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COSATU on Sugar Tax Part 1 of 3
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  |  COSATU Speeches

Opening address by COSATU President Comrade Sidumo Dlamini at the COSATU 6th Central Committee held from 29th May - 1st June 2017

Members of the Central Committee, The delegation of the ANC The delegation of the SACP , The delegation of SANCO The delegation of the ANC Women`s League The delegation of the ANCYL The National Secretary of the Young Communist League, The delegation from SASCO The delegation from COSAS ; The President of FEDUSA ; The President of NACTU ; Our distinguished International guests

We give special salute to the delegates from unions representing the more than 1,7 million workers organized under COSATU also representing the plight of approximately 13.72 million workers that don't belong to any Trade Union or to any form of industrial organization which protects the rights of workers.

Today we come to this 6th Central Committee more united than we were in 2015 when we went to the Special National Congress and the 12th National Congress. We want to say thank you to the workers, the members of COSATU. It is you who stood up when the federation was going through a storm.

It is you who said we should stop fighting amongst ourselves and direct our energies and resources to heighten our struggle and consolidate our unity against our primary class enemies. It is you who instructed that our focus must be on leading workplace struggles. As a result of your instruction, we went out and intervened at the Lily Mine in Mpumalanga.

Since the tragic collapse of a sinkhole that buried three workers and left several of them injured, we campaigned to see some justice and relief for the Lily Mine workers. We were first able to force the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane to agree to a commission of enquiry and an investigation into the reasons behind the Lily Mine accident.

Today we can report that the families of missing miners (Mrs. Pretty Mabuza, Mr. Solomon Nyarenda and Ms Yvonne Mnisi), who are still trapped underground at Lily Vantage gold mine in Mpumalanga since the 15th of February 2016 have been paid the R200 000 that was promised to them.

We also welcome the payment of R10 000 to the 75 injured miners that were promised a payment of R50 000, and we shall continue to work to support the fundraising efforts to raise money so that workers can receive the additional R 40 000. We remain very clear that any company that takes over operations at Lily Mine needs to prioritise the repatriation of the bodies of the trapped miners first. We also want to see the continuation of an investigation that will help determine the cause of the accident and we demand that those found responsible should be held accountable

We also went to intervene at Umbhaba farm estate with the aim of helping the 3000 Umbhaba workers that were sold out by a union which is not affiliated to COSATU. These workers were dismissed after they went on a legal strike fighting for the recognition of the same union which abandoned them. We are continuing to engage with the lawyers and we will continue to help these vulnerable workers and will tirelessly fight to ensure that they get justice at the end.

When we call ourselves a fighting federation we really mean it. We are more united and continue to be on the ground than ever before. It is not us who say this but COSATU union's work speaks for itself. This is corroborated by the 2015 report by the Department of Labour which pointed out that COSATU unions which on amongst others include NUM, NEHAWU, SADTU displayed the shares of working days lost at above 10% in 2015. In this regards, NUM was ranked the top at 15.1% in 2015.

It you the workers who led from the front and shook South Africa from its foundations in the struggle against compulsory preservation of your retirement fund benefits when you declared nothing about us without us! It is you the workers who forced government to finally release and table the discussion paper on the comprehensive social security and retirement reform.

It is you the workers who led the struggle for the implementation of the National health Insurance system. Through your struggles, the NHI is being piloted in some provinces. Part of this have included the screening of 3.2 million learners in quintile 1-5 and 15 % of them were found to be suffering preventable ailments which are making it impossible for them to learn effectively because of hearing and sight problems. The cervical vaccine provided to girls in education as part of the NHI is of the most progressive campaigns carried to open the doors of health for the poor. The de worming campaign in schools is bringing health on the door of the poor.

The implementation of NHI will allow our country to have the capacity to confront the new challenge of TB which has become a new number one killer in our society and it has killed more people than Ebola. The fact of the matter is that medical aids are unsustainable because, they are about profit maximization and not pubic good.

Our campaign on the implementation of NHI will also have to focus on the establishment of a state pharmaceutical company, funding; and to challenge the immoral hospitals and schools that are listed in the JSE reducing both health and education into a commodity.

It is you the workers who must defend the NHI from being stolen by business it is you the workers who must direct the NHI away from the profit making logic.

We are currently fighting to ensure that the NHI is not donated to the Clinton foundation; we are also fight to ensure that the redistribution of resources through the NHI favors the working class. We are saying that financing the NHI should not allow the use of VAT, as it would create a situation where a big share of the poor's incomes is spent on health compared to the rich.

We are also fighting against any attempt to introduce a multi payer system, instead of a single fund, intended to ensure that the rich subsidize the poor. We are committed not only to the creation of the NHI but also to the transformation of the health system, including the operations of the institutions.

The death of more than one hundred psychiatric patients in Gauteng stands as a monumental reminder of the dangers of outsourcing and agencification of the state. Governments need to act decisively to do away with outsourcing and use of private healthcare providers in the health system.

It is through the struggles by COSATU members that a new Unemployment Insurance Act has now been signed into law ,coming with progressive changes which include increased UIF benefits from 8 months to 12 months (238 to 365 days); covering workers who lost working hours due to reduced time at their work place at their previous full time hours; Including learnership programmes under the UIF; increasing maternity leave benefits from 54% to 66%; separating maternity leave from UIF benefits and claims; providing maternity leave benefits for women who had miscarriages during the third trimester or a still born birth; allowing the family and/ or nominated beneficiaries of deceased claimants to receive their remaining due benefits; prohibiting the charging of fees by any party to a UIF claimant; allowing the Minister for Labour to issue special regulations for domestic workers and employees of small businesses and enterprises to ensure that they are covered; prohibiting the exclusion of workers from UIF and maternity leave benefits if they are members of the Government Employees Pension Fund (thus cover public servants if they are dismissed from work).The next phase of the struggle is to fight for the expansion of access to the UIF for vulnerable workers.

It is through the struggles led by you COSATU members that the democratic government has become more decisive in reversing the legacy of the land dispossessions which has always been at the centre of our liberation struggle. This victory has meant real and concrete benefit for farm workers who today can claim co -ownership of land with their former employers.

It is through struggles led by you the workers under the banner of COSATU we have secured a victory which saw the signing of a declaration towards the process that will lead to a legislated National Minimum Wage. This is part of the struggle for a Living Wage which you have waged and led with courage and tenacity.

When we say we are a fighting federation we mean it. We continue to fight both in the streets and in the boardroom with equal precision and political finesse. Ask any honest member of parliament they will tell you about our well researched and well thought out quality policy presentations which covers more than 20 sectors of the economy and our presentations and research work is quoted by various reputable academic institutions and scholars. Ask any employer they will tell you about the forever combat ready unions of COSATU who know how and when to draw a red line on the sand, when forced to that position. Honest employers who negotiate with COSATU unions will tell you about how COSATU unions can demonstrate tactical finesse, show calculated bravery, courageous leadership and can take the fight to the bitter end when the moment calls for it. When we say we are a fighting federation we really mean it.

We salute you the members of COSATU who stood up when the federation was facing the storm and told us to never to compromise the tradition of robust and frank engagement regarding our organisation and the struggles of the working class and to do so using the platform of our constitutional structures and within the parameters of our constitution.

Today we stand here in front of you to tell you that your federation is alive and kicking. Your federation is united and our unity is not unity in general but class unity and principled unity.

As part of the broader movement we operate and function on the basis that individuals who operate in the dead of the night, convening secret meetings and speaking poorly of other members should be exposed and isolated. When approached to be part of such groups, members should relay such information to relevant structures or individuals in whom they have confidence. But it is also critical that proper investigations are conducted, and those accused are informed.

Witch-hunts should be avoided as a matter of principle.

Our unity is informed by an understanding that it is to be expected that in leading social activity, leaders and members will from time to time make mistakes. The most important thing is that these individuals and collectives should have the capacity and humility to honestly review their work critically, and correct the weaknesses.

Our unity is encored on a shared understanding that individual members and leaders will have differing opinions on how particular issues should be addressed. The strength of revolutionary organisation lies among others in the ability to synthesise these views and emerge with the wisest possible approach. Once a decision has been taken on the basis of the majority's views, it binds everyone, including those who held a contrary view.

Our approach to unity is informed by an understanding that a leader should win the confidence of the people in her day-to-day work. Where the situation demands, she should be firm; and have the courage to explain and seek to convince others of the correctness of decisions taken by constitutional structures even if such decisions are unpopular. She should not seek to gain cheap popularity by avoiding difficult issues, making false promises or merely pandering to popular sentiment.

A leader should seek to influence and to be influenced by others in the collective. He should have the conviction to state his views boldly and openly within constitutional structures of the movement; and - without being disrespectful - not to cower before those in more senior positions in pursuit of patronage, nor to rely on cliques to maintain one's position.

An individual with qualities of leadership does not seek to gain popularity by undermining those in positions of responsibility. Where such a member has a view on how to improve things or correct mistakes, she should state those views in constitutional structures and seek to win others to her own thinking. She should assist the movement as a whole to improve its work, and not stand aside to claim perfection out of inactivity.

Our organisation is too big to have the capacity to hide our problems and challenges but open as we are, we don not allow our internal organizational challenges to be discussed in face book and in tweeter! We have a culture and tradition of confronting issues internally and this has over the years made us to be more united and more coherent.

Comrades, this 6th Central Committee of COSATU is taking place at a time when the crisis of capitalism has reached its acute levels. It is now 10 years since the emergence of the global economic crisis and the global economy never fully recovered from the crash, instead, it is now experiencing all three interrelated crises; namely a crisis of sustainability, a systemic crisis and a structural crisis. It continues to fumble along and tripped from one setback to
another. We are being forced to accept and believe that the crisis of capitalism must be accepted as a small sickness which arrives from time to time such as flu in winter season.

No we are refusing to treat the crisis of capitalism just like another ordinary sickness because for us as workers the crisis capitalism means that 62 people in the world are controlling as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity.

In South Africa, the richest 1% owns 42% of the country's total wealth and three billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom 50% of the population.

Side by side with this evidence of opulence the crisis of capitalism has meant that the working class should accept poverty and hunger , unemployment , rising inequality, rising rate of exploitation , layoffs , cut on social spending by governments ,stealing of our pension funds , cuts in real wages; Intensification of work periods; deregulation and increase in working hours; deregulation of labour markets ; widespread casual labor, particularly among the women and young workers; and continued exploitation of migrant workers.

These conditions have left the working class all over the world including in South Africa looking for a way out and the left forces were not there to inspire the masses and led them out of the dark valley of despair and the leadership vacuum has been closed by the emergence of the right wing which appealed to the nationalist sentiment and provoked the fears of the working class to whip their emotions against progressive policies.

This phenomenon have also been seen here in South Africa, in India, Brazil and other parts of Latin America and all over the world where the real economic challenges imposed by the global economic crisis intersected will real mistakes which included corruption committed by cadres in the left parties including our own has led to the opening of a political space for the right wing to be emboldened in advance their regime change agenda.

In our case these mistakes include failure by our movement to use its access to state power to transform the colonial and apartheid economy.

It includes non implementation of progressive resolutions from the Polokwane, Mangaung conference and Alliance Summit. It include ignoring the alliance resolutions which agreed to address concerns raised by COSATU and the SACP on the economic and labour market chapters of the NDP, non implementations of the Alliance resolutions regarding organizational renewal which include addressing the use of money to influence election outcomes .

It includes failure to implement the resolution that the ANC must develop capacity to monitor implementation of its policies in government. One of the things which have compromised our movement as a whole is corruption, which has also directly compromised many of COSATU unions through business unionism.

We need to be bold and stand up to fight corruption and ensure that those found to be responsible are dismissed from our organizations, arrested; prosecuted and convicted to serious jail sentences. We will also need to fight against corrupt parasitic bourgeoisie whether it is monopoly capital (white or black) or whether it is the emerging black business that uses their relations with the state to corrupt it. This should also include fighting against collusive behavior by companies as exposed by the competition commission. It should include following up on the recent report about alleged payments made to ABSA and all the reported shenanigans in State owned Enterprises including the recent revelations about what has been happening in the national treasury.

But as we do so we should be aware that our fight against corruption is not reduced to cleaning the dirt of capitalism so that it can look better, but it must be linked to fighting against the very system of capitalism which is inherently corrupt and have given rise to corruption.

It includes the fact that whilst there is agreement in paper about the existence of an Alliance political Council but in practice the Alliance Political Council is no existent. This means that the Alliance continues to be used only during elections. This Central Committee has a responsibility to confront this matter. As COSATU we want an alliance where all partners are equal and see and treat each others as such.

Our approach has always been based on respecting all our partners and we avoided shouting at team in public. We have refused to be feared but we wanted to be respected based on the force of our argument and not the amount of noise we make in the media but more and more we are being forced and pushed into a space where we speak at and not to our comrades!

We want an alliance which consciously takes the responsibility to direct the revolution, we want an alliance that is credible and enjoys authority in providing leadership to society. In our view the Alliance cannot continue to operate in its current form, if it does, it will be declared irrelevant by the developments in the ground. The functioning of the alliance must not be based on who is the incumbent leadership in each of the alliance formation it must be based on the requirement to provide leadership in directing the revolution regardless of who is a leader in the ANC, in COSATU, the SACP and SANCO. It must not b based on the relations between leadership, whilst that may be important but the alliance work must be based on the needs of the revolution. This Central Committee has got to engage in frank, honest and introspective discussions regarding the alliance.

This 6th Central Committee must spend more time discussing how COSATU should exploit the current moment in which all in the alliance and in the country share a commitment towards a second more radical phase of transition which will be characterized by radical economic transformation.

There are two streams of ideological orientation that emerge from the concrete-historical treatment of the notion of Second Radical Transition. One stream is the more recent version, inter-laced with neo-liberalism, which seeks to keep existing property relations intact and merely wants to perfect the functioning of the existing system of capitalist accumulation. Another ideological stream, which is left-oriented with strong socialist under-tones, seeks to tackle property relations as the starting point, and thus wants to lay the basis for the development of society along egalitarian lines.

As COSATU we remain vigilant in that the notion of a Second more radical phase of our Transition is not used to mean the following:

  1. Transformations that either seeks to consolidate the capitalist mode of production or to amend the national accumulation strategy without fundamentally transforming the underlying property relations, and without affecting a fundamental shift in ideological orientation.
  2. It cannot and must not be predicated on the National Development Plan. The fact of the matter is that the revolutionary class forces, especially the primary motive force, the working class, do not share the neo-liberal approach of the NDP, which seeks to effect cosmetic changes to Colonialism of a Special Type, by consolidating and perfecting the mechanisms of the capitalist mode of production and imperialist domination.
  3. It must not be predicated on a fallacious notion of an attempt to separate GEAR from neo-liberalism. Neoliberalism is characterized by the reduced role of the state in the economy, privatization, trade and financial liberalization, labour market de-regulation, restrained fiscal policy, inflation-targeting as the overriding goal of monetary policy and central bank independence. All these embody features of what came to be known as the Washington consensus.
  4. We don not agree with the argument that the need for a second radical transition has been induced by the reality that although we have liberalized and integrated into the global economy and we have macroeconomic stability, the structure of the apartheid colonial economy has remained the same". This is mentioned as if the so called "stability" is the "stability" of something else, and not that of "the apartheid colonial economy". But how can we agree that there has been macroeconomic stability when income distribution, unemployment and poverty have worsened in the democratic decade? How can we really agree that this "liberalization and integration into the global economy" and the alleged "macroeconomic stability" are not true pillars of genuine neo-liberalism?

We have been listening to comrades talking about radical economic transformation and we want to tell our comrades, particularly those deployed in government to avoid lamenting about the need for radical economic transformation as if they are not in charge of the levers of state power which can be used to effect radical economic transformation. Comrades, you must use state power decisively and make radical economic transformation to happen. You are in charge!

Comrades everything we want to do ,including fighting corruption , fighting monopoly capital and white monopoly capital in particular , fighting the parasitic elements , reconfiguration of the alliance, ensure a more radical phase of our transition are all reliant on our organizational presence on the ground . This means that we need to put more of energy into ensuring that we build the engines of COSATU and this means building work place organisation, COSATU locals, COSATU provinces, COSATU affiliates at all levels and a strong national coordinating centre which is COSATU head office.

It means that all of u must ensure that the back to basic programme is rolled out in every jut and corner of the country. We will need to heighten our campaign against labour brokers and we call on all workers all over the country to come forward with hard evidence on how labour brokers have affected them after the three months period allowed by legislation . We want to take this evidence to court to argue for the total scrapping of labour brokers.

All our campaign must be linked to recruitment. Trade unionism is about numbers and unity in fighting against employers and ant -worker policies and without numbers and unity we are doomed!

We will need to intensify our campaign for accessible, reliable, affordable and integrated public transport. Cheap and affordable transport for many workers remains an illusion, with 41% of all households paying more than 11% of total household income on transport and more than 60% of households earning R500 and less pay in excess of 20% of their income on transport and this is one fifth of total income. In contrast, those households who earn R3000 and more a month paying between 1-5%. This is the context in which we will be pushing for the scrapping of e-tolls which have caused our movement to loose the Johannesburg metro to the DA.

Workers we are calling on you to defend your federation and your unions. Volumes of books have been written to talk down COSATU and create an image of a dying organisation , the media has been unleashed to reinforce the same narrative, academic institutions are being deployed to give this lie some intellectual credibility but it has all failed COSATU is a like a baobab tree , we have survived all kinds of weather , but we will never under estimate our enemies nor over estimate , workers , you must remain vigilant to defend and built COSATU in every work place in the country.

Comrades, this 6th Central Committee is not about recycling old idea which has not yielded any results. This Central Committee is about thinking towards revolutionary solutions and alternatives.

This Central Committee is about whether moving forward COSATU will remain relevant to workers and to the working class as a whole

This Central Committee is about whether moving forward COSATU unions and the federation as a whole will have the capacity to take up sustainable fight against employers

This is CEC must go down in history as having determined the tempo of our revolution

The history of the implementation or non implementation of a second more radical phase of our transition which is characterized by radical economic transformation must be written before and after this Central Committee.

This Central Committee will determine if we will remain a fighting COSATU as we march into the future of a Socialist South Africa

The Central Committee is declared open.

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