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COSATU on Sugar Tax Part 1 of 3
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Shopsteward Volume 26 No. 2

COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor COSATU Media Monitor


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Media Centre  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU Central Executive Committee statement 28-30 August 2017

31 August 2017

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 28-30 August 2017, which was attended by all members of the CEC. The meeting discussed and resolved on a number of organisational, political, international and socio-economic issues affecting the workers and the working class in the country and around the world.

This meeting took place after a very hectic period for the Alliance in which all the leading alliance formations held strategic national meetings. This included COSATU’s 6th Central Committee, the ANC’s 5th National Policy Conference and the SACP’s 14th National Congress.

All of this was also happening in the context of a deepening crisis of capitalism, acutely marked by the continuing global economic crisis that also saw the economy of South Africa being downgraded into a technical junk status. The rate of unemployment, poverty and inequality has reached historically high levels, with unemployment under an expanded definition now sitting at 38%.

The CEC took some time to remember the victims of the 2012 Platinum strikes, including those who perished during the Marikana tragedy. We remember the 58 workers that were killed in the course of the Lonmin and Impala disputes of 2012. These include 5 workers that were killed at Impala Platinum, 6 workers at Aquarius Platinum, and 47 at Lonmin Marikana (10 before the 16th of August , including 2 police officers whose bodies were mutilated) 34 that were killed by the police on 16th August, and the 3 workers after the 16th August).

Their deaths remain a classical example of the immorality of Capitalism, its festering greed and government betrayal. The mine bosses have to acknowledge and confront the fact that they are primarily responsible for fostering discord and violence in many workplaces in the sector. The undeniable fact is that it is their quest for super profits that has created orphans and cost workers their lives. Currently workers in the mining sector are being assassinated in their own homes and their houses are bombed. There is also a disturbing inconsistency in how the police are dealing with the violence in the mining sector. We also send our message of support to the victims of the Kusasalethu Mine accident.

The federation expressed concern about the carnage on our roads, as symbolised by the horrendous taxi accident in KwaZulu Natal. We are seeing more workers and students daily being killed in car accidents every day. The student transport in this country needs to be reviewed because we cannot afford to have our children massacred in this way. COSATU demands a safe, affordable reliable accessible and integrated transport system can no longer be postponed.

We also received a presentation from the Minister of Finance Mr Malusi Gigaba on the state of the economy, including the recently released Government’s Inclusive Growth Action Plan. We have agreed that going forward we will continue to engage with the minister, including convening a bilateral to respond to some of the issues raised he raised in his presentation.

Organisational Assessment

The CEC spent a considerable amount of time discussing the state of the federation and that of its affiliates. The meeting reiterated its assertion that the task of building a strong workplace organisation must be anchored by intensification of the ongoing Back to Basics and Listening Campaign.

While we are happy with the progress made so far to translate the Back to Basics programme into a meaningful practical activity, there is still a lot of work to be done to help the affiliates that are experiencing internal challenges.

The CEC has resolved that COSATU should not only engage with the leadership of these identified unions but it should escalate the process of engagements to the real owners of the unions the workers. We shall be announcing a programme in the next two weeks to meet with members of SATAWU, SAMWU, and CEPPWAWU to discuss the state of their unions. These workers meetings will be convened all across the provinces. The problems in some of our unions are not ideological but are about money and service providers , who want to influence leadership election in unions so that they can continue their business relationship at all costs. This issue is also not just a COSATU problem but it is a cancer that can be found all across the labour movement.

The infighting in some of these unions has left the workers vulnerable and has made it very difficult for these unions to defend them and also wage sustained campaigns. The CEC is clear that only honesty and hard work by affiliates and everyone will help us to forge a united and militant federation under these current difficult conditions, which include the steady decline in the rate of unionisation, dire economic situation, the fragmentation and mushrooming of new trade unions.

The CEC congratulated the membership of COSATU for a successful Central Committee meeting that was held in May this year. The CC represented the continuation of the momentum of unity from the 2015 Special National Congress and the 12th National Congress, especially considering that in 2014, we could not convene a Central Committee meeting as per our constitution.

The Central Committee proved beyond doubt that the unity of COSATU was no longer an issue which needed to be proven but a reality which was demonstrated for all and sundry to see. It is not false unity, but unity based on robust and yet comradely engagements. It is unity which is anchored on the founding principles of the federation including the principle of collective leadership and democratic centralism.

The federation shall continue to visit, engage and listen to workers from their places of work, and prioritise campaigns that are aimed at reducing wage inequality and improving workers retirement benefits. During this bargaining season we expect all our unions, including the public service to take up the fight for better wages and improved benefits to the employers without fear or favour.COSATU unions like SAMWU, NUM, SACCAWU, and NEHAWU are already showing an admirable resolve in representing the interests of their members. Our union’s approach to the negotiations will be guided by the framework adopted by the 2013 Bargaining Conference.

We shall also be talking to SASAWU and SAFPU members, who have been writing to COSATU and visiting our provinces asking for an intervention after some of their leaders pushed for the union to leave COSATU.

Socio-economic Assessment

The CEC expressed concern regarding the government’s adherence to the current Neoliberal paradigm, especially since this is taking place in the context where around half of the population is poor and experiencing food insecurity and hunger. The recent Statistics South Africa’s report on poverty trends in South Africa has confirmed our assertions that the socioeconomic status of the majority in South Africa is deteriorating, despite the fact that few people are getting richer due to economic policies that favour the rich.

South Africa has the highest jobless rate of more than 60 emerging and developed countries. This is made worse by the fact that JSE listed companies are continuing with their investment strike. They are now sitting with more than R 700 billion in cash deposits in South African banks.

These poverty figures did not come as surprise considering that 17 million people are depended on social grants, 50% of the workforce earns below R4000 per month and most workers spend more than 25% of their salaries on transport. Of the 25 million people with bank credit cards 10 million are unable to repay these loans on time and some default on their debts.

Whilst 60% of government expenditure is linked to social wage, which includes social grants, health and education, the quality of these services remains very poor because a substantial portion has been diverted to benefit consultants.

We understand and appreciate that in 1994 the ANC inherited a country which was highly indebted to foreign and local capitalists, and whose growth was based on racial discrimination and subjugation of black majority, cheap labour and granting of benefits to only the white minority. While we agree that the poverty levels we have today can be traced back to the days of British colonialism and apartheid, which were both based on segregation and separate development, however, the fact that poverty continues to affect mainly black people and to a certain extent coloured communities is as a result of policy choices by the ANC government post 1994.

The CEC attributed all this to the ANC government’s decision to adopt neo liberal capitalist economic policies that were based on the view that if we remove regulations on business, cut taxes for companies and the rich; the benefits of this economic liberalisation will result in jobs and income redistribution for everyone.

COSATU, which has opposed this for the better part of the last two decades, has been sadly vindicated because these policies have been a spectacular failure. Considering that the ANC’s election campaign for 1994 was ‘better life for all’, the black people of this country have every right to feel betrayed. The CEC called on the ANC government to change its economic policy trajectory fast because the people are running out of patience and the ANC is running out of time.

Building the capacity of the state

The CEC reiterated its previous assertion that a capable developmental state will not be declared in boardrooms or in public podiums but it will have to prove itself through its own actions. In its reflections, the CEC concluded that because of weak political oversight and leadership since 2009, the gains of Polokwane and Mangaung have been reversed; firstly, by remnant elements of the ’96 Class Project in the Treasury and by the adoption of the NDP, whose chapters on the labour market and macroeconomic policy not only contradict but undermine the manifesto objective of building a capable developmental state.

We have therefore resolved that to achieve a developmental state or any notion of radical socioeconomic transformation, we need to extricate the South African state from the shackles of private interests, the established white business, the emerging black business and the parasitic bourgeoisie. The influence of white business can even be seen in policy development not only at the Treasury but across government.

This means that we need to push back against a right-wing ideological model of the public sector that seeks to change the public service and parastatals to operate along the lines of the private sector. We shall therefore intensify our fight against the introduction of private-sector practices such as public-private-partnerships, outsourcing, agencification, privatisation, etc.

The CEC has concluded that there will be no developmental state while government still insists on the user-payer principle (e.g. such as the e-tolls) as opposed to cross-subsidisation of the poor by the rich. We continue to reject the commodification of public services, where citizens are treated as “customers” or “clients” in the practice of the delivery of public services.

To achieve this goal of a developmental state; the institution that is National Treasury needs to be rehabilitated from its addiction to neoliberal economic policies. For years ,we have witnessed a situation where every time the economy takes a downturn our government goes back to the old logic of neo- liberal economic responses

COSATU remains unyielding in its assertion that the task of fundamental transformation of our economy, the creation of decent work and the provision of basic services to the majority of our people cannot be left to the market forces. Guided by the ANC policies and the May 2008 Alliance Summit that called for a moratorium on privatisation and outsourcing and the review of current outsourced public sector utilities, we shall continue to oppose privatisation of SOE’s.

Instead of attempting to privatise SOEs ,we believe that we need more of them in strategic sectors of the economy like in the mining sector ( the state mining company ) , construction ( the state construction company ) , pharmaceutical sector ( the state pharmaceutical company ) , the financial sector ( the state bank and the nationalisation of the Reserve Bank) ,etc.

We shall continue to engage with the Minister of Finance on some of his proposals because we do not believe that they will help us to build a developmental state. There is nothing new in what the minister has proposed and he also acknowledged that this is about building confidence and trying to kickstart the economy. We think that the issue of the recapitalisation of SOE’s cannot be delinked from the improvement of management and governance systems in these entities. We do not want to see workers retirement savings being used to prop up corrupt parastatals and also to make BEE deals that benefit the elite minority.

If government is planning to use workers money to bailout SOE’s, these entities should be led by capable and untainted leaders. Jobs should be prioritised and the SOE’s themselves need to start helping to deliver on the government’s developmental agenda. We remain constructive partners in the quest to find answers to the bigger economic questions ;but we also warn government that we also remain a formidable opponent ready to fight against any rightwing developmental model or policy proposals. We also want the minister to clarify on what does government mean by core and non-core assets with regard to partial privatisation.

Reserve Bank

COSATU continues to call for the review of the mandate of the reserve bank. The federation favours an approach that incorporates both the developmental imperatives and the protection of the currency. This issue is not a matter of a dichotomous trade-off between protecting the value of the currency and development (job creation, etc,). These according to us are mutually reinforcing rather than contradictory.

We appreciate that unfortunately in the current reality that is dominated by finance capital, higher inflation rate suggests structural imbalance and becomes an impediment for investors, including our own companies as they become hesitant to invest. So we agree that price stability is important even from a point of view of radical socioeconomic transformation – as long as we currently depend on capitalists for job-creation and growth. The federation argues that the reserve bank is only notionally independent currently, as it generally subscribes to the dominant and conventional but failing policies received from finance capital – even at the expense of real producers of wealth in mining and manufacturing sectors. COSATU wants the Reserve Bank to account to the public through their representatives in Parliament on the implementation of this broad mandate that we are calling for.

National Minimum Wage

We are concerned about the continued arrogance of big business regarding the implementation of the national minimum wage. There is deliberate attempt to delay the implementation of the National Minimum Wage by big business. Business must know that we will fight to the bitter end for the implementation of the NMW on the 1st May 2018

National Health Insurance

The CEC condemned the National Department of Health’s decision to push ahead with the establishment of various committees to participate in the implementation of NHI. These committees are designed to undermine the Cabinet approved National Health Insurance Policy (NHI). We view the establishment of these committees as nothing but the corporate capture of one of the most significant social policy reforms since1994.

The terms of reference of most of these committees published in government gazette last week, are the opposite of the features and principles of NHI Policy as set out in the Green and White Papers.

It is now obvious that Minister Motsoaledi has handed over the NHI to institutions such as the Clinton Foundation. This new betrayal by the Ministry confirms our fears that Government has no interest in non-racial and non-biased Universal Health coverage.

COSATU calls on government to stop the process of appointing these committees immediately and implement NHI programme, according to steps clearly outlined in the NHI White Paper. COSATU will be convening an urgent meeting with the Minister so that he can account on this matter.

Renewable energy

COSATU recognises that there is a worldwide impetus to move away from fossil fuels to cleaner energy. Cleaner environmentally friendly forms of industrialisation are increasingly being preferred as governments seek to tax high emitting sectors. There is a need to move towards “low carbon and climate resilient economies” and the labour movement needs to be at the forefront of ensuring that a just transition that will create new employment opportunities and re-skill workers takes place.

The CEC has resolved that each union needs to carry out sector specific research to identify how the sector will be affected by the transition to an alternative energy source and develop a response that will ensure the sustainability of jobs in the future.

COSATU will also commission a study on the Koeberg power plant in order to answer critical questions surrounding the debate on nuclear, which include; the feasibility of nuclear, the lifespan of the plant, the possible job creation as well as health and safety.

Whilst we welcome renewable energy, we remain opposed to any attempts to use clean energy introduction to get rid of workers. A just transition means that the government must have a jobs plan before they can move from coal to other forms of energy. In this regard we remain opposed to the current introduction of independent power producers as they are likely to result in an increase in electricity tariffs particularly in the short term. They are also likely to result in the privatisation of Eskom and closure of coal mines and retrenchment in industries that use fossil fuels.

Eskom should not be used to prop up the renewable energy sector. In the short term it would be expensive to buy clean energy and this may result in high electricity tariffs and back door privatisation of Eskom. We condemn the DA’s Patricia de Lille court case in which she wants to force government to allow her to buy renewable energy from independent producers.

We reject any call for the break-up of Eskom into a generation and distribution company. We call on Eskom to take over the introduction of renewable energy and to stop buying renewable energy from the private companies.

Job Summit

The CEC has resolved to continue with our push and consultation with social partners for the convening of a Jobs Summit. Companies continue to submit section 189 retrenchment notices showing their intention to retrench more workers. Pick n Pay is planning to cut 10% of its workforce with AngloGold Ashanti and Bokoni Platinum Mine in Limpopo also planning to retrench 8 500 and 2651 workers respectively. Accelor – Mittal SA is planning to retrench more than 50 workers despite receiving government protection against Chinese steel imports. General motors’ (GM) has left South Africa with 1500 jobs. All these figures do not include companies in the supply chain which were also negatively affected. As a result of disinvestment by the GM, a company that has been supplying GM, called Coega Autospray which is employing 79 people is facing liquidation.

We already have a framework for South Africa’s Global Economic Crisis adopted on the 19th of February 2009 that we can build on and work on its principles to formulate our collective response to this economic crisis. We understand that there can be no shortcuts to dealing with the economic challenges facing this country, especially on the issue of job creation but we think a collective approach is essential.

We need to appreciate that the unholy alliance between government and big business at the exclusion of the workers and the poor majority has brought nothing but suffering for the workers and those at the bottom end of the economic pyramid. We cannot therefore afford postpone the process of finding a uniquely South African developmental model that will help us solve our country’s socio- economic problems.

Section 77 on State Capture, Corruption and Job losses -National Day of Action

The CEC resolved to go on a nationwide strike on the 27th of September 2017 to fight corruption, state capture, and job losses. The twin evils of corruption and state capture have cost workers their jobs and communities of much needed services. We shall be starting with our mobilisation campaign ASAP across all the sections of society. We have already received a strike permit following our Section 77 Notice on State Capture and Corruption that was submitted to NEDLAC on the 17th of July 2017. This will be a legally protected strike that will affect all sectors of the economy.


These are some of the Socio-economic campaigns that have been adopted by the CEC.

  • Job Losses
  • Heightening the campaign against Labour Brokers
  • Public Transport and the scraping of e –tolls
  • Implementation of the National Health Insurance System Now
  • Comprehensive Social Security & Retirement Reform
  • Focusing on Unclaimed Benefits
  • Land – developing a position paper on agriculture and land holding
  • Fighting against the use of Independent Power Producers
  • Taking forward COSATU campaign on Climate Change
  • Calling for the scrapping of Provinces
  • Non Trading Public Holidays
  • Fight against the spread of HIV and Aids
  • Elevating occupational Health and Safety issues in the work place
  • Fighting racism in the workplace

The Mining Charter

COSATU supports the objective of the mining charter as far as it supports the empowerment of workers. The Mining Charter as published in June 2017 among others seeks to enhance the participation of black people in the sector by increasing their ownership levels to 30% and increasing worker and community’s stakes in the mines.

A mining charter that prioritises community and worker development and the sharing of mining profits would send a positive signal to the whole economy that transformation cannot be delayed anymore.

Corruption and State of the capture

The meeting resolved that the federation should continue to fight corruption at all levels of our society. We shall fearlessly fight both public sector and private sector corruption in equal measure. We reiterate our call for a Judicial Commission of Enquiry to look into the alleged corporate capture of the state by private interests. We still insist that the investigation into the State Capture should extend beyond the limited scope that was given to the Public Protector. We need an investigation on the extent that government institutions have been captured, seeing that many organs and functions of the South African state are outsourced to capital, including policy-making and research.

COSATU wants an investigation that will go back all the way to pre 1994 era, government of national unity to the present. We are also not happy with the illicit outflows of cash in this country because of the Reserve Bank and Treasury’s indifference. We also do not believe that state capture issue can be resolved without tackling the company collusions and price fixing as exposed by the Competition Commission.

The recent revelations that the National Treasury wasted R1 billion on an integrated financial management system which after more than a decade it has yet to implement points to sorry state of our affairs.

COSATU calls for a thoroughgoing investigation of this matter and the people implicated need to be held accountable for this wastage of taxpayer’s money. We salute the internal auditors of the National Treasury for doing their work diligently.

On politics

The meeting expressed concern that the Alliance is struggling to meet since the unilateral cancelation of the Alliance Political Council meeting by the ANC. We reiterate our call for the convening of the Alliance Political Council meeting to discuss the future of the Alliance and its relevance in achieving the goals and aspirations of the working class. We reaffirm our commitment to building a strong, reconfigured and functional Alliance.


The CEC congratulated the SACP for convening a successful National Congress. It also called on both COSATU and the SACP to try and put more effort in implementing the decisions taken in our bilateral meetings, in order to intensify our class battles. We have also noted the SACP congress decision regarding state power. We shall convene a bilateral meeting with the SACP on this position and other related matters that took place during the congress. Members of COSATU have been encouraged to continue to discuss this issue of the SACP contesting elections and a decision will be taken by the 13th National Congress to be convened next year.

ANC 54th Conference

The CEC assessed the current political developments and the implementation of the federation’s decision to lobby and influence the ANC structures to support Deputy President Cde Cyril Ramaphosa to be the next leader of the ANC. We are happy with the progress so far ,and we strongly believe that the majority members of the ANC will elect the current Deputy President Cde Cyril Ramaphosa as the next president. We have been encouraged by the principled posture of many members of the ANC, who are refusing to be intimidated and silenced from supporting Cde Ramaphosa.

The CEC made it very clear that the federation does not have a plan B or C on this matter. We are supporting Cde Cyril Ramaphosa with the intention to ensure that he is elected as President of the ANC in December and of South Africa in 2019. We reject any talk of a plan B because we support this campaign with the intention to see him win and not lose.

We shall continue to further reflect and engage with various ANC structures on the calibre of the leadership collective that will work with him to take the movement into the future. This leadership collective should act as the centre and also be guided by the resolutions of the ANC. We shall also continue to be guided by the following criteria in our consideration of the leaders to support:

  • Commitment to the radical NDR and thorough-going transformation
  • Proven commitment to the Alliance
  • Commitment to the fight against corruption
  • Commitment to the unity of the ANC and the democratic movement
  • Commitment to make this decade truly a decade of workers and the poor
  • Commitment to defending and preserving the anti imperialist and internationalist character of the ANC
  • Rooted in or with a background in working class movement


  • We offer our solidarity to the leadership of the Bolivarian revolution led by the President Nicolas Maduro, who is under attack from the imperialist forces and their internal rightwing agents.
  • We reaffirm our support to the Palestinian people and demand an end to the Israeli aggression against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
  • We demand the removal of all settlements from the Palestinian lands which Israel seized after 1967
  • We re-affirm our support for the Saharawi people and all people suffering occupation and colonial aggression as Western Sahara. We reiterate our condemnation of the re-admission of Morocco in the AU and we view it as a slap in the face to the people of Saharawi, but also a huge slur and a breach of the AU’s constitutive act mainly the principle on state sovereignty.
  • We also reaffirm our unwavering support for the struggle of the people of Swaziland. The CEC has resolved to take up a consolidated and active programme of action, which includes the two elements; trade union and political situation as a context of the overall struggle. We shall be strengthening our relationship with the progressive trade union federation, TUCOSWA and its affiliates through a joint programme focusing on areas such as organising and campaigns, research and education, as well as international solidarity.

End Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794