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Publications | Shopsteward
Volume 7 No 1 - February 1998
Consolidating peoples`s power
COSATU gets into gear for Autumn Offensive and jobs campaign
New challenges and opportunities
The sixth national congress is well behind us. The direction of COSATU has been spelled out in many of the resolutions adopted at the congress. The political landscape and the balance of forces are not static and continue to change. The ANC held its conference in December 1997. The SACP will hold its conference in July this year. The national general elections are fast approaching. The national parliament has been opened and the budget speech is around the corner.
All these events present COSATU and the working class with new challenges - and opportunities. It is the responsibility of all our cadres to analyse these historic events and assess to what extent they take us closer to achieving our strategic objectives of fundamentally transforming society and changing power relations to the benefit of the working class. The ANC Mafikeng Conference has, in the true tradition of the liberation movement, called for a return to the culture of debate, political education and open debate on macro-economic strategies. The print media has been carrying a lie that Gear was endorsed by the conference. This is simply not true! Our task is to occupy the space opened and direct the debates in a way that will shift the balance of forces in favour of the working class.
The next few months will once again throw up challenges to COSATU and its cadres to be part of the process of deepening the gains made in our National Democratic Revolution. This edition of The Shopsteward carries an article on the mass recruitment campaign. This campaign forms part of the core activities which COSATU has been directed to carry out by its sixth national congress.
The aim of the campaign is to improve penetration of our affiliates` membership in the various sectors to over 50% representation. The theme of the campaign is "The union a spear, COSATU a shield. Join a COSATU union Now!" We call on you to ensure that this campaign is a success.
The unemployment crisis is deepening. The rate at which workers are losing their jobs in all industries has reached critical proportions. In the mining industry alone, more than 51 000 workers were flushed out of their jobs in 1997. In the first 26 days of this year, more than 13 000 workers lost their jobs. This means that, every day, an average of 500 workers in the mining industry lose their jobs. More than 116Ê000 jobs were lost in South Africa in 1997. There is no end in sight. The captains of industry have warned that there will be more job losses in 1998. Gear has wholly failed to deliver jobs for the unemployed. The President has now put retrenchment in the public service firmly on the agenda. Gear says 300 000 jobs in the public service should be cut by year 2000.
The rising level of unemployment is undoubtedly a national crisis. The capitalist class has now declared war on the working class. Our February Exco decided to launch a campaign to save jobs and for the creation of new jobs at a living wage. The general secretaries of affiliates were asked to develop comprehensive plans to stop this tide of job cuts. In the next edition we hope to announce details of the campaign. In the meantime, we call on all our members to pledge solidarity with the National Union of Mineworkers and all other unions fighting this scourge of job losses. Later this year, a Presidential Jobs Summit will be held in an attempt to find a solution to the crisis. Our preparations for this important event are underway. We are however worried that some elements within the capitalist class will use this event to score political points and to call for more belt-tightening by the working class.
The Ministry of Finance will be tabling the national budget in March 1998. COSATU has in the past few years called for a "people`s budget". The key elements of a People`s budget are: significant redistribution of income, employment creation, reducing the tax burden on the working class into the industries and creating an environment where job creation becomes the key focus of the country. Our expectation of the budget is that the government should increase its spending on social services, in particular social welfare, housing delivery, health, education etc. The focus of the country can not be the chasing of arbitrary deficit targets at the expense of addressing the backlogs in social services and other ills of apartheid misrule.
For three years now, COSATU has made detailed submissions to the standing committee on public finance, calling on them to initiate legislation to empower parliament to oversee government spending and priorities in line with the constitution. To date no such law has been passed. The Minister of Finance instead presented in parliament a lame duck law. This unconstitutional Bill gave no powers to parliament and was later withdrawn. Last year we said we are tired of making the same points to the standing committee on public finance year after year. This year, unless assured otherwise, we have no intention of making yet another submission just for the sake of being counted amongst those that have spoken, when our recommendations are ignored.
- Zwelinzima Vavi, COSATU Deputy General Secretary
This seeks to provoke debate in the broader community around education issues. There has been minimal engagement by communities in this debate and a lot of mourning by the class of `76, who emerged from the days of the June 1976 uprisings.
The matric results have once again triggered hysterical reactions from people who claim to be concerned with education. A call was made for an urgent education summit. Others called for the Minister of Education to be dismissed. Some blame students, others blame teachers.
All of us are to blame! The teachers, students, parents, educationalists, government, NGOs, the church - all of us - must take responsibility for the results.
The government responded to the results by convening crisis meetings of the minister and MECs for education. One student organisation called for a week of action. Others called for the suppression of teacher organisations because they are "political and disruptive". Now, a process of consultation with all education stakeholders has been initiated to identify what went wrong.
Almost everyone, including big business, says they are "concerned" about the situation. But most of us seem to have cheap concerns. We are only interested in the results, and that`s where it ends. The press is only interested in the results, friction between student organisations or when teachers are marching.
The government`s introduction of Curriculum 2005 is a radical shift from the previous education curriculum. This is a major step forward. Yet there has been little talk about it, despite government initiatives to publicise it.
Parents seldom attend parents` meetings, particularly in township schools. This should be declared a crime.
Much has been said about the culture of learning and teaching - including not doing school work, arriving late at school, leaving at any time and forging school documents to get into the next grade.
My experiences during my school days were:
These serious problems still exist today. This has eaten into the culture of respect: respect for oneself and for others, and for our work as teachers.
Other issues of concern in education include:
Towards a solution
Parents and some educational commentators have failed to identify all our problems in education. The transition period is very demanding. It is important to look at solutions and prepare to make Curriculum 2005 a success. Some steps which could help ensure progress are:
- Musa Manganyi, councillor, Northern MSS, Greater Johannesburg
I should like to inform you that the Governing Body of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), at its 270th session (November 1997), paid tribute to the memory of Dorothy Mokgalo, former national organising secretary of COSATU.
The Governing Body expressed shock at her tragic and untimely death. Highlighting the key features of her career, the Governing Body recalled the immeasurable contribution she had made to the improvement of the situation of workers in South Africa. Not only had she defended their cause within the trade union movement, particularly as national gender coordinator and later as national organising secretary of COSATU; she had also advocated labour`s interests in policy-making level in key national institutions.
Through her compassion, hard work, sharp mind and exuberant energy, she had been a living expression of the fundamental principles, values and culture of independent, democratic trade unionism. Of particular merit was her commitment to eradicating discrimination, reflected in her ardent struggle against apartheid in the past and against gender discrimination within the trade union movement and society as a whole.
In the ILO Ms Mokgalo had been the first woman delegate from Africa to occupy the workers` benches and had thus become a source of inspiration to millions of workers in Africa, particularly women workers. She would be remembered as an inspiring and unfailing trade unionist who had dedicated her life to the implementation of the ILO`s basic mandate - the promotion of social justice.
Ms Mokgalo`s passing was a loss not only to her family, but also to urban and rural women, to the workers of South Africa and indeed to the entire trade union movement throughout the world.
The Governing Body unanimously requested me to convey its sympathy to COSATU. May I therefore ask you to accept, and kindly to transmit, this expression of sympathy to the members of your organisation.
- Michel Hansenne, ILO Director General, Geneva
COSATU has a proud history of fighting for the rights of oppressed black workers and of protecting the gains that have been won. But this history was recently undermined by the actions of SASBO, a COSATU affiliate.
On 24 November 1997, SASBO deputy general secretary Graeme Rowan and SASBO Pretoria regional secretary Ben Venter participated in industrial action at the Land Bank`s head office in Pretoria (see SASBO News Vol 22, no 11). SACCAWU publicly distanced itself from the action. The report in SASBO News attributes the lunch-time action to:
What the report conveniently fails to mention is that the social and political changes in the country have completely passed the Land Bank by. For example, before the appointment of the current Managing Director, the Land Bank had no women in senior management and prior to August 1997 there were no black people in management.
Until this time, 100% of management were white Afrikaner males. Appointments and promotions were not on the basis of merit but based on a system of racial and gender discrimination. There was no grading system; no affirmative action policy and disciplinary procedures were contrary to labour law.
Indeed, the whole institution was based on Afrikaner nepotism and subservience.
Now that the new managing director has started a transformation process to modernise the parastatal and abolish all traces of racial and gender discrimination, those who benefitted under the old system are obviously concerned and feel threatened.
These reactionary workers are now using SASBO to undermine a process that will introduce the following into the Land Bank:
I need to ask: how can COSATU allow one of it affiliates to embark on industrial action to protect white Afrikaner male dominance and be against the promotion of affirmative action? It is a disgrace.
- Progressive Land Bank employee
We have sent a copy of this letter to SASBO and COSATU and will publish a response in the next edition - Ed
It is of paramount importance to warn comrades about the formation of workplace forums in the municipal sector.
We would advise comrades to liaise with their principals to get sufficient information before they fall into the trap of the management. Workplace forums (WPFs) are not favoured by employers because of joint decision-making and disclosure of relevant information pertaining to budgets and other important issues contained in the new LRA.
We would advise comrades to retain their existing forums where they negotiate or discuss labour issues rather than jumping to form WPFs without proper knowledge or information.
Employers will try to convince comrades about the importance of having WPFs. But there are many technical logistics behind forming WPFs which will cause them to be controlled by the management rather than the employees and the unions.
The other danger zone of WPFs is the issue of rival unions within the same municipal structure. Comrades should not forget that we are in a new era but with the same management of the past.
The same unions which were operating then are still operating and they are the sweethearts of the management. There are also unions whose members are in managerial positions and who aim to see WPFs and affirmative action programmes fall down.
In most cases you find our comrade councillors being blindfolded by these people. They submit reports with financial implications so as to avoid continuing certain programmes. This is one of the weak points which have been realised by these people. At the end of the day, you will have steering committees and unnecessary task teams being formed before the workplace forum is formed, which is not contained in the new LRA.
The other important issues are the way in which full-time shop stewards will be elected and how they operate; the involvement of union members in joint decision-making and whom should you meet. Here you will hear them saying that they regard themselves as part of the employer because of the duties they perform, forgetting that they are also the members of the union.
Comrades should not forget that management has many strategies to bash SAMWU. One of these, if comrades are not serious, is to form workplace forums without proper information and knowledge. But comrades should not take it as if WPFs are not good. They are good enough to dismantle the spirit of dictatorship and unilateral decision-making by employers. But it needs a very careful and programmatic approach.
- Christopher M Nkosi, SAMWU Germiston
I want to express my views about the way things are handled in our organisation, the ANC, at national level. I want to point to the issue of the Gauteng premier. Cde Mathole Motshega and Cde Amos Masondo contested the premiership. Six regions supported Cde Motshega and one region supported Cde Masondo.
When the National Working Committee realised that Cde Masondo would lose the election, they changed the election date. Cde Masondo was withdrawn from the race for premiership. Then there was only one candidate for the position. Then the story changed that the person must first contest the chairmanship, which Cde Motshega won with the highest number of votes. Other comrades were brought in to contest the position, including Jessie Duarte, Peter Mokaba, Rev Frank Chikane, Paul Mashatile and others, which didn`t help the issue.
The people have shown that they want Cde Motshega to be their premier of Gauteng, so I make a strong appeal to the national leadership that the ANC belongs to the people and they must allow people on the ground to decide on the people of their choice. I hope the national leadership elected at the ANC national conference will be open minded and hear what the people want on the ground for any position in the organisation.
I am a NUMSA member and shop steward in the Klerksdorp local and the COSATU local deputy chairperson. I am a loyal member of the ANC in Klerksdorp, so I am registering my concern about things that happen in the organisation such as the withdrawal of Cde Matthew Phosa and Winnie Madikizela Mandela from the race for deputy president.
Comrades, let us work together to make the ANC win by a two-thirds majority in the 1999 elections. I will make sure that I campaign for the organisation like I have done in 1994. We have to take a release from our workplaces and work for the organisation.
Amandla! Viva ANC Viva! Viva SACP Viva! Viva COSATU Viva! Long live the spirit of our fallen heroes, Long live!
- Daniel Montoedi, NUMSA and COSATU Klerksdorp
COSATU leaders say massive job losses throughout the economy amount to a national crisis and have announced plans to launch a campaign for jobs.
The announcement comes in the wake of a job slashing frenzy in the mining industry and threats of further job losses in education and the public service.
The campaign, which will focus on job security and job creation, was decided on at COSATU's February executive meeting. It will oppose unilateral restructuring in both the private and public sector.
Taking into account the job losses across industries, we intend to launch a campaign to save the jobs of those who are employed and at the same time call for quality jobs at a living wage for the unemployed," COSATU said.
The Exco mandated a meeting of union general secretaries on 24 February to develop a detailed programme for the campaign.
According to Central Statistical Services figures, over 116000 formal sector jobs were lost between September 1996 and September 1997.
The NUM reported that about 32 270 workers in the mining industry were retrenched last year alone. In the first 26 days of January, another 13 757 jobs - an average of 529 a day - were destroyed.
COSATU said retrenchments have hit most industries, including auto, food and clothing and textiles.
"We cannot allow a situation where the captains of industry are talking about employment creation while in the same breath they are retrenching tens of thousands through unilateral restructuring" said COSATU general secretary Mbhazima Shilowa.
"We condemn moves by many companies to resort to compulsory retrenchments as soon as they hit a crisis, whereas there are alternatives and more humane strategies for restructuring industries that can be looked at."
The job cuts will have a devastating social impact. The vast majority of those retrenched come from poor communities where unemployment is high. Research shows that each black worker supports up to 24 people. Widespread retrenchments threaten to leave tens of thousands with no means of survival.
"This has a major impact on communities, the unemployed, young job seekers, the economy and worst of all, it aggravates the levels of crime," COSATU said.
The NUM and COSATU accuse mine bosses of using the gold price crisis to implement unilateral restructuring aimed at shedding jobs and undermining union organisation.
"We believe that the crisis within the mining industry is an orchestrated one", COSATU said. "The agenda of the mining houses is designed to bash unions, weaken them by retrenching workers and re-employ them as contract workers in order to advance the business policy of labour market deregulation."
COSATU points out that forward selling means that, even when the gold price drops, the mining houses are still making profits.
"The crisis as far as COSATU is concerned has been exaggerated. It is politically motivated to discredit, sabotage and undermine the ANC government and the Alliance."
The federation gave its full backing to NUM calls for a moratorium on retrenchments in the run-up to a Gold Summit on 26 and 27 February. COSATU will send a high-powered delegation to the Summit, led by COSATU president John Gomomo.
COSATU also backed the NUM's application in NEDLAC for protest action in terms of the Labour Relations Act.
COSATU and the NUM have called on government to play a more active role in the mining industry since mine bosses were driven solely by the need to maximise profits and showed little concern for the disastrous social impact of large-scale job losses.
COSATU's Exco backed NUM calls for:
COSATU welcomed Minerals Green Paper proposals that mining companies involved in down-scaling and mine closures should notify the government of retrenchments which exceed 20% of the workforce in any 12-month period.
While COSATU plans to immediately take up job cuts with private sector representatives, the federation is concerned that the Presidential Jobs Summit later this year should not be delayed.
COSATU is in the process of developing its own positions and will hold a Special Executive Committee meeting on 10 March to discuss the matter. J
SADTU leaders have warned that the retrenchment of teachers will have a devastating effect on public education.
The warning comes amid growing signs that all teachers - and not just temporary teachers - face retrenchment. An estimated 100 000 jobs could be shed in the education sector alone, as part of government's Gear-inspired plans to slim down the public sector.
Since late last year, SADTU has been up in arms over the threatened retrenchment of temporary teachers. This followed a government announcement that provincial education departments were not obliged to employ teachers they could not afford. Since all provinces had overspent their budgets, this meant that over 70 000 temporary teachers' jobs were on the line.
This had the potential to throw education transformation into chaos. In many schools, particularly in informal settlements, almost the entire teaching staff are temporary educators. The department's action would have resulted in these schools reopening with only principals and deputy principals to provide tuition.
SADTU moved swiftly to defend teachers' jobs and education transformation. After meetings deadlocked at the national level, the union held meetings with provincial premiers. The union impressed upon them the urgency of finding more funds for education. SADTU said this was particularly crucial in the light of the need to begin to implement the new outcomes based education system in 1998.
Seven provinces agreed to extend temporary teachers' contracts to allow for further negotiations with unions. However, in the Western Cape, the National Party's Hernus Kriel refused to meet SADTU and instead went ahead with the retrenchment of about 3000 temporary teachers.
Tip of the iceberg
While SADTU managed to play for time, the union believes that temporary teacher retrenchments are just the tip of the iceberg. And it now appears that permanent teachers also face job cuts.
What confirmed this was a set of new government proposals on rationalisation released on 16 January 1998. These called for "post provisioning norms" to be set at provincial level and for these norms to comply with budgetary constraints. The new proposals also dropped the principle of teacher redeployment.
"It appears that the state is now prepared to abolish posts rather than transfer them to areas of need," said SADTU general secretary Thulas Nxesi. "This amounts to downsizing in education rather than right-sizing. Rationalisation is therefore no longer on the state agenda - we are now talking education cutbacks.
"What the state must realise now is that this will have a devastating effect on public education."
The new proposals further entrench the provincialisation of education - provincial budgets will now determine the number of educators employed.
Says Nxesi: "This will mean that where provinces have education as a priority, education needs will be attended to. But where provinces do not see education as important, shortcomings will be experienced. These include a lack of adequate resources, higher educator: learner ratios which will translate into overcrowded classrooms and insufficient money to build new schools. It will also lead to great unevenness in the quality of education from province to province."
Nxesi added that the proposals ignored the principles of equity and redress between provinces and within provinces.
Greater provincial powers also threaten centralised bargaining. Now that provincial bargaining chambers can set teacher-pupil ratios, their powers have been significantly enhanced to the detriment of bargaining in the national chamber. SADTU believes this will fragment education transformation.
SADTU is now seeking a mandate from its members on how to respond to the crisis. Teachers forums in February will discuss the threatened retrenchments and budget cuts in the education.
The union points out that since the government is now talking retrenchments, it is legally obliged to disclose information in terms of section 189 of the Labour Relations Act.
SADTU says this information is vital for meaningful negotiations to take place and will pose a number of tough questions to government:
The union says it will pursue debates on these issues in the bargaining chambers and at a political level. SADTU believes that government cannot be allowed to renege on its responsibilities. It says the country needs strong national leadership in education and feels that devolving powers to the provinces will compromise development, equity and redress in education.
The union says government must realise that budget cuts will have disastrous effects on its ability to deliver quality public education.
- Kate Skinner, SADTU media officer
COSATU prepares for the Autumn Offensive
COSATU structures nationwide are moving into top gear in preparation for the federation's nationwide mass recruitment campaign in April.
COSATU deputy general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi says the campaign will be the biggest since the massive 1987 living wage campaign.
The recruitment drive, dubbed COSATU's "Autumn Offensive", will target industrial areas and workplaces throughout the country.
The campaign slogan is "The union a spear, COSATU a shield. Join a COSATU union now!" and hopes to make the federation a home for all workers.
The idea for the organising offensive was raised in COSATU's September Commission report on organising new sectors and layers of workers.
COSATU's national congress took the proposal forward with a resolution to launch a massive recruitment drive to reach at least 50% unionisation by COSATU affiliates in all sectors.
In November last year, the COSATU CEC set aside the entire month of April for the campaign. The Recruitment Month will culminate in May Day celebrations.
Vavi said the campaign was a crucial one for COSATU and the country in general. He said building organisation is the bottom line in enabling the federation to achieve its broader transformation objectives.
"The campaign brings to the fore the role of COSATU as a coordinating structure. We can't just be a lame duck federation. We need to pressurise affiliates all the time to ensure the implementation of the federation's programmes," says Vavi.
"WE are all part of a broader family as COSATU and our survival is interdependent. Shop stewards will be used across the board in recruiting, not just for their own unions.
"For example, if NUMSA is strong in an area, it doesn't mean NUMSA shop stewards must just sit on their hands. They must go out to recruit in other sectors. Or if construction is strong in Durban, they must go out to Pinetown and organise clothing workers.
The same applies to affiliate leadership, Vavi said. Some unions won't benefit directly, since they already have a high level of unionisation in their sectors. "But shop stewards and organisers in these unions will be asked to go out and recruit in other sectors."
"Though we have seen phenomenal membership growth in COSATU over the past few years, we are still under-represented if we compare the percentage of COSATU members to the total numbers of employed workers."
A NALEDI survey showed that most COSATU unions have not yet organised 50% of workers in their sectors. The campaign plans to correct this by mobilising resources across the federation to strengthen COSATU affiliates. Particular attention will be given to agriculture, catering and retail, transport, paper and pulp, and construction.
The campaign will seek to make effective use of the LRA's provisions on closed and agency shops, and workplaces where COSATU affiliates can reach the required threshold will be a priority.
"Where we have sufficient numbers and have reached the threshold required for this, it will give us the right to trigger agency and closed shops. This will be part of the recruitment offensive," says Vavi,
Despite exponential membership growth in COSATU's public service unions, the recruitment drive will also target the public service.
Another strategic focus of the campaign will be on white and white collar workers and vulnerable workers such as farm and informal sector workers.
Vavi points out that COSATU regards all workers who are not members of COSATU affiliates as unorganised. "And it is the duty of COSATU cadres to organise the unorganised," he adds.
Investing in the future
The campaign will operationalise COSATU resolutions on sharing resources within the federation and ensure that the more powerful affiliates help weaker affiliates.
Vavi said the main task of affiliate head offices is to ensure that their branches, regional and other structures cooperate fully with the campaign and release the necessary resources.
"WE shouldn't just see this as a cost, but as an investment in our future. This campaign will guarantee the survival of the trade union movement and enable us to build the democratic order we are all striving for."
COSATU's congress resolution on strengthening organisation laid the basis for this sharing of resources, and identified the need to cultivate a new sense of belonging in the organisation. The resolution said that:
The success of the campaign relies on the full involvement of every part of COSATU's organisational machinery.
Vavi said every COSATU structure, from affiliate workplace structures to local, provincial and national structures will be a part of the organising machinery. Every COSATU member, shop steward, organiser, administrator, official and office bearer has a role to play.
National leadership from COSATU and affiliates will be deployed in the field throughout the month of April.
Vavi says the recruitment campaign will be an annual event and COSATU is determined to make this year's drive a success in order to set the pace for the years to come.
"The state of preparedness in each region will be assessed and there is an unequivocal undertaking from the Exco that where weaknesses are detected, affiliate organisers will be deployed to rectify this."
Planning for the campaign kicked off with a series of meetings in December last year, including one with COSATU regional secretaries and organiser/educators. This meeting developed a three-month programme for implementation of congress resolutions, with a strong focus on the recruitment campaign.
A meeting of affiliate general secretaries on 21 January threw its full weight behind the campaign and agreed to kick start planning and mobilisation.
Affiliates are expected to release people from their other duties to concentrate on the campaign.
"WE want affiliates to establish recruitment committees and full-time coordinators for the duration of the campaign," said Vavi. At a national level, COSATU will have a full-time recruitment campaign coordinator who will work closely with similar structures in provinces and regions.
"WE can't afford the weaknesses of previous campaigns, where people don't have proper information. We need an information system which will ensure the flow of information from regions and branches and feed this into the head offices of affiliates and in turn into COSATU head office," says Vavi.
Most COSATU regions have already convened regional meetings of affiliate organisers to plan for the campaign. Affiliate organisers have been tasked with the process of compiling detailed lists of the unorganised and poorly organised workplaces in their sectors.
"Local shop stewards councils will play a key role in the process as they know the situation in their workplaces and the industrial areas in the areas where they live and work," adds Vavi.
The campaign will also help launch new locals and revive those that have collapsed.
Data collected at local level and from affiliates will be fed into regional planning meetings which will draw up recruitment plans for their region. This will include practicalities to ensure the success of the campaign, including the workplaces to be targetted, the potential membership in these and the human resources required to implement the plan.
Planning will also include:
Comprehensive regional plans will be submitted to REC meetings on 18 February for fine tuning and finalisation.
During March, the chairpersons, organisers, regional secretaries, regional organisers/educators and other officials will tie up any loose ends.
The final plan will be presented to regional shop stewards councils (RSSC) on 28 and 29 March for mobilisation. The aim will be to inform the RISC of the targets, names assigned to particular areas, deployment to recruitment task teams, transport, pamphlets etc.
"Between now and the RSSCs, affiliates will be mobilising the necessary human resources, including asking for time off, especially for senior shop stewards who know COSATU policies."
The campaign will require a massive distribution of membership forms. The planning process will include working out how many and which forms will be required in each industrial area and to ensure that these are distributed effectively in the build-up to the campaign.
"This is the reason for the data collection," says Vavi. "WE don't want to walk blindly. We need to know where we are going, armed with the necessary information."
A key aspect will be a high profile publicity campaign, including a national pamphlet, sectoral and industrial area pamphlets as well as television and radio advertisements.
COSATU is also looking into setting up a toll-free telephone line to assist workers who want more information.
While massive recruitment is the major focus of the campaign, union general secretaries have warned against simply recruiting without consolidating this.
In the preparation phase, unions will have to ensure that they have the necessary internal capacity to deal with the new influx of members.
New shop stewards will have to be elected and trained. And unions will have to ensure that newly recruited workers are quickly integrated into affiliate and COSATU structures.
"WE are mindful of the fact that the campaign may expose poor servicing to existing membership and affiliates need to plan to ensure that no workers' hopes are dashed and that we fail to deliver. At the core of ensuring effective servicing of new members is the shop stewards elected in the process," says Vavi.
Recruitment will take place in line with COSATU's original demarcation, as set out at its founding congress in 1985. Last year's COSATU CEC set June this year as the deadline for its affiliates to hand over members who fall outside their original scope. Regional COSATU officials will identify poaching and a list of affiliates involved.
Vavi said steps will be taken against unions which refuse to do this.
Free State/Northern Cape:
The campaign will focus on increasing union density in small towns throughout the region. Other plans are:
A regional organisers forum has been held, areas of focus have been identified and coordinators elected. Development of a regional plan in progress.
Regional meetings have been held, and organisers are setting up meetings in various locals. The process of data collection from affiliates is underway.
Meetings of affiliate chairpersons, organisers and educators in the region have been held to begin to plan for the campaign. Locals will play a key role and affiliates are identifying shop stewards for release. Another meeting of organisers and regional secretaries will take place prior to the REC on 18 February. Targetted areas will include outlying areas.
Regional meetings have been held and the process of collection of data is underway. Further strategic planning sessions of organisers will be held in February.
Data collection is under way. A meeting of organisers on 6 February took decisions on logistical arrangements.
Affiliate regional secretaries met on 3 February. Affiliates have appointed coordinators for the campaign and forwarded data on resources available. Task teams for targetted areas have been set up.
Local rallies and planning meetings are taking place. The REC will meet on 22 February to plan and discuss progress.
COSATU has responded positively to the main thrust of president Nelson Mandela's speech at the opening of parliament on February 6, but has raised concerns about public service job cuts.
In a statement endorsed by COSATU's February executive committee meeting, the federation welcomed Mandela's strong focus on improving the quality of life of our people, particularly the working poor.
"The President's commitment to concrete programmes which speed up the provision of basic infrastructure and services to the majority is welcome," the statement said, particularly commitments to extend the provision of public health care, electricity, housing, water, telecommunications, education and social welfare, including old age pensions.
"The President has given a clear indication that the government does not intend to leave the provision of these critical areas to the vagaries of the market, but that the state will have to play the pivotal role in this regard.
"Also welcome is the President's statement that government will not allow an obsession with macro-economic percentages, or fractions of percentages, to frustrate policies of delivery."
Mandela also reiterated his view that restructuring of state assets will not be determined by ideologically-driven privatisation, COSATU said. "Indeed the President has indicated the intention to create public corporations in certain strategic areas."
The federation welcomed the president's support for measures to transform the apartheid workplace, particularly the introduction of employment equity legislation.
"We support his view that minority parties are being irresponsible in attempting to whip up fears around affirmative action.
"We support his call to business to put the needs of the country first, to invest in the economy and our people, and to prioritise the issue of job creation. To this end, COSATU is committed to putting forward constructive proposals into the Presidential Jobs Summit, and detailed work is currently being undertaken in this regard."
The federation also backed president Mandela's campaign against corruption, and for moral regeneration, both in the public and private sectors.
On the international front, COSATU welcomed Government's commitment to place issues relating to globalisation and an alternative approach to international trade relations, finances and debt, on the agenda of the Non-Aligned Movement Conference to be held in South Africa this year, as well as in other international forums.
For more on President Mandela's speech in parliament, see the interview with ANC General Secretary Kgalema Motlanthe.
Concern over public service restructuring
COSATU noted president Mandela's commitment to restructure the public sector within the ambit of labour law, and in a way that is sensitive to the situation of unemployment. However, the federation expressed concern that the current approach may have the opposite effect of what is intended.
"COSATU agrees with the view that we have inherited a dysfunctional state that needs to be restructured, to act as an effective agent of transformation.
"We are of the view, however, that restructuring, particularly of public sector staffing levels, needs to be done in a way which enhances service delivery and transformation, rather than retarding it." There should not be a mechanical approach to retrenchments which, for example, may lead to more clinics and schools, with fewer nurses and teachers to staff them.
"The victims of such retrenchments would precisely be such public sector workers engaged in service delivery, and poor communities; and not the apartheid-era bureaucrats who are soaking up public money.
"COSATU would strongly oppose a mechanical approach to retrenchments, together with our public sector unions."
"The question of staffing of the public service needs to be directly related to the question of whether staffing matches the actual delivery needs in any area. Historically the apartheid state over-governed the majority, but chronically under-serviced them. Where there is understaffing in critical areas of delivery, there needs to be an actual expansion of personnel, or upsizing. Where a bloated bureaucracy exists, this clearly needs to be cut back, or downsized."
However, COSATU pointed to a lack of accurate data on the public service's staff profile and said an audit identifying areas of wastage has yet to be done.
"COSATU calls for a National Framework Agreement on Restructuring the Public Service between government and labour based on accurate and reliable data as well as a commitment to a policy of right-sizing, rather than mechanical downsizing.
"We believe that in line with the decision taken at the Alliance Summit last year, a task team under the leadership of the Deputy President should urgently be set up, to look at restructuring the public service as an effective agent of delivery.
"The Alliance Task Team should, amongst other things agree on a process to expedite the proposed National Framework Agreement, based on the principles outlined above."
NEHAWU's plans for the next millennium
NEHAWU's approach to transforming itself is no less radical than its vision for transforming the country.
This is evident in two key NEHAWU documents - the union's Strategic Policy Framework and its Five Year Organisational Plan - which will be debated for adoption at the union's 5th national congress from 24-27 April this year.
The congress theme is "Taking a lead in building a better life for all" and NEHAWU is repositioning itself to do just that, says assistant general secretary Fikile Majola.
The Strategic Policy Framework sets out the union's broad political and socio-economic outlook, while the Organisational Plan, details a radical internal transformation for the union.
Discussion on the two documents topped the agenda at NEHAWU's central executive committee meeting in mid-December last year. The union's top leadership from national, provincial and branch structures attended the CEC.
Majola says the national congress will distinguish between the strategic policy framework, which provides a political and ideological framework, and resolutions, which will deal with implementation and concrete steps that need to taken according to specific conditions at the time.
In the past, NEHAWU's CEC was empowered to take decisions on the union's policy framework. However, the CEC has proposed that, in future, only the national congress will have these powers. In between national congresses, the CEC will be able to vote on specific resolutions within this framework.
The policy framework deals with political theory, including theory of the South African revolution and socialism; and socio-economic strategy including the public sector, the state, transforming the economy and society.
The framework has come a long way. It was first adopted at the union's policy conference in June last year and distributed throughout the union and at COSATU congress. The document is now being redrafted on the basis of discussions in commissions at the December 1997 CEC. It will be widely distributed within the union in preparation for the congress. Summaries will also be used for shop steward training and distribution to NEHAWU members.
The process around the document has been an educative process for workers and officials at all levels of the union, says NEHAWU education secretary David Makhura. There were no sacred cows and issues have been vigorously debated.
One of the CEC discussions was over the classical Marxist approach that capitalist society is divided into two classes - the working class (proletariat) and the ruling class (bourgeoisie). "Whilst this is broadly still the case," says the discussion document, "this two-class theory does not adequately explain the process of class formation and the fact that there is a middle strata that becomes a very important area of ideological contestation between the two main contending class forces."
In line with COSATU's 1997 congress resolutions, the policy framework reaffirms the union's commitment to socialism. It says the SACP slogan, "Socialism is the Future, Build it Now", should be turned into a living reality.
Transformation, according to the document, means building socialism. And a key aspect of this transformation is transforming the state into a national democratic state that has a developmental role in society. Other key aspects include:
As a public sector union, NEHAWU is well-positioned to begin to build socialism now.
"the size of the public sector in South Africa, particularly the high level of capital assets in the public sector means that although our economy is capitalist, there is a base for building socialism in the public sector," says the policy document.
However, it warns that the domination of the world economy by banking and financial interests means that the government is under pressure to reduce the role of the public sector. "These pressures must be resisted. It will be difficult and will involve struggle and sacrifice, but that will be nothing new."
The five-year organisational plan will be critical in repositioning the union. The union says the plan is intended to provide a programmatic framework within which the union will carry out day-to-day activities to achieve its strategic objectives.
According to a draft presented to the NEHAWU CEC, the organisational plan gives overall operational direction and purpose to the daily activities of the leadership, membership and staff of the union.
"It is not a fixed and dogmatic plan that prescribes activities that can only be changed after five years. It is a flexible guide to action.
"It must be reviewed and constantly evaluated so as to test its relevance in a rapidly changing global and national political environment. It cannot and must not be cast in stone."
NEHAWU's organisational renewal has a long history. The first step was taken at the union's "rebirth congress" in March 1992. The 1995 national congress consolidated this initial restructuring.
Massive and rapid membership growth presented NEHAWU with daunting challenges. A new political terrain following the 1994 democratic elections also necessitated a shift. The union's internal capacity and ability to respond to external challenges had to be dramatically beefed up, says Majola.
"the challenge was no longer to simply resist but to come up with concrete proposals to transform the public sector," he said.
NEHAWU's December 1995 CEC adopted a policy document, "Realigning to meet new challenges". This was a turning point in the life of the union, and the resulting realignment process was described as a "surgical overhaul".
Implementation began in earnest in 1996. The union's new sectors were launched: tertiary education, private health, social welfare, public health and state administration.
The union's June 1997 policy conference adopted strategic plans for departments and sectors but identified the need for a five year organisational plan that would take the union into the 21st century.
"This plan will introduce a new style of work, a new management system, strategic planning, efficiency and professionalism," says Majola. "It leaves no room for 'ad-hocism' and 'last minutes'."
Majola says the union's thinking has been heavily influenced by the COSATU September Commission, particularly the chapter on organisation Building COSATU's engines. What type of organisation do we need to implement our vision? was the question the union had to confront.
The goal of the plan is to consolidate the union's realignment process. Its overall thrust is a critical search for improved ways of running the union so as to qualitatively advance the interests of the working class and the poor.
"Through this plan, we hope that the union can effectively and efficiently contribute to building a better life for all, a goal that is only achievable and sustainable if the country moves in a socialist direction," says the document.
"The need to build socialism now remains the tactical and strategic focus of our daily struggles for workplace democratisation and broader social transformation."
When NEHAWU was launched in 1987, the main challenge was to destroy apartheid. "Today the main challenge is to put South Africa on a socialist path," the document says.
"It is this context of a new round of working class struggles in the 21st century that we locate our organisational plan. This plan gives us the confidence to confront global neo-liberal capitalism with its marauding gangs of free market disciples who will stop at nothing in turning the world into a 'dog-eat-dog' and 'survival of the fittest' environment."
The plan's objectives include:
The plan details proposals for the union's constitutional structures, departments, sectors and provinces.
Majola says NEHAWU has already aligned its provincial structures in line with the country's political demarcation.
"Provincial governments are important centres of power in social transformation," he says. "They take decisions on provincial budgets, service delivery and as public sector employers."
NEHAWU is therefore determined to build capacity in its own provincial structures to effectively engage with provincial governments in the development process.
The union's 1998 education programme will focus on its provinces and more of the union's resources will go to the provincial level.
But how does NEHAWU's five-year plan relate to the September 1997 COSATU congress mandate to form one public sector union?
Majola says the union, at leadership and membership level, has an unwavering commitment to the merger process. And NEHAWU sees its plan as unfolding in the context of building one public sector union in COSATU.
However, it would be a mistake to run down NEHAWU's capacity in the build-up to the merger process. The union's plans should be seen as laying the basis for building an even stronger public sector union in the future.
NEHAWU has already held joint meetings with SADTU and POPCRU this year, and agreed that COSATU's public sector coordinating committee should be revived.
Also on the agenda are joint actions by COSATU's public sector unions. This will help build unity on the ground around common problems such as retrenchments.
Investing in the future
NEHAWU's CEC has opted for strong political oversight of the union's investments, which they see as an attempt to make strategic interventions in the economy.
Assistant general secretary Fikile Majola said NEHAWU's investments would strike a balance between financially sound investment and the union's political objectives.
The December 1997 NEHAWU CEC decided that the union should invest in areas where it organises to ensure its influence over the nature and direction of these investments. Criteria for investment should be job creation, benefits for members, to reduce the power and dominance of monopoly capital and to change patterns of ownership in favour of the working class.
Other CEC decisions were that:
The NEHAWU congress will debate a more detailed Investment Policy Strategic Document.
Organising public sector managers and the form this should take is one of the fascinating debates in NEHAWU which reflect the implementation of the union's strategic outlook.
"In the context of social transformation," says a NEHAWU discussion document, "public sector managers are located in positions that give huge potential in bringing about fundamental transformation and effective delivery of services."
Public sector managers are best organised on a political basis, not around collective bargaining rights, as with other public sector workers.
But how should the comrade managers' relationship with the union be structured? Should they participate in NEHAWU's regular union structures along with other NEHAWU members? Or should the union set up separate managers' forums within the union, which are accountable to the union's executive committees at branch or provincial level? These are questions which will be put to NEHAWU's congress delegates.
The union has begun to put forward initial ideas on what it calls a model of a transformative manager, bearing in mind its policy to build socialism now.
"WE must develop a vision of management that is consistent with socialist forms of work organisation and production," says NEHAWU.
Consolidating People's power
The ANC's new secretary general, Kgalema Motlanthe, is well-known to the labour movement, where he has served as NUM general secretary and in the COSATU executive. He spoke to The Shopsteward about challenges of economic transformation and other tasks facing the ANC and the Alliance following the ANC's national conference in December last year
What were the main resolutions emerging from the ANC conference?
To give you some context, 74 resolutions were submitted to conference and, of those, only 26 were actually debated at conference and adopted.
Some of the adopted resolutions were referred to the NEC for cleaning up and to incorporate amendments that came from the floor during the plenary sessions. That process will be completed at the NEC Lekgotla from 20-22 February.
There were six broad areas that served as areas for commissions, ranging from building the ANC to macro-economic issues, issues of governance, social welfare issues. And the commissions were also divided into sub-commissions, so there were about 22 sub-commissions.
One of the weaknesses that has been identified is that the recommendations of the policy conference held prior to conference were not carried into conference commissions and debates in a very systematic way. So there was a bit of dislocation between the two processes.
But conference resolved on the key issues: the state and governance, building the ANC, social transformation, international relations, economic transformation and peace and stability.
One of the important resolutions was on the macro-economic issues, not Gear per se. This was also as a consequence of other processes prior to the conference. The Alliance Summit discussions had helped a great deal in ensuring that, by the time we went to Mafikeng, from the ANC side, it was clear that Gear was not cast in stone. The deficit targets set in Gear were not to be the only consideration. This also emerges from the speech that Cde Madiba gave in parliament this past week.
That is important, because it enabled Cde Madiba to identify the creation of jobs as a key goal and task facing the organisation. Coupled to the issue of job creation was the whole process of transforming the public sector, and the Alliance agreed that it would establish a working party on this under the president of the ANC. We have sent letters to both COSATU and the SACP requesting them to forward names of people who will represent them in the working party. So that working party should convene as a matter of urgency.
At the moment the air is filled with statements about possible retrenchments of teachers, and Minister Bengu insists that there has been no decision to retrench teachers. His explanation is that there are teachers who have been working as temporary teachers, some even for well over 10 years, and that all these people need to have their temporary contracts reviewed. That is the process that his ministry is involved in, either with the aim of confirming them as permanent teachers if their qualifications are correct and or allowing them to improve on their qualifications. But they cannot continue working under these conditions of casual contracts, because it means they are not entitled to all the long-term benefits as they are not regarded as permanent teachers. In some cases, no doubt it will result in job cutbacks, in other cases it will simply result in confirmation.
There is also the question of deploying teachers where they are needed most. And teachers who are not prepared to move from where they are presently deployed, tend to opt for packages and quit the profession, and it is that process which then creates an impression that there is wholesale retrenchment of teachers.
It is linked to the question of job creation and the president's emphasis on the fact that the public sector needs to be restructured and transformed. In provinces that have inherited more than one former homeland, it means that for every public post, they have two persons to fill one post. This is the case in the Eastern Cape, in the Northern Province and to some extent in Mpumalanga. That situation is untenable. It cannot continue forever because it means huge resources get consumed through salaries of people who are basically filling posts but are not performing any duties. The Alliance working party will therefore have to discuss the correct approach to address that situation. So these key elements hang together: the need to address the situation of temporary teachers, the need to transform the public sector and the whole question of job creation.
SADTU has expressed concern over the provincialisation of education. How do we as the Alliance ensure that we impact on government policy and implementation?
There is no doubt that the ANC and the mass democratic movement have got to drive these processes and work out approaches that would be properly managed. It can't be left to bureaucrats at provincial level only. There has got to be a systematic way in which these issues are handled. And that is why the convening of the Alliance working party is so crucial to begin to take control of these matters. That was agreed to by the entire Alliance and it is being activated by the meetings of the Alliance Secretariat. And that is why it is being headed by the president of the ANC, to give it that authority.
COSATU has welcomed much of president Mandela's speech in parliament but has expressed concern over these public service retrenchments. Could you tell us more about this?
In the speech itself, Cde Mandela was at pains to state that the discussions with the trade unions will have to commence first before that stage is reached. He was referring to the situation I have described, where you have bloated bureaucracies. The question is: do you continue to pay people for simply filling up posts without having any functions, or do you discuss with the trade unions and the Alliance an approach of how that could be managed. Because you want on the one hand to have a public sector that is service-oriented and efficient and on the other hand you also do not want to increase the army of the unemployed.
You want to create jobs so that those whose jobs are shared, in the process of transforming the state, should be absorbed in the new jobs that will be created. Hence these things tend to hang together, rather than being seen as separate issues. That is why, from the ANC's point of view, it is important that the speech should be discussed in its entirety, because it is very easy for people to simply focus on the part that deals with the need to downsize the public sector and be blinded to the other elements that call for job-creation and the Job Summit.
A highlight in the speech was when he gave recognition to a number of individuals and organisations that have excelled, through their own initiatives, in improving the quality of life of our people. Incidentally, the national winner of the President's Award for Community Initiative is an NUM project, the Mhala Development Centre, run by retrenched workers.
On the broader macro-economic issues, how did the Mafikeng conference take forward the Alliance Summit agreement?
At that conference, and in the commissions, there were lots of debates even in plenary. Delegates expressed themselves quite candidly. The Alliance Summit discussion documents had been circulated and discussed at branch level and provincial level and this helped to prepare delegates for that conference.
In the commission on economic transformation, there were very healthy and robust discussions. Because of the numerous amendments to the resolution, the plenary agreed that the amendments should be taken on board and that it should be presented to the NEC for final adoption.
What is the main thrust of the resolution on economic transformation?
It covers the main macro-economic issues, including the sensitivities around the deficit targets. There is no way in which the ANC government could disregard social deficits in pursuance of fractions of percentages. Madiba's speech put it that way. So the understanding and the approach is that it is not an ideological position, it is something that is informed as well by what the government has to deal with, the enormity of the accumulated problems.
At the same time, that must go with the necessary discipline, where you don't just spend for the sake of spending. So when students at the University of the Western Cape who have signed agreements that they will pay their fees are now saying, no, we don't want to pay, and they say that government must go and find the money, you don't just give in to those kinds of expenses. Because they have to meet their own obligations as well. So that kind of discipline will be maintained. But you don't then take the view that we must achieve such a target in terms of the financial deficits, regardless of whatever the consequences may be.
So the approach is to set targets for social expenditure and fix the deficit target in line with the need to meet social objectives, whereas with Gear it was the other way round.
Yes, that's it. The Gear thing, the problem with it was that it was said to have been cast in stone. And what these processes, the Alliance Summit, and the ANC conference, emphasised was that no policy is really cast in stone. Legislation gets adopted and amended. And so should it be with this macro-economic policy as well.
Do you feel that this is an important breakthrough for the Alliance?
I think it is an important breakthrough, yes. In fact, at the Lekgotla, this matter is going to be debated even further.
Will we begin to see the effects of that approach within government in terms of setting social expenditure targets and so on?
We have to prioritise. Unfortunately, there are enormous problems, accumulated difficulties, which do not lend themselves very easily to a simple hierarchical prioritisation. Every aspect is important. Education is important, and if you speak to people who are involved in education, in fact some of the students actually say, there is lots of money being wasted on other matters.
And if you come across someone who has witnessed cash in transit heists, they will tell you, crime is the thing. Let's solve crime and everything else will follow suit. And if you come across a job seeker, who has left his or her home somewhere in the rural areas and has come to Johannesburg with the hope of finding employment and has had to establish himself or herself in a shack in one of the informal settlement areas, that person will say to you housing is the thing. Let's put all the money into ensuring that nobody goes without a home. And those people would not even say to you, we actually have homes, we are here as job seekers, what we need is accommodation that would enable us to pay nominal rental and so on. So there are all these issues.
If you go to any labour office, the people there will tell you that job creation is the issue, let's get job opportunities created so that those who join in the labour force coming from the learning institutions should find employment, those who have been retrenched should find jobs. And if you go past any queue at this hour, people will be having to wait for two hours in a taxi queue because the taxi operators are fighting somewhere. They will tell you, if we could get busses, and trains, this is the thing, transport. Health care, it's the same thing.
All these issues are equally important, and of course there is going to be privatisation.
I think from the ANC side, what we need to improve on is communication, communicating the difficulties and the achievements, very clearly, to membership at branch level and within the MDM. That to me is very crucial. Because most of the time people rely on what they get through the mass media only. And the mass media is also driven by other interests, they want to sell newspapers.
Can we talk about organisational issues such as the character of the ANC, the implications of the ANC as part of the Alliance also being in government, how your MECs and MPs and so on relate to the organisation. What did the conference say about these issues?
The resolutions on governance and on building the ANC were an attempt to address those issues. And of course, they need to be addressed on an ongoing basis. Because you need people who are legislators and on the other hand you also need elected public officers who would do constituency work. And what we have at the moment is really both those responsibilities collapsed into one. That is why you find that ministers, who have departments to run, are also expected to do constituency work, and in the same way and to the same extent as all of us who have no such responsibilities. So it is an area that cannot be addressed mechanically, but one which we are going to have to address on an ongoing basis to find the correct balance.
And I think that goes not only for people in government, it also goes for ANC branches. Because there are lots of people who are located in other sectors, who are in the corporate world, who are in professions, who are members of ANC branches, or reside in communities, and who feel that the present situation does not present them with an opportunity to input into the major processes of policy formulation or implementation. So, in building the ANC structures, we have got to open up that space and create the opportunity for people who are branch members and have the ability and skills to intervene and input in major issues of governance to be able to do so.
On the other hand, we have to create the space for people who are ministers to benefit from those views and ideas coming from the branches and the provincial structures. So it is an ongoing challenge.
The ANC as an institution has to be structured in a way that enhances its capacity to equal the challenges facing it. Whether you are looking at headquarters or the provinces or the relationship between the ANC in government at the various levels and outside of government, there has to be a deployment of comrades in the fronts where they are needed most to enhance that capacity. That is a general mandate from conference.
The conference resolutions also informed the January 8 statement, and the central pillar is popular participation for consolidating People's power. In Madiba's speech in parliament, he was saying the same thing that government cannot be expected to deal with all these enormous problems all by itself, and that, in the main, it is popular participation that would solve these problems. On the issue of crime, for as long as society tolerates crime and criminal offences, so long will criminals and crime thrive. But as soon as the general public takes responsibility as well and begins to take action against crime, the criminals would be living on borrowed time.
How do you plan to revive the sense of the need for popular participation, as well as the campaign of moral regeneration that president Mandela spoke about?
It will start with local programmes. The structures at local level need to be assisted to develop local programmes. One of the examples that immediately comes to mind is around pensioners. You have senior citizens who have to wait for long hours in queues, even on bitterly cold and on rainy days, in order to receive their grants. An ANC or COSAS branch could run a local campaign on this. They could go to every household and if there is a pensioner, help that pensioner to complete forms, for instance, for a bank card. Or they could approach financial institutions or the ministry of welfare and population development to make arrangements. That is a service they could render in their own communities. The students as a body could do that and it would enhance their stature in their own community. They could undertake to check and monitor that on a monthly basis so that it's an ongoing process. And that would bring them into contact immediately with the senior people and they can in the process share their own problems with the senior citizens. So it's campaigns at that level, of that nature, which would bring about this process.
Who is going to drive this reactivation process?
I have held meetings with SASCO and COSAS. For example, there are many local councillors who have no skills in accounting, and structures like SASCO can in an organised fashion, be a support structure to them to ensure that they perform much more efficiently in local government structures. So it is campaigns at really local level.
From the workers' point of view, how you celebrate May Day could be at a very local level.
Let me share with you what I observed as very impressive at this year's January 8 rally in Moutse in Mpumalanga. Despite the fact that the posters announcing the rally went out on the 6th, there were no less than 13 different groups of old ladies in their sixties, who performed songs and dance, songs with lyrics they specifically composed for celebrating the January 8. What that said to me was that those old ladies did not start preparing for the January 8 celebrations when the posters came out. They did that towards the end of 1997. That's how we should look at all the major days, including May Day. It could be turned into a real family celebration, because the majority of people are working people, and its a paid public holiday for them. You could get different interest groups within the community to celebrate May Day by doing short inputs along with workers leaders. So that is how we could get more popular participation.
I have had a meeting with SANCO as well, and I said to them, they have got to open up their structures. They have got to strive to become a civic body which has as its base unit in the branches, all the households in any given residential area. So that they then address in the main matters pertinent to residents. If they do that, it would then be easy for the ANC branch members to participate as residents in those structures as well. If the ANC branch wants to extend its influence, it would earn that position of leadership within the civic branch in their own area of residence. And that would put paid to all this strife of people who are unable to be elected in the civic jumping into an ANC branch, and using their position there to fight against their erstwhile colleagues, and adversaries, and vice versa. Because then their responsibilities will be clearly demarcated.
COSATU is planning a mass recruitment campaign in April, in which our local structures will play an important role. How would you see the local Alliance structures becoming involved in that?
I think it is a good initiative. It would have to be planned very carefully as well, at what level do you recruit people into COSATU structures and at what level do you then recruit those people, or influence those people to take up ANC membership. That would have to be looked at very carefully, even on a case by case basis, because you DON'T want to confuse people. If you are recruiting a new member, if the entry point is around worker issues, then you would want the person to absorb that and then in due course indicate to this person that there are other aspects of his or her life that would be better addressed through ANC membership and vice versa.
Can you brief us on plans for the election campaign?
The ANC Lekgotla will come out with a programme of action which will be informed by the political report to conference, the resolutions, January 8 statement and the strategy and tactics document. We will also take into account other key campaign issues coming from the Alliance. And of course there is the need to put together an election machinery, because such a major campaign will have to be managed and coordinated as well. So there is an internal process of charging somebody with the management of the election campaign. And then, of course, there is the deployment of leadership people, from the NEC, parliamentarians, ministers and at provincial level.
The idea is that we would zone the country for campaign purposes. We would not want to go for centralised massive rallies. That would have to be a culmination of intense processes of mobilising at local level, and that is why it is not divorced from the processes of building the ANC structures.
COSATU congress spoke about the need to build the ANC and strengthen a working class perspective within the ANC. Could you comment on that?
The ANC would welcome and would always benefit from the efforts of COSATU to strengthen the working class bias within the ANC. The ANC itself is a broad organisation but its bias to downtrodden working people is something that working people have earned through their own participation within the ANC structures and in the struggle for liberation over the years.
But, like anything else, that cannot be regarded as a given. It cannot for a moment be regarded as immutable. It is something that can be changed. Therefore the endeavours on the part of COSATU to reinforce that are most welcome. Of course that kind of bias does not just come with numbers, it also comes with ideas the ability on the part of organised workers to look at issues and think through issues independently from a partisan point of view and present them in a programmatic fashion to the ANC structures.
Working people are the backbone and the basic constituency of the ANC. And if they bring with them enriched views on how the ANC should approach important matters of social transformation, that is how COSATU would be reinforcing the working class bias within the ANC.
It would not work that effectively if it is simply going to be in the form of resolutions, because when you interact at that formal level, it may not work that way. I think it would work much more effectively and have widespread impact if COSATU members are armed with these enriched views and are encouraged to take them through to ANC structures, so that in a real, practical way, when ANC members participate at residential or local level they are seen to be coming up with practical solutions to problems that affect the general population. In that way the stature and influence of COSATU within the ANC and the ANC within the broader society will be enhanced tremendously.
Having come from a strong union background, do you see your own role as falling within that context?
I would think that there is always a penetration of opposites. I went into the labour movement coming from the ANC, and now I'm coming back into the ANC coming from the labour movement. I would hope that I would bring a better understanding of where workers come from and why they view things in the manner in which they do now. And I would hope that I would be able to share with the comrades in COSATU how the thinking in the ANC is influenced and shaped, so that in that way we can achieve the necessary synergy between labour and the ANC as a broad organisation.
In your new role, how will you maintain contact with the perspective of organised workers?
My primary role is going to be coordinating the interaction of the ANC with components of the mass democratic movement and ensuring that the ANC as an organisation creates the kind of space I alluded to earlier on, for rank and file members to have their views and interventions in policy formulation heard and considered and also for the comrades who are in government to benefit from the views of general membership.
The advantage in the labour movement is that you deal with practical problems. Most of the problems are not abstract. For example, where issues of retrenchments may be abstract when you look at it from the point of view of a politician, for a trade union organiser it is a practical question, of firstly, to deal with issues of notice period, of retraining, the package itself. You have to deal with issues beyond such retrenchment as to what's going to happen to those workers, how are they going to eke out a living, and those are practical issues. But if you are now dealing with overarching policy, from the top, you may make certain assumptions. The trade union situation discounts assumptions. You make certain assumptions, but by and large, you are informed more by practical realities as well. You don't just deal with abstract problems. The gap between theory and practice is narrowed all the time. Because if your theory makes the problem disappear, the reality may be different.
What will you miss most about leaving the NUM?
Well, I am in a unique position because I hold two jobs actually at this point in time. I am only going to step down from the NUM next month.
The NUM is an organisation of really poor, downtrodden workers, whose lot is a continuous struggle. These are people who are separated from their families. When you work with them, you observe things that you would never notice if you are removed from them.
All the time it is an ongoing agony they would like to be with their families, but in the same breath know that being with their families will mean that they will have no bread on the table. Their jobs are so important, yet their families are also very important. You see that ongoing struggle all the time.
Would you like to give a final message to the NUM and other workers in COSATU?
My message to workers in general and other sectors of the MDM is that we have got to appreciate the opportunity that we have in terms of influencing the transformation process and the direction that this country will follow. It is an opportunity that we must grab with both hands and utilise.
If we appreciate this opportunity we will be in a position to create opportunities for the youth, for the next generation, and yet if we do not appreciate the opportunity that we have, we will do a disservice to the youth and the generation that is to come after us.
Health department director general Dr Olive Shisana has reaffirmed her Department's commitment to prioritise primary health care in the allocation of the country's health resources.
Shisana told a special session of NEDLAC's Executive Council late last year that her department was committed to lead the development of an effective national health system and to promote and monitor the health of all South Africans.
The NEDLAC executive formally approved the Department's policy, which was first published in April 1997.
Shisana said the bulk of the country's health resources must be allocated to primary health care. For the immediate future, the department has four key goals:
Progress so far
Nutrition is fundamental to health. Over four million people in 13 000 schools are taking part in a primary school nutrition programme, organised by communities, with small government grants. Since 1994, 393 new clinics have been built, and 2 298 have been repaired. However, in some cases, after the repairs, there were no funds left to pay staff until the next financial year. However, the government has now adopted a medium-term expenditure framework, making it possible to plan for a three-year period.
Free primary health care was introduced in April 1996. And doctors from Cuba, Germany and the United Nations volunteer programme are now working in rural areas, among poorest sections of the population.
Each year in South Africa, about 10 000 people are likely to die of tuberculosis. The health department has introduced a TB programme, with the help of the World Health Organisation, and 3 000 health workers have been trained in the management of TB. Of the 90 000 TB patients registered in 1996, 73% have successfully completed their treatment.
Immunisation as a preventive measure is vital to all health care. In 1995, 3l8 million children up to the age of four were immunised against communicable diseases; in 1996, 4.4 million and in 1997, 5 million. About 96% of children have been immunised against measles. A hepatitis B vaccine has been introduced for children born since 1995 and health workers have also been encouraged to be immunised.
To promote the rational use of drugs, the Department has issued a directory of essential medicines, to be used with guidelines on treatment, in primary health care clinics.
The prices of essential drugs in South Africa are among the highest in the world, and the Department is determined to reduce the price of medicines. This is a crucial part of making health care affordable, not only in the public sector, but also in the private sector. The private sector had failed to regulate itself in terms of prices, in spite of being asked to do so.
Three Bills have been introduced: the Medicine and Related Substance Control Amendment Bill; the Pharmacy Amendment Bill; and the Medical, Dental and Supplementary Health Service Professions Amendment Bill. These Bills allow for the following measures:
During the discussion on the health department's policy in NEDLAC, one speaker warned that, before we import cheaper medicines, we should look into labour conditions in those countries where the drugs are manufactured, in case prices are low at the expense of labour rights.
Position: SACCAWU second vice president
Workplace: OK Bazaars, East London
The union makes us strong
It is not difficult to see why Freda Sizani is an inspiration to her fellow workers. She speaks with the quiet confidence of a woman who has triumphed in the face of the many obstacles that life as a black working class woman has thrown in her way.
Sizani is a product of the union through and through, having risen from the shopfloor to become SACCAWU's second vice president.
She joined SACCAWU's predecessor, CCAWUSA, in East London 15 years ago. After a year she was elected a shop steward at OK Bazaars, where she still works.
Sizane herself drew inspiration from veteran unionist Emma Mashinini, who was the union's general secretary at the time. "When I first joined the union, women were not yet seriously involved in the struggle," says Sizane. "So it was strange to see a woman involved in the labour movement and in the struggle. But when I met Emma Mashinini, I felt that I could also do it."
Sizane served two terms as a shop steward a pioneer for worker rights at a time when racism was the rule and trade unions were still regarded as the enemy.
"Those years were terrible," she says. "Management suppressed black workers." There were no black people in senior positions. And where a token black person was promoted, it was to help management suppress black workers.
In those days it was difficult to convince workers to join the union. But Sizane drew support from CCAWUSA, which actively encouraged women's involvement.
Many of her co-workers were coloured, and had not yet been touched by the growing politicisation in African townships such as Mdantsane, where she lived.
"Workers in the store were not clear what the labour movement was all about. And they were scared they would lose their jobs if they joined the union."
But, with time, workers began to see the benefits of joining the union. "They started to welcome union officials in the stores and ask about the union. Especially when it came to wage increases, workers supported the union as they knew they would get something out of it."
Sizane's activities brought her under the scrutiny of the notorious Ciskei police, who raided her home, confiscating union documents and T-shirts. She was frequently detained and questioned about her union involvement.
Her first detention was during the 1983 Ciskei bus boycott, called in protest against fare increases. The boycott, led by the militant SA Allied Workers Union (SAAWU) was one of the first mass protest actions in the area. Hundreds of workers were detained in a massive clampdown aimed at smashing the boycott. Many were held at the Sisa Dukashe stadium and brutally tortured by Ciskei security forces.
Sizane's detention was a painful experience, particularly since she had a one-month old baby at the time. But she emerged from the prison cells determined to carry on.
Sizane speaks in glowing terms of the encouragement she and other women received from SACCAWU. This gave her the courage to take up leadership positions in the union.
She served as chairperson of SACCAWU's East London local and later did two terms as the union's Eastern Cape treasurer. She also coordinated union education in the region and played a leading role in COSATU's Eastern Cape gender forum and her local ANC Women's League branch.
When a number of SACCAWU office bearers were deployed as ANC candidates in the 1994 general elections, the union's CEC appointed Sizane as acting second vice president. In 1996 she was re-elected to this position at the national congress.
"I am very proud of what SACCAWU has done to me," she says. "I get all the support I need."
Among the experienced union leaders who helped groom her was SACCAWU general secretary Bones Skhulu, who is also from East London, and national treasurer Alina Rantsolase.
"If you listen to her, you won't get lost," says Sizane, "especially when it comes to union policy and procedures."
Sizane is all too aware of the obstacles women workers face in taking up leadership positions. Her long years in the union means she has learnt the ropes and offers other women advice on how to make their voices heard in union structures.
"That inferiority complex in women is always there, until you convince yourself, I can do what they (men) can do.
"If you feel inferior, you will run away and then you won't get up there," she says. "So it is important for women to start to engage men on issues, socialise and discuss with them where they are free to talk and give you advice.
"In meetings, men want to show that they are men. But outside the meeting they will open up and go deeper into politics. And if you hold a position, they will assist you.
"One thing I have realised," she adds, "is that women are very strong. Women can make it. We just need to fight this inferiority complex."
Women's activism in the union is also undermined by male chauvinism. Meetings after work were poorly attended as women would have to rush home before their husbands came home. So SACCAWU started holding lunchtime meetings, rotating between the different stores. Women would take turns to bring tea, cake and snacks.
Congress resolutions to develop women leadership are worth little without concrete programmes to develop women, Sizane says. She is against the quota system and says women should rather develop and emerge through the union's structures to occupy positions in the union.
She is full of praise for COSATU's role in putting gender issues on the agenda. "If it were not for COSATU, affiliates wouldn't be prioritising women's issues. But COSATU has done very well in encouraging affiliates to come on board."
Thanks to these efforts, men's attitudes have gradually begun to change. "Today even male comrades are gender coordinators. And it gives women courage when a man speaks the language of women. We are all workers."
Sizane says SACCAWU is building women leadership beyond the national level. Women are becoming increasingly visible in regional and local structures and as shop stewards.
"When we hold shop steward elections, male comrades say we must be gender sensitive. In the past, women would vote for men. But those days are gone and now women know what they want.
"Especially with the new government, women want to be heard and to see the government dealing with issues of importance to women. During the Basic Conditions of Employment negotiations, women were very interested and were even prepared to go out and fight.
"These days women are going for it!"
SACCAWU plans to arm its negotiators to vigorously take up the rights of working parents
Mary Mahlangu, a factory worker, lost her job after she stayed at home for three days to look after her sick three-year old. Her boss was not interested in why she had been absent.
When domestic worker Sally Jantjies took off three months after the birth of her first baby, she returned to find that her "madam" had given her job to someone else. A single mother, Jantjies was left penniless and jobless.
Today mothers like Mahlangu and Jantjies have some protection under new labour laws the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Labour Relations Act. But these provisions are far from adequate.
COSATU's September 1997 congress resolved to campaign for parental rights at all workplaces and to include demands for maternity leave, child care leave and child care facilities on unions' collective bargaining agenda.
SACCAWU has already begun planning to step up its parental rights campaign this year.
The campaign aims to ensure that women and men can combine a secure working career with a healthy, enjoyable family life; that women receive the necessary pre- and post-natal care and that children's needs are met.
The majority of SACCAWU's members are women and the problems facing working women with children have been on the union's agenda since its launch in 1975.
Struggles initially centred around individual dismissal cases, but later moved to maternity agreements and parental rights.
SACCAWU won its first maternity agreement at OK Bazaars, way back in 1983. In 1985, the first agreement on the rights of men and women workers was won at Metro Cash and Carry, followed by a comprehensive parental rights agreement at Pick 'n Pay in 1988. Since then many such agreements have been won at other companies.
SACCAWU says apartheid's legacy means that the lives of most pre-school children are still dominated by poverty and the lack of basic necessities. High infant mortality rates and inadequate educare facilities persist, as do high unemployment and low wages.
Child bearing and rearing in this situation poses daunting challenges for South African parents.
While parental rights should be a social responsibility, most parents bear the burden alone. The socialisation of childcare remains a distant prospect. The lack of funding for health and welfare and the overall neo-liberal orientation of government policy points to childcare remaining an individual, family responsibility for the foreseeable future.
Winning parental rights therefore falls heavily on the shoulders of parents and their organisations, says SACCAWU gender coordinator Patricia Appollis.
The union has made important breakthroughs in negotiating parental rights, especially in large national chain store groups. But much work still needs to be done.
"All agreements need revision and consolidation and there are still many workplaces without agreements, especially small businesses," says Appollis. Sectors such as hotels, restaurants, fast-food outlets and banks need particular attention.
SACCAWU's campaign will centre on collective bargaining negotiations and the union plans to train an army of negotiators for this. Since the union faces strong opposition to centralised bargaining, negotiations will have to take place at company level. This places an even greater burden on the union's resources and the campaign's success will depend on capacity-building.
Many SACCAWU negotiators are male, and there is a tendency to make parental rights a secondary issue, often due to a lack of information on the issue.
SACCAWU negotiating teams will be given special training, information and support. Along with NALEDI and ILRIG, the union will conduct research and produce a parental rights manual and booklet and a discussion paper to help stimulate debate on key issues. The union is aiming to have these completed by June this year. Watch this space!
Gold has always been linked to wealth, power and control of resources. And it was gold which fundamentally shaped South Africa's economic development. This article in the popular economics series by NALEDI's James Heintz looks at the historic role of gold in the world's economies and the implications of the declining importance of gold for South Africa
Gold, money and banking
Gold has always had a close connection with money. Historically minted coins would actually contain a certain amount of a precious metal - usually gold or silver. The value a coin had depended on the amount of precious metal it contained. If the amount of gold or silver were reduced, the coin would lose value and each coin would be able to buy less. This would then mean that prices would tend to go up since more money would be needed to make up the lost value - in other words, there would be inflation. Debasing a currency - that is, reducing the amount of precious metal a coin contained - was a serious crime in many countries.
Gold was also connected with the early development of banking. Hundreds of years ago, people would often leave their gold with a goldsmith for safekeeping. Goldsmiths, however, discovered that they could use the gold which people gave them to make loans. A goldsmith would lend out part of the gold which people had left and the remaining gold was used to meet obligations when someone demanded their gold back. This is very much like a modern bank where people deposit money, a bank makes loans from those deposits, and a certain amount of money - called reserves - is kept to meet obligations.
The Gold Standard
Both money and banking evolved from these historical forms to more modern ones. But gold still played a major role. The use of paper money and other types of currency became widespread. People, however, would not trust that a piece of paper like a rand note would have value unless it was backed by something valuable. Therefore, many currencies adopted a gold standard. A gold standard means that the currency could be exchanged for a certain amount of gold. The gold standard was believed to give value to paper currency and bank deposits.
The problem with the gold standard was that it fixed the value of the currency. This means that the value of the currency could not adjust easily to changing economic conditions. For example, if the value a currency linked to the gold standard was extremely high, imports of goods from other countries would be very cheap but exports would become very expensive. This could lead to a trade imbalance in which imports would increase dramatically but exports would decrease. Domestic production would be hurt at the expense of cheap imports from abroad. If the currency was linked to the gold standard, the value of the currency could not adjust to improve the situation.
Because of the problems associated with a currency fixed to the gold standard, many countries were pushed off the gold standard during the 20th century. In 1971, the gold standard was dealt a final crushing blow. The president of the United States at that time, Richard Nixon, halted gold sales and pushed the US dollar off the gold standard. From that moment on, most currencies in the world had their exchange rates determined in the market relative to all other currencies, not by the amount of gold they can buy.
Gold and South Africa
Gold not only played a historical role in the world's money and banking systems, it was also critically important for the development of the South African economy. When gold was discovered near Johannesburg in 1886, the pattern of development in South Africa dramatically changed direction. Johannesburg grew rapidly and became the largest metropolitan area in sub-Saharan Africa. Industrial and financial developments were closely tied to the mining industry which, in turn, depended on a highly exploited labour force. Gauteng was destined to become South Africa's economic powerhouse largely due to the profound influence of gold.
The historical relationship between South African development and gold means that, even today, gold can exert a strong effect on the South African economy - from its mines and levels of employment to its stock exchange and financial institutions.
The figure below shows the international price of gold, measured in US dollars, from mid-1996 to the end of 1997. The price of gold has fallen substantially over this time period. As the price of gold tumbles, it places pressures on the profitability and viability of many gold mines. This can lead to significant reduction in employment, to pressures to adopt productivity agreements for mineworkers or to closures of marginal mines.
Once a mine is closed, it is expensive to resume production, even if the gold price begins to recover. While in most modern economies gold now has a small influence on the health of the economy, in South Africa this is not true.
The future of gold
Gold has become far less important in the world economy in the past two or three decades. The historical legacy which grants gold a role in money and banking is vanishing quickly.
Consider the behaviour of central banks in many countries. Many central banks still hold large reserves of gold as a safe investment and asset base. Recently, central banks have begun to sell off these gold reserves, causing the price of gold to fall. Central banks are shifting from gold to other assets with higher rates of return. As banks shift and the price of gold falls, holding gold makes even less sense and more banks could move to other types of reserves. It is unlikely that the gold price will recover substantially in the future and it could continue to fall.
What does this mean for South Africa? While gold still maintains a hold on the South African economy, its influence has diminished substantially. For example, in 1986 gold accounted for 41 percent of the total value of exports while in 1996 gold accounted for only 21 percent.
More diverse types of economic activities means the impact of a falling gold price will not be as severe. In addition, new technologies could improve the viability of gold mining in South Africa, even when prices have fallen. Nevertheless, it is clear that gold mining will face hard challenges in the future and its premier position within the South African economy will never be reclaimed.
Workers in the mines will be the group most adversely affected by these trends. Active government policies to minimise this impact, to develop an effective adjustment strategy, and to re-skill workers for alternative employment opportunities will be critical.
The NUNW 2nd national congress
Eight years after independence, Namibia's workers face a challenge all too familiar to their South African counterparts - how to extend political democracy to the economy.
This was one of the challenges facing delegates at the second national congress of the National Union of Namibian Workers' (NUNW) in Windhoek last month.
NUNW president Ponhele YaFrance criticised the slow pace of economic transformation in Namibia and said true economic democracy would only be achieved if workers own the means of production.
"Economic transformation cannot be achieved on its own but through political power in which we as workers have to actively participate and try to make our impact on all political and economic decisions."
He told delegates that the congress theme, "Namibian workers ready to face the challenges in the next millennium" was a bold and clarion call which demanded dedication and commitment from workers.
While he praised the achievements of Namibia's ruling party, SWAPO, over the past eight years, he had harsh words for key government policies such as privatisation.
"Eight years of independence has taught us that exploiters and those with economic and political power do not understand quiet diplomacy but real action," he said. "This is the challenge we face in the 21st century if we are to live and be Namibians, the owners of the soil."
"the Namibian worker has laboured throughout the centuries. We have dug the mines and extracted wealth. We have tilled the soil for others, we have built the roads and all nice buildings in the country while we sleep in shacks and pondoks... We fed the stomachs of others while ours are empty. The time has now come for us to stand up and share the products of our labour with those who have enjoyed it for too long," YaFrance told delegates.
He said unions' long-term strategy should be to move from negotiating wage increases to direct economic participation and control.
"It is time to move from being perpetual labourers to managing and influencing decisions in economic development and planning. It is only through the ownership of the means of production by the workers that Namibia will realise the true economic democracy and independence," YaFrance said.
Unions must own mines, fisheries, financial and insurance institutions and farming. Joint ventures with "patriotic and genuine investors" would protect workers' welfare in times of retirement, retrenchment and unemployment.
The NUNW secretariat has already set up an investment company, Labour Investment Holding, and the congress mandated their CEC to officially create the "business wing" of the federation.
A resolution on self-reliance and empowerment adopted at the congress linked the move to the need:
YaFrance told delegates that the federation's joint ventures with several companies had the objective of generating funds, "thus empowering the workers".
"the agreements we have concluded so far are worth millions of dollars for the unions and would definitely lead to financial independence of the unions."
However, YaFrance cautioned unions against compromising their mission of defending their members' interests. "We should guard against being corrupted in the process of economic empowerment," he said.
The congress resolved that their CEC "should urge government to formulate policies on economic reconciliation".
The NUNW's eight affiliates have a paid-up membership of 62 270 members, out of a potential membership of 203 000.
According to the CEC report, some affiliates have shown steady growth. However, retrenchments have taken a heavy toll in some sectors, particularly those organised by the Food and Allied Workers Union.
The report said that ensuring job security was one of the most difficult areas facing the federation, particularly since "employers purposely retrench workers to undermine the bargaining power of the trade unions".
Some affiliates managed to resist retrenchments, others concluded favourable retrenchment packages for their members, including retraining of workers and severance pay. However, the lack of proper protection mechanisms in the Labour Act made the battle for job security more difficult.
The CEC said some affiliates remained weak and pointed to an NUNW survey last year which identified financial constraints and a lack of capacity, human resources and infrastructure as key obstacles to affiliate growth.
A lack of affiliate participation in the federation's structures, inadequate report-backs on decisions taken, and mass mobilisation were also identified as problems.
Gender: The NUNW's Department of Women Affairs, set up in 1992 to train women to take up leadership in the federation was weakened after funding dried up. Gender programmes are now carried out by the education department. The federation played a major role in the first Southern African Trade Union Women's Forum.
Demarcation: A Demarcation Forum was organised, but the CEC reported that, "despite the agreed recommendations, some unions continue to recruit members from other affiliates".
Trade union unity: A unity forum between NUNW affiliates and seven non-affiliated unions acknowledged the need for unity but felt that NUNW's affiliation to SWAPO was a stumbling block to this. It agreed that unity should be initiated at industrial union level rather than at federation level.
Labour Act: The congress characterised Namibia's 1992 Labour Act as "an ineffective regulatory mechanism of labour relations" which contains many loopholes. The NUNW has submitted its proposals on the Act to the Labour Advisory Council.
Wascom: The federation criticised the Government's Wages and Salaries Commission as having failed to reduce wage gaps and said it had instead widened inequalities.
Like COSATU, NUNW is affiliated to the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and the Southern African Trade Union Coordinating Council (SATUCC).
Reaffirming its commitment to international solidarity and cooperation, the congress mandated the CEC to look into the possibility of affiliating to the ICFTU.
The federation condemned the violation of trade union rights in Algeria, Nigeria, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and called for the restoration of "the democratic culture of freedom of speech and association" in Zambia.
Land question explosive
The congress took a militant stand on the land question. Delegates want Chapter 3 of the Namibian constitution amended to ensure land redistribution to the dispossessed majority and called for a national referendum on the issue. NUNW leaders said the struggle for land had been central to the liberation struggle. But most Namibians remained landless.
According to the CEC report, the government had committed itself to allocate ten million Namibian dollars over a five-year period to acquire land for the landless. However, the farms being sold to government were useless and the better farms were overpriced.
NUNW president Ponhele YaFrance had harsh criticism for Government's "willing seller, willing buyer" approach. "the policy of buying the stolen land is enriching the thieves and empowering them more to rob us of even the little soil left." He called for the appropriation without compensation of land from those who own more than one farm.
"We are being told that the question of land is sensitive and must not be tampered with," YaFrance told delegates. "What we want to know is, to whom is the land sensitive, is it sensitive to the robber or the victim?"
"We would like to bring to the attention of government that the land is not sensitive, it is explosive and will bring another revolution."
NUNW affiliate membership
Grappling with political reality
Many of the political questions facing the NUNW are similar to those facing COSATU - its relationships with the ruling political party and the democratic government; how to influence policy-making and how to deal with divergence between SWAPO policies and government policies; dual leadership and accountability of political representatives.
The NUNW is affiliated to SWAPO, a relationship governed by an affiliation accord signed between the two parties in May 1997. While the federation scoffed at calls for disaffiliation, it is still grappling with the practical implementation of the accord. According to the NUNW CEC report to the congress, the federation and SWAPO "are in the process of arranging for meetings to agree on a mechanism for regular consultations".
While NUNW leaders have praised gains made by the SWAPO government since independence, the CEC report pointed out that much of SWAPO's Election Manifesto and the country's national development plan still need to be achieved. The congress pointed to areas of sharp divergence with government policy, particularly on land reform, privatisation and other socio-economic policy. And it is clear that the federation will have to step up its efforts to make its voice heard.
The federation has also put forward proposals for restructuring and reviving SWAPO, which will be discussed at a special SWAPO Party Congress in 1998. "To keep the government on the right track, a strong, dynamic party secretariat with functioning structures is of vital importance. In order to refocus and redirect our efforts towards fulfilling all the promises, the SWAPO Party needs to seriously restructure itself," the CEC report said.
The NUNW also believes that SWAPO should more effectively use its parliamentary majority to effect change. "With a majority representation in both houses of parliament, the Party should pass acts that are geared towards improving the lives of our people and equality," the CEC said, adding that MPs should consult the broader electorate on new legislation.
"We are sometimes forced to comment on bills through the media since no formal structures exist for civil society to provide its input. In some cases, ministers table bills that are in contrast with party policies or SWAPO's election manifesto and expects other SWAPO MPs to just accept such bills. This has led to open conflict on legislative matters."
Dual membership and dual leadership
NUNW refers to the "brain drain" which saw many unionists drawn into Namibia's parliament and government office. A congress resolution on dual leadership similar to COSATU's "two hats" debate supported dual leadership "where this was in the interests of the labour movement" with the proviso that the union position was not full-time and that no double salaries were received.
In an attempt to deal with the federation's concerns over the accountability of union MPs, the congress resolved:
The NUNW has reported good relations with Namibian president Sam Nujoma and the congress resolved that the Namibian constitution should be amended to allow him to stand for re-election. The federation will mobilise workers and lobby members of the National Assembly and National Council to ensure this.
FAWU media officer Kubeshni Govender writes about COSATU's Atlantis local in the Western Cape
The "coloured" residential area of Atlantis looks like any other township in South Africa: overcrowded accommodation, makeshift attachments to existing structures, and evidence of alcohol and social abuse. There are signs of renewed development with the building of a new court house, but across the dusty street the scrawls on the walls of a Manenberg, Chatsworth or Thokoza-type flat tell of a sorry past. Today the Alliance forces look to the 1999 elections to bring sunshine to their shores again.
This is the story of Atlantis. It is the struggle of COSATU local chairperson Joshua Horn and other members of the local who live with the reality of an ill-intended plan. Atlantis, like the myth of the underwater city, was also struck by an earthquake. In this case it was apartheid which shook the foundations of this municipality and submerged it in misery and deprivation.
In the early 1980s, the apartheid government had a plan. The blue print pinpointed a location 45 minutes from the city of Cape Town for the development of a new industrial and residential community. The engineers of the plan, the same proponents of the Group Areas Act and homeland schemes, provided white businesses with tasty financial incentives to trek to the West Coast and use government subsidies to start enterprises there.
As was the case with so many businesses which thrived on the privileges of the apartheid system, profits were made. But when the government subsidies ran dry, an exodus to the mainland began. Those who lost heavily were the people of Atlantis, who had invested their labour and built their community on false promises.
The capital flight left huge unemployment, social degradation, and a largely "coloured" population located on the dunes with nowhere else to go and nothing much to do but to join forces and fight.
Anthony Diedrich, COSATU's Western Cape regional educator, explains that 'people of colour', mostly from the Cape Flats, were drawn to Atlantis by promises of unlimited work opportunities. They supplied a workforce which fed the industries in Atlantis. The strategy might have worked had the businesses which settled in Atlantis intended to help develop the area. The aim, however, was to make a quick profit and leave.
"Sixty to eighty percent of the businesses which moved here were not viable and they weren't labour intensive either. It was an apartheid plan that went horribly wrong," says Anthony.
In 1987, when workers started realising their common problems, the Atlantis COSATU local moved into gear and started asserting its presence in the community.
Under the initial leadership of Danny Oliphant, now the ANC MP for Atlantis, the local started to bring people together to discuss broad labour issues and the social diseases that were plaguing this community.
"At the time we were in the middle of nowhere, we didn't belong to Cape Town or to the Swartland," recalls Oliphant. "There was great need because of the isolation. We brought business and community together."
The Atlantis Development Forum, which initiated discussions between labour, NGOs and business on the economic future of Atlantis, played a crucial role in assisting the economic survival of workers and their families.
Such alliances have lead to some victories in the local's fight for economic justice. One such struggle was in 1996, when Bokomo decided to move their processing operations to Malmesbury. Bokomo executives attempted to move the company without consulting the workers and approached an Australian investment company to this end. FAWU workers heard rumours of the plan and conveyed this information to the COSATU local.
"We unanimously decided to act before the negotiations went any further," says Horn, who is also a NUMSA shop steward. "the relocation would have meant the loss of hundreds of jobs and even more economic instability."
The COSATU local intervened and explained the social impact of the move to management, who promised to rethink their position. After a period of no response, the local took their case to Tony Ruiters of the ANC and appealed for government intervention.
The local drummed up community support and launched a media and door-to-door campaign. In the end this resulted not only in Bokomo remaining in Atlantis, but in the development of another factory which created more job opportunities in the area.
Given this history and the role played by COSATU and the Alliance in Atlantis, many were surprised when the National Party won the 1994 elections in Atlantis, like in so many other "coloured" communities in the Western Cape.
Horn and Diedrich have differing opinions on the reasons for this. The chairperson of the local believes that the election campaigners were lulled into a false sense of reality.
"Senior leadership thought that because they had been in jail and because of their sacrifices," that victory would be assured, says Horn. "Hence the lack of an organised programme from the Alliance. It is important that we must have a united focus in the next elections," he adds.
What about the SACP? Horn says the Party had very few members in Atlantis and, for practical reasons, decided to close the branch, leaving the ANC holding the political torch of the Alliance.
Diedrich believes the vote of the people of Atlantis was based on fear and ignorance. "the fear of losing what the apartheid government had granted them as a slightly more privileged group", caused this community to believe the propaganda of the NP, he says. So the majority of the community, afraid of their position under a new African government, voted NP and, Atlantis, like the Western Cape, was won. The tragedy is that, from the actions of Hernus Kriel, we know it was simultaneously lost.
Winning the 1999 elections is now the priority of the COSATU local. Horn says they have firmly fixed their sights on victory in 1999 and they understand that the battle has just begun.
"We've learned our lesson," says Horn of the 1994 elections. He believes that shop stewards must relearn how to campaign, and is convinced that, with a comprehensive and organised programme, the ANC can win the elections. They will have to preach the gospel, he says, "that we are the ANC that stands for the oppressed".
It is clear that his approach feeds this local. "People elected me. That in itself means that they saw something in me which makes them believe I will take the worker struggle forward. And I love to do that. Being part of COSATU is being part of the community."
With an estimated 50 percent unemployment rate in Atlantis, the COSATU local knows that its task is a difficult one. But it is a challenge they intend to tackle head on because they know that the livelihoods of hundreds of people depend on their efforts... whether the people of Atlantis know it yet or not.