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Media Centre  |  COSATU Speeches

Address by Willie Madisha, COSATU President, to the COSATU 7th National Congress

18 September 2000

We are meeting in this Seventh National Congress, at the turn of a new century, to plan how best to advance the ideals and interest of the working class of our country. Our National Congress poses to all members of COSATU momentous challenges, challenges to which we must find adequate answers and viable responses.

We must here scrutinise our strategies to ensure that they are effectively advancing their intended objectives. Certainly, in the heat of ongoing and relentless engagement, any self-critical reflection may seem a risk and a luxury. Nonetheless we can only succeed in the long run if we take stock of our gains and losses, strengths and weaknesses.

It is therefore appropriate, at the outset of this Congress, to call on all delegates to confront objectively the challenges we face in defending, deepening and advancing our hard-won democratic breakthrough. We must go beyond debate and resolutions to design a clear programme of action and campaigns to ensure our ultimate success. It will not help the working class of our country to recommit to particular ideals or goals without spelling out how we can achieve them.

In short, we must use this opportunity to take stock of our progress and map a way forward. But we must also celebrate our victories of the last three years.

The documents circulated for this congress, especially the Secretariat Report and Parliamentary Office First Term Report, record COSATU`s engagements and interventions since our last Congress. This period has been one of intense organisational activity, with many challenges for COSATU and the broader democratic movement. Overall, the Federation has acquitted itself well in a difficult and often conflict-ridden environment. We have built sound organisational structures and formulated strong policy positions that guide our daily interventions and engagements. Today, without question, COSATU is a force to be reckoned with.

Our Congress takes place in the context of profound changes in South Africa and the rest of the world. In the last elections, the ANC received an overwhelming mandate to accelerate change and deepen transformation. Our key task as a country is still to eradicate the legacy of apartheid and on its ashes build a new non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society.

Since the ANC came to power, workers and their communities have scored important victories. The legal divisions that apartheid laws fixed in the state and society have been swept away. The ANC government has passed outstanding labour laws and introduced progressive social policies. The expansion of basic services such as water, education and health care has improved the situation for millions of our people. Individual rights and liberties have been entrenched in the Constitution and a range of new laws.

But in the past three years we have also seen significant setbacks, reflecting an intense contestation over the direction of transformation. These reversals do not negate our victories. But they do point to the need for careful and honest evaluation of our current situation and the balance of forces, so that we can forge a constructive way forward for labour and for our country as a whole.

A major setback was the adoption after 1996 of conservative economic policies, incorporated in the GEAR. It turned away from the focus in the Freedom Charter and the RDP on economic reconstruction to bring about growth based on increasing equality in wealth and income. In contrast, in 1996 the GEAR proposed an economic strategy based almost exclusively on restricting government borrowing, lower tariffs and wage restraint. As the Secretariat Report demonstrates, this strategy has failed to achieve any of its main targets. Instead, since 1997 we have witnessed massive job losses, weakening economic growth, and declining investment. Although some departments have pushed ahead with progressive economic and social policies, for instance around land, their efforts are increasingly restricted by budget cutbacks and the lack of a defined strategy for economic restructuring.

A further setback lies in the failure of the Alliance to function properly – a failure that is detailed in the Secretariat Report and the discussion document for Congress, Advancing Social Transformation in the Era of Globalisation. COSATU has since its inception committed itself to the revolutionary alliance led by the ANC, thus continuing with the ideals and foundations laid by our forerunner SACTU. In Congress after Congress, we have committed ourselves to that revolutionary alliance, while pushing for improvements in its functioning. Congress must adopt resolutions to strengthen the Alliance so that it becomes a stronger vehicle for advancing working people`s struggles.

In this context, we welcome discussions that took place seven days ago in the Alliance ten-a-side meeting. As the General Secretary will explain, these discussions were positive although not conclusive. They have laid a basis for dialogue to address key questions confronting the alliance.

To understand the setbacks experienced in the past three years, we must take into account the shifts in the international balance of power. The end of the cold war has established the hegemony of the world capitalist system under the United States. This development accelerated the process of globalisation. As a result, it has become fatally easy to – although wrong – to argue that individual countries must bow to the demands of the dominant capitalist countries and companies, rather than pursuing a development path suited to the needs of their people.

We are witnessing the an aggressive globalisation of imperialism, accompanied by general disregard for national interests and developmental needs. This form of globalisation has turned the majority of countries and governments into beggars for foreign capital, forcing them to depart from their goals of social progress. Contrary to what the salesmen of globalisation want us to believe, it is increasingly proving to be a force of destruction rather than development. It worsens the inequitable distribution of power between the rich and the poor, and between the developed and developing countries.

Globalisation has been associated with growing mobility for international capital, which lets it pick and choose between countries. Unless they develop appropriate strategies, the poor can end up competing with each other to give foreign capital anything it demands - a race to the bottom that all too often means weaker governments, worse wages, and rising repression. No country, including South Africa, can break out of this cycle unless it can define an economic development strategy based on internal needs and resources.

But capitalist globalisation does not transcend the inherent laws of capitalism. It is riddled with internal economic and financial crises. Today`s relative stability of the international economy can at best be described as an armed peace. From time to time world capital is engulfed by a crisis that threatens the entire system. The 1997 crisis, which began in East Asia and rapidly spread to the entire world, demonstrated the unpredictable and destructive power of world markets. In short, globalisation also globalises economic crises, so that no nation is spared.

A second hallmark of capitalism is that it inevitably brings forth resistance from the oppressed, led by the organised working class. Increasingly workers are rising to flex their muscles against the excesses of global capitalism. The battles of Seattle and Davos, of workers in South Korea and Brazil, the struggles by truck drivers in Britain and Belgium against increasing petrol prices, the fight around Rio Tinto mounted by Australian workers and mine workers around the world – and not least our own campaign to end massive job losses and ever-growing poverty: all these struggles have carried one message, that the “one size fits all” so-called Washington consensus and the IMF/World Bank policies in their present form must be stopped. In the process, they have underlined the need to restructure the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO.

Critically, some of the battles around globalisation took place in the heartland of capitalism – the United States - which for decades was thought of as lacking revolutionary potential due to its hegemonic role in world capitalism.

During these battles the working class continues to ask far-reaching questions to the proponents of globalisation. Above all, we doubt the belief that globalisation is working for the poor whilst it benefits the few. Studies show that three men alone collectively command more wealth than the annual budget of 48 countries combined, whilst millions of the world population remain illiterate, and nearly half the global population lives on less than two dollars a day; and millions are killed daily by curable diseases. Faced with the reality of joblessness, poverty, disease, social degradation and disintegration, workers must conclude that globalisation has failed. If globalisation is reducing the world into one village, then it is the most inequitable village in history.

Unfortunately, the battles waged against globalisation lack unified leadership and a coherent programme. Within the international progressive movement, trade unions constitute the most organised of the social formations and by extension have significant role to rejuvenate the international left forces. We must turn the ICFTU into a fighting machine for workers` struggles internationally. If international struggles against global capitalism are not to degenerate into meaningless sideshows to the gatherings of the global capitalism, we require strong organisation and proper co-ordination of the working class internationally. This Congress is called upon to pass resolutions to ensure this co-ordination is in our region, our continent and beyond the shores of Africa.

Comrades, in this mixed and difficult global context, we must address the challenges facing the South African working class. Of these, the most urgent remains the loss of quality jobs.

For more than 25 years, the South African economy has been destroying jobs. Since 1991 alone, close to a million workers have been thrown to the streets. Today, this crisis means that over a third of those who want to cannot find work. And annually, 100 000 new entrants join the labour force with virtually no prospect of finding employment. We are sitting on a time bomb that threatens to engulf South Africa in social chaos.

Having resolved that these massive jobs losses spelled a crisis for our country`s people, the Special Congress identified the causes of that crisis and devised a programme of action to stop it.

Today, I am able to report to this Congress that our Federation has succeeded in implementing our Programme of Action. In the last eight months, in every industry, factory and plant, in every mine and public institution, and throughout the width and breath of our country, workers were able to raise, on a daily basis and as a matter of urgency, the unemployment crisis. With that, we challenged every employer – both private and public – to help address the crisis.

Through that campaign COSATU was able to carry the working class of our country to the General Strike on May 10. Over four million workers participated in this high point of our campaign. In addition to mass participation, we were strengthened by the support of civil society formations from all sectors.

Some within government met our campaign with dismay and anger. Business and its sycophants in the media and opposition parties like the Democratic Party expressed total opposition. Despite their cynical attempts to belittle the campaign and demoralise our constituency, we managed to pull a highly successful campaign, with support from far beyond the ranks of COSATU.

As the incumbent President of this Federation, and on behalf of all workers and the people of South Africa, I want to thank COSATU affiliates and members for ensuring that we succeeded in our jobs and poverty campaign. You all performed with great distinction, dedication and courage, proving once again that the power of our organisation is rooted in our members and the working class as a whole.

In terms of the campaign`s outcome, although we did not win all our demands, we registered some important victories. First, we have begun substantive discussions with business and government on COSATU`s demands. Sections of business were forced to agree to a CODESA-type discussion to address the crisis of unemployment. NEDLAC has adopted a programme to address key priorities to ensure job creation, as its recent summit highlighted. And a definite victory was the resuscitation of the NFA to restructure state owned enterprise, a move that has already halted Telkom`s plan to throw up to 10 000 workers onto the street this year.

Still, some of our key demands have not been met by government and business. In particular, we have not yet ensured acceptable amendment of section 189 of the LRA and the Insolvency legislation, or ensured slower tariff cuts.

Strong resistance has emerged in response to our demands that the LRA make retrenchment negotiable. This resistance emerged in the package of labour law amendments recently put forward by government. Instead of taking our claim forward, government has proposed changes in the LRA and the BCEA that goes to the core of workers` gains since 1994. The proposed amendments on section 189 are far from the position articulated in the ANC`s 1999 election manifesto which unambiguously calls for an amendment to grant workers the right to strike over retrenchments.

All in all, the positive aspects of the proposed labour law amendments are overwhelmed by the attacks on the working class. Still, we have been accused of over-reaction. Some argue that the amendments are mere tinkering, and suggest COSATU is behaving like a spoiled brat. But sober analysis of the amendments demonstrates that if passed, they will unravel the fundamental architecture of our labour legislation and upset a balance reached through hard-fought consensus and compromise.

I would like to spend some time on the core amendments.

First, government proposes to alter the variation model of the BCEA to grant the draconian powers to the Minister to vary core rights, which amongst others include prohibition of child and forced labour. If this amendment goes through, it will worsen an already unacceptable variation model in the BCEA. It actually flouts an Alliance agreement to strengthen the position of workers in the variation model. In terms of this agreement, the BCEA variation model should be changed to ensure that on balance workers are not is a less favourable position. If even the core rights can be varied, the BCEA will become a Swiss cheese with many holes, an empty shell. Workers rights would become subject to power and could be bargained off to appease recalcitrant employers. Thus the BCEA will remain in name only, because rights and standards would have been varied as a result of pressure from business.

Second, the proposed amendments to section 189 are sorely inadequate and in fact may accelerate retrenchment. The Minister`s proposal of “facilitated consultation” will likely fast track the dismissal of workers while at the same time denying workers a chance to strike against those dismissals. We demand the right to strike on retrenchment in order to arrest growing unemployment. We cannot continue to deprive workers of their main protection against unjust employer action – the strike – when they are defending their jobs and livelihoods.

Third, the proposal to remove Sunday premium on the ground that it will increase employment is a fallacy. Instead it will intensify the exploitation of workers since employers will be free to force workers to work on the common day of rest. There will no longer be any incentive for businesses to organise work so as to minimise hours on Sundays, leaving time for family and social events. In this respect, the apartheid BCEA was better.

Fourth, proposals around the extension of collective agreements to non-parties will undermine collective bargaining and turn it into collective begging. It removes the incentive for employers both big and small to be part of collective bargaining. All it would take to frustrate the extension of collective agreements is for one maverick employer to claim that they have not been consulted. More seriously, this proposal ignores the evidence from the Department of Labour and the ILO that in the majority of cases applications for exemptions are in fact granted.

On May 10th, Comrades, we did not strike for these amendments. Indeed, in the light of on-going negotiations about our demands in the jobs and poverty campaign, these proposals constitute provocation of the worst kind.

For this reason, we have concluded that the amendment constitutes a political crisis for the Alliance. They raise questions about our growth trajectory, the integrity of Alliance agreements and the commitment to the 1999 ANC elections manifesto, which unambiguously calls for retrenchment to be negotiable. Indeed, these amendments appear to reverse the commitment of the government to the development of a highly paid, highly skilled labour force – a commitment that goes back to the Freedom Charter.

The proposed amendments seem to reflect a capitulation to the endless battle employers have waged for a sweatshop economy in which workers enjoy no rights. The government has given employers more than they ever bargained for or hoped to get. Delegates applaud COSATU President Willie Madisha

We must resist attempts to roll back our gains and turn this government into a business chattel.

We have reason to hope that government will retreat from some of the problematic aspects of the proposed amendments. The discussion within the Alliance has laid a basis for further engagement. But as demonstrated at NEDLAC`s initial meeting of the negotiating committee, we do not yet have agreement, and the road ahead may still be long.

In order to ensure positive amendments to the labour laws, as well as the fulfilment of our short-term demands from the jobs and poverty campaign, we must be ready to engage in further action. This Congress is therefore charged with the task to ensure that we emerge with a bold programme to take our demands forward.

At the same time, we must not lose sight of the other challenges we confront in the labour market. These include the need to ensure that various statutory bodies, such as the CCMA, all SETAs, NEDLAC and so forth, function effectively and in the interest of workers. As we debate labour market issues, we must also resolve how to take forward integrated comprehensive social security and social wage.

We must link this debate with our country`s international policy, so that we can ensure that various SADC protocols and agreements involving various governments department as well as the various bi-national commissions respect and protect workers` rights wherever they come into operation.

Congress must emphasise that all those attacking the transformation of the labour market and call for labour market flexibility are in fact defending inequality and racial privileges inherited from the past.

At this point let us thank all members of COSATU for having contributed to the Job Creation Fund. Today the fund has collected about R62 million. This money, contributed by workers who often do not earn a living wage, proves that workers are committed to the eradication of joblessness.

We can promise that COSATU leadership will ensure that there is proper usage of that fund in particular to meet the needs of the hardest hit – women, young and rural people. Judged against the extent of the unemployment crisis, the Fund is very inadequate, but we hope that it will contribute to addressing the scourge of unemployment.

The critical challenge is to ensure that the commitments of the job summit become a reality and that all policies are redesigned to promote employment creation.

Together with unemployment, poverty constitutes a serious threat to South Africa`s stability. Almost half of the South African population lives in poverty, including many workers who constitute the working poor. Indeed, 29% of the population is classified as ultra poor, barely able to survive. The majority of the poor are black women and children and are located in the two poorest provinces Northern Province and Eastern Cape. Poverty is therefore worst within the black working class.

The work that government is doing to alleviate poverty, particularly the Ministry of Welfare and Social Development, should be appreciated. In particular, the Department`s effort to redesign the social security system in order to create a social safety net must be supported.

But poverty eradication may not be achieved unless we agree on fundamental question prevalent in our country. In particular, economic policy – macroeconomic policy in particular – should be reassessed to ensure that it supports rather than hampers poverty eradication.

As a result of apartheid misrule and mismanagement of our society, South Africa confronts a huge social deficit in respect of health, safety and human resource development in general. Almost half the population is illiterate and thus finds it harder to participate in projects that can improve their lives and alleviate their poverty. At the same time, the top 10 per cent of the population receives over 40 per cent of the national income.

To address these severe inequalities, we need a new growth path that prioritises addressing the social deficit. The state must intervene actively in the economy and marshal its resources for the development of our society. For this reason, the gradual reduction of the role of the state in the economy, as manifest vividly by declining budget, must be arrested. To do otherwise is to abdicate the responsibility to ensure that the state leads development.

The South African economy is still dominated by a few conglomerates centred around mining and finance. This dominant group is very vocal and conservative. Black economic empowerment has not succeeded to shake the stranglehold of the white minority. It is an open secret that since 1996 the economic question has remained a sore point, particularly to workers of our country. We remain convinced that the conservative economic policies adopted by the South African government have made it difficult to restructure the economy, ensure employment and investment, have led to restrictive inflation targets and reduced tariffs and even faster than required by international agreements.

GEAR has failed to realise most of its targets and objectives. In the main it was adopted to send the `right signals` to international investors in order to attract investment inflows. On this count GEAR`s targets have been missed. Total investment currently stands at 16 per cent of GDP, well below the developmental level of 25 per cent. At best, GEAR`s achievement has been to stabilise the public finances through aggressive reduction of the budget deficit, and cuts in inflation to well below the projected targets. However, these gains have been achieved at a cost of forgone growth, rising unemployment and slowing social development.

At the same time, economic policy making has been increasingly removed from the public domain. Instead, it is largely driven by bureaucrats from the Reserve Bank, the Department of Finance, the IMF and a few conservative academics. For this reason, we welcome the resolution on the economy of the ANC`s National General Council. As we understand it, this resolution effectively seeks to reopen and broaden discussions on the economic trajectory of our country. Indeed the economic policies, which must help so many, cannot be allowed to be the monopoly of so few. We need democratic participation in shaping economic policy. We need an economic consensus in the Alliance and for the country. A consensus can emerge only if macroeconomic policy is subject to broader consultation and participation.

We remain convinced that all economic strategies, including the macro-economic policy, must be subordinate to a clearly defined, state-led development strategy. A critical part of that strategy must be the establishment of an industrial strategy aimed at raising living standards and productivity throughout our economy. An integrated approach is necessary to co-ordinate policies on industry, agriculture, infrastructure and social development.

As part of economic restructuring programme we must deal with the restructuring of the financial institutions in our country. These institutions cannot be allowed to operate as they have done in the past, as though we do not have a democracy and a population that is desperate for access to basic needs, including housing and infrastructure that are normally financed in large part by loans. This Congress must address the fact that we do not see banks and other financial institutions playing a more constructive role in infrastructural development and therefore in alleviating poverty and promoting the restructuring of the economy. We must reassess the extent to which we have made progress in promoting measures to direct investments, including prescribed assets requirement and community reinvestment requirements.

To this end, Congress must support the Red Saturday Campaign against red lining, which is a campaign by the SACP to fight for restructuring of financial institutions and pressure them to play a positive role in development.

Comrades, our struggles for jobs and against poverty require the transformation of the state. We remain firm in our conviction that the state needs to play an active, developmental and interventionist role. We cannot however, rely on the existing state machinery to achieve these aims. Rather, we must transform the bureaucracy, state owned enterprise and local government to ensure that they truly serve the people.

At the same time, we are confronted with the challenge to defend the public sector against a neo-liberal onslaught. We must defend the state as the key collective vehicle to drive social and economic transformation, and provide adequate quality services to the people.

Against this background, we are concerned about the proposed privatisation of major state-owned enterprise. The privatisation of parts of the electricity, telecommunications and transport industry are expected to limit the extension of services to the poor and drive of prices to households. In the case of the electricity industry, for instance, the proposed introduction of competition is expected to raise the cost of electricity to households by at least 22 per cent.

Given the massive needs of our communities for electricity, water and transport, restructuring of state enterprises should not lead to large-scale job losses. But it appears that many in government still equate transformation with downsizing, irrespective of social needs. In this regard we need to prepare ourselves for battle. We remind Congress that despite frequent assertions that jobs won`t be lost, we have seen the opposite occurring to the detriment of workers, communities and service delivery.

Congress must emphasise that we have always seen state-owned assets as assets held in trust on behalf of the people, with a goal of advancing public interest, particularly improvement of people`s quality of life, job creation and provision of quality service and leading economic development in some of the sectors.

Further, we must guard against the downsizing of the public service to meet budget deficit targets. South Africa needs a large enough public service to make a dent on the social deficit inherited from apartheid. Of course the public service needs to be transformed – but in ways that ensure the extension of services to all our communities, not just a one-size fit all strategy to cut down public service employment. The reality is that the South African public service needs to be expanded in critical areas such as education, health and safety and security. Indeed, these services make up three quarters of all public service employment, and efforts to cut them will certainly undermine long-term development.

A final challenge lies in the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which poses a threat to all of us. It is estimated that four million people in South Africa are living with this disease. Without doubt, it will impact negatively on the development of our society and destabilise the family unit, especially the working class. It has economic, social and public health dimensions, and requires concerted and coherent action.

The unavailability of treatment as well as the lack of access to affordable drugs by the poor aggravates the situation. Companies should not be allowed to profit at the expense of the victims of this disease. For this reason, the action against pharmaceutical companies to reduce drug prices must be intensified.

At the same time government`s unwillingness to provide anti-retrovirals, particularly to prevent mother-to-child transmission, is unfortunate. Concerns around cost are understandable but often exaggerated. In any case, they cannot be used to deny treatment for the millions of victims. This is tantamount to condemning HIV/AIDS victims to early deaths. We need to put the current controversies behind us and develop strategies to obtain cheap drugs, either through hard negotiations with producers or through parallel importation of generics and compulsory licensing. Further we must work with government and employers to ensure better management of the disease at the work places and to combat discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS.

The current public debate on the causal link between HIV and AIDS is confusing. For COSATU the link between HIV and AIDS is irrefutable, and any other approach is unscientific and, unfortunately, likely to confuse people. As a result, it can undermine the message that all South Africans must take precautions to avoid infection. We do accept that poverty aggravates the situation and creates favourable conditions for the disease to spread. Strategies to deal with this disease must tackle both the scientific and the social causes.

Finally, let us consider the role of the Alliance and COSATU.

Over the last three years, COSATU pointed to the fact that the Alliance has not been functioning as well as we would like. It is important to reiterate why the Alliance is still strategically important. Collectively, it represents a broad section of the South African population and led the forces that fought against apartheid. The ANC`s accession to state power is an important ingredient in the revolutionary transformation of our society. The Alliance therefore represents an important force for social transformation. This does not seek to suppress critical debates about the Alliance. However, in my view, the discussion should be about how to strengthen the Alliance and make sure that it works properly.

It is within this context that we should locate the recent alliance 10-a-side. We see this meeting as important in addressing the problems that have surrounded the alliance. The meeting laid the foundation for constructive engagement. For our part, we hope that this positive spirit is not inspired only by the forthcoming local government elections but rather by a genuine commitment to make the alliance work. No agreement has been reached on substantive issues, but a task team has been put in place to thrash out the difficult questions.

As workers we have further noted and resolved, as a sequel to many hard debates, that for thoroughgoing democracy and reconstruction of our country`s people to succeed, no individual Alliance partner can go it alone. The global and local environment is too hostile.

That does not mean we cannot demand improvements in the operation of the Alliance. We can define the conditions that would mean the alliance is working – that is, first, the Alliance must give strategic guidance to government policies; and second it must meet regularly. For these conditions to be met, the power to drive the state must be located in the ANC, not the Executive or the bureaucracy. The evolution of policies and legislation should be driven from that point and not from a few unelected officials sitting somewhere in a government department, blocking inputs from mass organisations. For this reason, Congress must support the decision to establish an ANC policy institute. Moreover, an Alliance programme for transformation should be adopted to implement the RDP in the current context.

At the same time we need to re-cultivate the culture of robust debate within our movement. COSATU and its members remain unhappy about recent developments, in which open debates and intra-organisational dissent is seen in certain quarters as counter revolutionary. We see this as a departure from the traditions of dynamic debate, intellectual interaction and democratic principles that have characterised our existence in the Alliance.

All of these circumstances underlie the serious organisational challenges that we face, which are rooted in massive job losses and the resulting shrinkage in resources. This will obviously lead to a situation where we become unable to service our remaining members.

Despite being pounded by job losses COSATU remains resilient and in some areas we have seen visible growth. We are far bigger than at our founding Congress, and have managed to grow in the past three years even as formal employment dropped 10 per cent. Our leadership is cohesive and guiding our organisation at the national, regional, local and affiliate level. So those who argue that we have been irrevocably weakened by job losses and loss of leadership are indulging in wishful thinking.

COSATU is one of the most vibrant and better-organised forces in civil society. When we speak, we speak not only on behalf of our members but also of their families and their communities. We are not narrowly concerned with the selfish interest of workers, as anyone who cares to read our documents will see. COSATU is in no way an elite, as some claim; rather, we represent the poor majority. The real elite is the tiny rich section of our society that controls far too much of our country`s wealth and incomes.

While we are organisationally stronger than ever before, we should not shy away from discussing our weaknesses. These include uneven capacity of our affiliates, which necessitate that we expedite the process of building stronger super-unions. Furthermore, The poaching battles between affiliates are a drain on our energies and a source of inter-union rivalry. Finally, the standards of service in some of our unions leave much to be desired. Members will be frustrated and join other COSATU unions or rival unions if standards of service do not improve.

At the same time we need to make the slogan “An Injury to One- is an Injury to All” a living reality by ensuring solidarity between our unions. The stronger unions must support the weaker unions so that all our affiliates are strong.

Further, we need to build the unity of the working class by drawing the other trade union federation closer through actual struggles and collective work in Nedlac. By the time of the 8th Congress me must report back on concrete steps to realise the vision of One-Country One Federation, One-Industry One Union.

Beyond these internal issues, we need to take stock of the activities and decisions of our investment companies. As I have expressed in the past, these institutions cannot be left unguided and uncontrolled as a law unto themselves. There is a serious danger that they will depart from their original mandate to build workers` social capital, and end up enriching a few. In some case investment companies have led to unions pursuing a twin track strategy with no clear priority. Situations have arisen where a union has to defends members` jobs against outsourcing and privatisation, while at the same time its investment company is bidding for some of the assets involved. This situation cannot be left to continue unchallenged.

I hope that I have addressed all the relevant and pertinent issues confronting this Congress. I am sure that the Secretariat Report and the discussions that are bound to flow from this congress will fill any gaps.

Let me take this opportunity to welcome all of you especially the new unions. I also want to wish the Olympic Team all the best!

I now officially declare the Congress open.

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