSA leadership not use this money for convening their Special National Congress to review their 2013 Special National Congress Resolutions which are opposition to COSATU policy?
We have agreed to yet another political process to address the differences in the federation but let it be emphasised that no political process will proceed on the basis of an intention to undermine COSATU policies and its constitution.
We enter into these political discussions based on an understanding that there is a CEC decision which expelled NUMSA from the federation. We enter into these discussions clear that NUMSA was wrong to continue poaching members from other COSATU unions even a call has been made that they should stop it.
We enter to the political process clear that we will defend COSATU policies with everything we have and we will not allow an interpretation of our policy which is intended to suit NUMSA’s undermining of COSATU policy.
We enter into these political discussions with an understanding that in COSATU there is no structure called the seven unions and that all other unions remain COSATU affiliates and they were never dismissed.
We are happy to note that workers in other unions have told their leaders to go back to participate in COSATU constitutional structures and they will not follow NUMSA’s call for COSATU to break from the alliance.
We are going to participate in the political process because we want to find a solution to the challenges confronting the federation but we are not going there to beg comrades and accede to ideological and policy deviations which were never agreed to in any congress.
As Marx once put it: “If you must unite, then enter into agreements to satisfy the practical aims of the movement, but do not allow any bargaining over principles, do not make theoretical concessions”.
We would like to remind those who are planning to destroy COSATU that COSATU was formed through the sweat and blood of workers; their tears speak! The blood of all those who died in the line of duty to form COSATU speak. It is for this reason that we can boldly say that “no weapon formed against COSATU shall ever prosper!”
It is interesting to note that many of those who go out to form their spaza shop organisations arrogate to themselves positions of being the most principled.
What is to be principled in the context of our organisation?
A principled person always operate on the basis of an understanding of the difference between being a member of the organisation and being a just an individual who has not taken a decision to join an organisation.
A principled person is not attracted by individuals when joining an organisation but is attracted by what the organisation stands for and what it seeks to achieve including how it wants to achieve its goals and vision.
Once inside the organisation, a principled person does not follow human beings and is not controlled by his interests but is orientated towards the fundamental law, values, rules, objectives and vision which underpin the organisation. As such principled people place themselves at the service of the organisation. They do not take away from the organisation but give their all to the organisation and does so without counting the cost.
Principled people are those who know when to say “yes” or “no” even when conditions allow them to act differently. They have no interests of their own which are different from that of the organisation and the members of the organisation.
A principled person respects the collective view and the democratic process and its corresponding outcomes even if such outcomes are against his or her views, even if such outcomes are directed against you as an individual. Principled people accept those on the basis of respecting a democratic outcome.
These people who arrogate to themselves labels of being principled also like to present themselves as communists even as super-communists.
Let us hear what comrade Mao Tse Tung has to say about the conduct expected from communists. He says: “At no time and in no circumstances should a Communist place his personal interests first; he should subordinate them to the interests of the nation and of the masses. Hence, selfishness, slacking, corruption, seeking the limelight and so on are most contemptible, while selflessness, working with all one`s energy, whole-hearted devotion to public duty, and quiet hard work will command respect”.
Comrades the task we have is that through our own conduct we must make it difficult if not impossible for anyone to form a union which will stand in opposition to a COSATU union. We should make it impossible for anyone to go out and form a trade union federation or any form of an organisation that is intended to undermine COSATU.
We should do this by not just only rejecting others but we need to be clear about what type of COSATU we want to build and what type of a COSATU union do we want.
We must in our daily life conduct ourselves in a manner that makes us to earn respect amongst members and the society in general.
We must continue to point out the manifestations of the conduct and everything we do not want but we must also go beyond that and through practice work to build a non-compromising COSATU that is based on its founding principles of One union one industry, one country one federation, worker control, democratic centralism, paid up membership, international solidarity, based on the slogan an injury to one is an injury to all.
We need to be clear that we will never compromise these founding principles. These are time-tested principles which we must always defend from those who will from time to time attempt to define them in a manner which suits their new agenda.
In everything we do we should consciously ensure that it results in building a united federation which has a strong presence at the shop floor and whose leaders remain close to the ground providing quality service to members.
We should act to build a federation which conducts militant struggles for worker rights, collective bargaining and whose struggles seeks to asserts working class power in society.
We should demonstrate in practice that whilst we have a responsibility to highlight and point out wrong policies by government but we should also place alternatives and that will require building an organisation with a strong research capacity to do that and that means as NEHAWU you must come forward on how we can strengthen and support NALEDI.
It is also important that we should be clear that to be militant is not the same thing as being rude and that comrades should not attempt to prove their militancy and radicalism by insulting leaders, attacking the SACP and the ANC to a point of placing these formations at the same position as our class enemies. We all know by now that it is easy to do that because you will not be killed or arrested neither will you lose your job.
Let us focus our militancy against our real class enemies - white monopoly capital! We now know why we can’t see or hear anger directed against white monopoly capital, it is because some are benefiting through kickbacks.
All our activities at all levels , in boardrooms , at the workplace and in the streets should be intended to building an active, democratic organisation controlled by workers and based on campaigns and mobilisation.
Our time should not be consumed by boardroom discussions; instead we should always have activities which gravitate towards open struggles on the streets and at the workplace against employers.
We should be open with our comrades in the ANC-led government that they have a responsibility to make radical economic transformation a reality. We should never retreat from our demand for a change in the economic policy trajectory of the country.
We have pointed out what was wrong in the National Development Plan and we should continue to put pressure, participate in the Alliance process to change these wrongs.
These changes will not be achieved when we stay away from Alliance meetings or when we do not engage government.
Let it be repeated that we want a strong, effective and campaigning COSATU that has effective capacitated Shop Stewards who can service our members effectively. We want to build a COSATU whose functioning at all levels is based on collective leadership, democracy and worker control.
We want a COSATU that fights for justice for women in the workplace, the labour market and society as a whole.
We want a COSATU that pursues a vision of economic policies that include women’s emancipation, a vision of eradicating apartheid oppression and gender oppression in all spheres of society and in the workplace in line with our constitution.
In this context we therefore should seek to build a trade union federation which is a home for women workers, a movement which they know will fight for justice for women in the workplace and the economy, including inside the federation itself. This will advance the task of building a movement for gender equality in the labour market, and must be seen as an integral part of our vision of a strong COSATU, politically and economically.
Please allow me to report that the Special CEC which sat on 19th November agreed that there was nothing in the constitution of COSATU which makes comrade Zingiswa not to qualify as a 2nd Deputy President.
There was an attempt to remove and destroy comrade Zingiswa based on the fact that she is a women and she had become a threat to those who cannot stand to her assertiveness.
We still have comrades in COSATU who are still trapped and arrested in the mindset of male chauvinism; for them a woman is just a minor and when she is in leadership, her role should be to support male leaders and agree with everything they say.
If she differs with them, she must face disciplinary action intended to remove her as a punishment for her refusal to be at the service of her male mater leader!
We want to tell those who are still confused that comrade Zingiswa Losi is a leader in her own right and like all other leaders she must be supported and be engaged and corrected when necessary.
Through comrade Zingiswa the CEC has sent a message that there is a place for women in COSATU. The CEC was affirming that COSATU takes will go at any length to ensure that it becomes a natural thing to treat females as equals.
Comrades, we must not be apologetic about the fact that what makes COSATU to be different from other federations is that we are a federation that is equally concerned with broad social and political issues, as well as the immediate concerns of its members. We continue to be a social force for transformation.
Our goal remains democracy and socialism under the leadership of the SACP. Our influence on society is based on our organised power, our capacity to mobilise, our socioeconomic programme and policies and our participation in political and social alliances.
Comrades, no organisation can achieve its mission if does not understand itself. COSATU is a federation of trade unions and should always operate like one.
Even though we pursue a vision for a socialist South Africa but we cannot on our own lead a struggle for Socialism.
We advance the struggle for Socialism under the leadership of the South African Communist Party and we are not passive followers. We engage and influence the party and we are also influenced by the party.
We work with all alliance structures and with the SACP to assert worki