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COSATU Today  |  Letters

COSATU CEC message of solidarity to the ANC - wishing ANC happy centenary celebrations

4 January 2012

Dear Comrade President and Secretary General

The Central Executive Committee of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) on behalf of its over 2 million members and all the structures of the federation sends its best wishes to the leadership and membership of the ANC on the occasion of the centenary celebrations. We also send our best wishes not only to the people of South Africa, but also to the peoples of Africa and the world over, as all of us mark this historic milestone.

COSATU is extremely proud to be in alliance with the oldest liberation movement in the African continent. The ANC has been the torchbearer of the African continent, the fountain of hope to millions of the oppressed and exploited masses of our people, a colossal giant whose track record in the struggle is unparalleled anywhere in the world.

The ANC’s roots predate 8 January 1912! This year we are actually celebrating not just the institution called the ANC, because that institution is an organic expression of the collective struggles of our people initially led by their traditional leaders, as they resisted wars against dispossession of land.

We are therefore celebrating a struggle, whose collective experience is embodied in the ANC. The consolidation of those efforts into the ANC in 1912 proved to be one of the most important decisions our forbears made. This helped defeat one of the most potent weapons in the hands of the colonisers – dividing our people in terms of their different languages and cultures.

Today we are also celebrating one of the biggest achievements of the ANC – the triumph over the tribal divisions, regionalism and male chauvinism. We are celebrating the unity of the African people which over years extended to all the oppressed and white democrats who hated oppression and love freedom for all! Even though all of these divisive demons keep on rearing their ugly heads from time to time in our national politics, there can be no doubt that the cohesion and unity we are currently enjoying owes a great deal to the existence of the ANC.

The history of the struggle of the working class is at the heart of the history of the ANC. Similarly, the history of workers’ struggles in South Africa would be extremely incomplete without the leadership role of the ANC. As we celebrate the centenary of the ANC we are bound to recall our history of oppression, enforced segregation, forced removals, police brutality and killings, countless massacres spreading over many decades. We remember our persecution and absolute humiliation.

As workers we remember Nongqawuse and the other countless tricks to force us off our land to go and work in the mines and farms. We remember the hut tax, the dog tax, and we also remember the filthy flee-ridden single-sex hostels and the active promotion of divisions by the employers who collaborated with the minority regime. We recall the humiliating queues of older and younger men standing absolutely naked for inspection by a white madam using a pen to inspect our private parts in the mines.

From protesting against the creation of the Union of South Africa to protests against the imposition of the Land Act of 1913, to the Group Areas Act of 1950, Prevention of Illegal Squatting Act of 1951, Bantu Authorities Act of 1951, Native Laws Amendment Act of 1952, Bantu Education Act of 1953, Reservation of Separate Amenities Act of 1953, Natives Resettlement Act of 1954, Natives (Prohibition of Interdicts) Act of 1956, Extension of University Education Act of 1959, Promotion of Bantu Self-Government Act of 1959, Urban Bantu Councils Act of 1961, and the Bantu Homelands Citizens Act of 1970, all targeted the Black working class in its entirety in order to keep it subservient, super-exploited and subjugated.

It is important to underline the fact that as the working class grew from strength to strength, so did the ANC. Indeed, as the ANC grew from strength to strength, organisationally and ideologically, the working class got increasingly fortified in its struggles. In addition, we should note that the history of this great movement would be extremely incomplete, without the gallant role that was played by the South African Communist Party, which fashioned us with the tools of analysis and provided the much needed light when days were extremely dark.

We are celebrating one of the liberation movements that came to understand that our revolution must defeat three interrelated and antagonistic contradictions - of national oppression, class exploitation and gender oppression. The ANC is only one of very few liberation movements that understands that black people’s oppression was not only based on their colour, but was equally a function of the inherent exploitative nature of the colonial capitalist system. The ANC understood that African women faced triple oppression in their homes, in society and in the workplace. The National Democratic Revolution therefore seeks to resolve the three inter-related contradictions.

The ANC is also one of the very few liberation movements that evolved towards a class perspective; it analysed society from a class perspective and was able to provide a rich dialectical synthesis of the concrete national, class and gender contradictions in its policy and articulations. The ANC did not just declare itself a progressive and left leaning formation. Its policies, actions and articulation reinforced it as a pro-working class and pro-poor anti-imperialist liberation movement.

The rich texture in the balance of class, national and gender perspectives is the rock and cornerstone on which the Alliance rests. The Tripartite Alliance of ANC, SACP and COSATU, with historic relationships with SANCO, do not exist anywhere else in the world. It is unique only to the conditions of the South African revolution.

When we sing “Hamba nathi mkhululi wethu” we mean this literally. The ANC promised to liberate us; the ANC, like a bulldog holding a bone, stuck to that promise with unbelievable tenacity. It may have taken longer than many other African countries; it may have been more costly, with far too many casualties not only in our country but also in the neighbouring countries - Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, etc., but, as the ANC promised, we witnessed the ushering in of political freedom in our lifetime. The 27 April 1994 breakthrough will always be remembered with fond memories not only by South Africans but also by the peoples of the world whose own contributions to our freedom should never be underestimated.

Since that 1994 breakthrough, the ANC has led a new struggle to replace colonialism of a special type and apartheid with a new order as envisioned by the true Congress of the People in 1955, which drafted ten simple demands, starting with the clarion call that:

We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: That South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people…. And we pledge ourselves to strive together, sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.

Today, the majority who were not there in 1955, when these undying words were ushered, are enjoying and making sense of these words of wisdom. Our Constitution is to an extent the realisation of this vision.

Under the leadership of the ANC we have made tremendous strides in building a better life for all South Africans. As we celebrate 100 years of the ANC we shall be celebrating the protection of workers’ rights, not only in the Constitution in a manner no other constitution does anywhere else in the world, but also we shall be celebrating a range of progressive labour laws that have helped in tilting the balance of forces in the workplace to make super-exploitation of workers difficult as part and parcel of addressing one of the three interrelated antagonistic contradictions – class oppression and exploitation.

We shall be celebrating improved healthcare, in particular with the phased-in and progressive introduction of the National Health Insurance. We are particularly pleased to note that 1.4 million South Africans are in government’s ARV programme and 15 million will be tested for HIV by June this year. The aim is to reduce the rate of infections by 50% and get ARV treatment to 80% of those who need it.

We shall be celebrating improved access to education, in particular the near universal access by girl children. We shall be celebrating the fact that 15 million South Africans have a roof above their heads. Millions receive support from government in the form of grants without which they will simply die of starvation.

The victories under the ANC are countless. Our task is to multiply and consolidate these advances. We know that ‘Rome was not built in one day’ and as the ANC itself has said ‘more still needs to be done’.

The biggest challenge we face as we celebrate the centenary is the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequality. With 36% or 7 504 000 people still unemployed, South Africa’s rate of unemployment is higher than any other middle income country that we economically compare with. We know that 73% of all those unemployed are youth and mostly women and Africans! Poverty remains widespread and continues to afflict millions with at least between 40% and 50% of the population living in poverty. We have become the most unequal society in the world, with 50% of the South African population living on 8% of the national income. This means that for every R100 of national income earned, almost 25 million people share just R8 a day.

COSATU agrees with the ANC that we can only overcome these economic challenges if we restructure the economy inherited from our ugly past. We must end its domination by mining, finance and heavy chemicals. We must end ownership and control of strategic sectors of our economy by a handful of people, be they black, white, foreign or domestic.

We must prioritise the expansion of manufacturing industry so that we beneficiate our own resources, using them to add value by turning them into manufactured goods and begin to reach the government’s goal of creating five million decent jobs in the next ten years.

Unless we can embrace radical economic programmes and develop capacity of the state to intervene and drive development we shall not succeed to build a more egalitarian society that does not tolerate poverty and inequality.

To overcome this also means that we must return to our time tested values and principles. Revolutionary morality means consistently and robustly leaving no stone unturned in our 100% and total commitment for total liberation of our people. We need to return back to our value of selflessness and promote integrity and honesty by all members of society particularly leaders of the Alliance. Leaders must be beyond reproach! Unless we perform this task, we shall find it difficult repeat the feats of the past heroes and heroines of the movement.

Whilst welcoming many initiatives to deal with the cancer of corruption, greed and selfishness within our ranks, there can be no doubt that this is one of the biggest challenges of our time. COSATU together with the ANC has been ringing the alarm bells over the national crisis of corruption for many years. This cancer is eating away the heart of our democracy, driven by the capitalist culture of ‘me first’ and ‘get as rich as possible as fast as possible’.

We must, together, defeat the existence in some parts of the political environment engulfed by growing stagnation and degeneration, the take-over of crass materialism in our ranks and society, greed, unbridled fraud and corruption. Together we must defeat ill-discipline, political arrogance and ideological backwardness that is compromising our revolutionary movement. We argue that we must draw a line in the sand on revolutionary morality that no one will cross.

Our task is to defend the space we created for ourselves in the historic 52nd national conference. We will continue to campaign for full implementation of all the resolutions of that conference. We will defend the current leadership collective from those hell bent on putting it on the back foot, undermine its authority and create divisions in the organisation.

Notwithstanding all these and other challenges we face, we remember a movement that led so gallantly for over 100 years. That is why we are celebrating today! We need to declare this coming decade a decade of the revolutionary cadre. The ANC has always adapted to new conditions – like a snake it has always left behind the old and bad looking skin to emerge with new methods that can be applied to new conditions. Our hope is that our generation will recognise that each generation faces its own challenges – our generation must do what the ANC has always done – adapt to new conditions!

Happy birthday to the people’s movement - May you grow stronger and last for another centenary!

Long Live the ANC!
Long Live Nelson Mandela and all our stalwarts!
Long Live the memory of all our heroes and heroines!
Long Live Oliver Tambo and all soldiers of our glorious army Umkhonto we Sizwe

The ANC Lives – The ANC Leads!

President Jacob Zuma and Secretary General Gwede Mantashe
Luthuli House

Yours comradely
Zwelinzima Vavi
General Secretary