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Shopsteward Volume 23 No. 4

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  |  COSATU Speeches

Address by ANC President, Comrade President Jacob Zuma, at the COSATU National Conference

17 September 2012

President of COSATU,
Comrade S`dumo Dlamini;
General Secretary of COSATU,
Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi;
Vice Presidents of COSATU;
General Secretary of the SACP,
Comrade Blade Nzimande;
ANC National Executive Committee members here present;
COSATU National Office Bearers and Members of the Central Committee;
Comrades delegates;

I bring you warm and revolutionary greetings from the National Executive Committee of the ANC and the membership on this historic occasion of the 11th National Congress of COSATU. COSATU marks 27 years of existence this year.

The formation of COSATU was a victory and a major milestone, not only for the workers, but for the entire democratic movement in South Africa.

Today we are reminded of the critical role that the workers of our country have played in the struggle for liberation.

We are also reaffirming the importance and centrality of the ANC Alliance in advancing the national democratic revolution. Chief Albert Luthuli referred to our unique alliance through an analogy that said that the ANC was the shield and the trade union movement, the spear.

President Oliver Tambo made his timeless remark in his speech at the 60th anniversary celebration of the South African Communist Party.

He said; “Ours is not merely a paper alliance, created at conference tables and formalised through the signing of documents and representing only an agreement of leaders.

“Our alliance is a living organism that has grown out of struggle’’.

It is a special relationship that grows stronger and deeper when we face challenges, enabling us to confront them together and emerge victorious at all times.

On this special occasion, and also given that we are marking the centenary of the ANC; allow me to pay a special tribute to the working class leaders in our history.

We salute Elijah Barayi, Chris Dlamini, John Gomomo, Jay Naidoo, Oscar Mpetha, Ray Simons, Moses Mabhida, Moses Kotane, Raymond Mhlaba, Govan Mbeki, Edwin Mofutsanyane, Dan Tloome, John Nkadimeng and many others.

They served workers and the mass democratic movement with distinction, and serve as an inspiration as we join COSATU today for this important congress.

Comrades,

This Congress provides an opportunity to reflect on the achievements as well as the socio-economic challenges facing our country. We have made substantial progress since 1994, after inheriting a dysfunctional State and gross underdevelopment of the black majority.

In 1994, the ANC government began transforming the State through creating new institutions and building a democratic society, based on the principles of non-racialism and non-sexism.

During the first ten years of democracy, 789 laws or amendments were passed, which removed the apartheid legal machinery to institute new progressive laws for a democratic era to reconfigure society.

The dismantling of the legal framework of apartheid and the transformation of many state institutions has led to the visible improvement of the socio-economic conditions of millions of people.

You will recall comrades that in 2009 the ANC undertook to make a difference in five priorities – education, health, creating decent work, rural development and land reform as well as the fight against crime.

We have made considerable progress, but have at the same time stated that many challenges remain. The triple challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment continues to afflict our people.

The ANC Policy Conference in June re-affirmed that despite major achievements, the structural legacy of Colonialism of a Special Type including patriarchy, remain deeply entrenched.

This is reflected in the colonial, racist and sexist structure and character of our economy and development.

In this regard, we agreed at the policy conference on the need for a radical economic and social transformation programme, in the second phase of our transition from apartheid colonialism to a National Democratic Society.

There are some practical examples which indicate the road we must still travel on economic transformation.

The gross black ownership of South African assets at the Johannesburg Stock Exchange is equivalent to only 6.8 percent.

In addition, the Employment Equity Commission Report of 2012 has reaffirmed the assertion we made at the national policy conference, that whites, especially white males, still dominate the top management positions in the major companies in the country. A shocking finding of the report was that the Western Cape Province is the worst performer in terms of race and gender at nearly every occupational level.

The authorities in the Western Cape need to be assisted to promote non-racialism at all levels to be in line with the country’s mission and vision to build a non-racial society.

Comrades,

Despite the skewed ownership and control of the economy, the global economic situation also makes the situation worse for workers. The high food and petrol prices make workers feel their take home pay does not stretch far enough.

This is exacerbated by the fact that most workers support large extended families due to the high unemployment rate.

Such socio-economic inequalities and realities have come into sharp focus in Marikana in the North West, where more than 40 people tragically lost their lives.

We have extended our condolences to the families of all who lost their lives in the tragedy.

We also offer condolences to the National Union of Mineworkers, which lost shopstewards who were brutally killed during the first week of the illegal strike.

Another NUM shopsteward, Mr. Dumisani Mthinti, was tragically hacked to death in Marikana last week.

Worker rights are enshrined in the Constitution, and there is legislation giving effect to the constitutional provisions.

Employers and employees have the mechanisms to manage relations in the workplace. There is no need to resort to violence. The Judicial Commission of Inquiry will establish the facts around what happened in Marikana.

But there are a few immediate lessons.

Firstly, we have to find a way to restore workplace stability and labour peace. Violence cannot become a culture of our labour relations.

Workers and employers need to use the laws of the land which spell out clearly how to handle disputes between themselves.

Congress will hopefully deliberate on the balance of forces currently and how to strengthen the federation, in the current climate especially in the mining sector.

Comrades,

Given the levels of violence and intimidation in Marikana, government deployed law enforcement agencies to stabilise the situation. This does not take away the rights of miners and residents to protest, peacefully and unarmed, as provided for in the laws of the land. The agencies have been told to be firm, but to respect the rights of residents and strikers.

This applies not only to labour disputes but also in service delivery protests which are at times also accompanied by violence including the destruction of property.

We appeal to some political party leaders in the country who have been vocal to desist from the irresponsible language of comparing the Marikana law enforcement campaign to apartheid era measures.

They know that what they are saying is not true. They are unashamedly using a tragedy to score political points instead of putting the interests of the workers and the country first.

Comrades,

We also wish to urge the workers and their employers to find solutions to the dispute without further delay, given its ongoing impact on the economy.

Our financial indicators indicate that the total rand value of production lost in the gold and platinum group of mines due to work stoppages over the past nine months is close to 4.5 billion rand.

Losses in the coal sector, adds another 118 million rand to the total.

The National Treasury estimates that through its indirect impact on the economy, the strike actions in addition to other stoppages have subtracted close to 3.1 billion rand already from the national fiscus.

The impact goes beyond the mining sector. The manufacturing sector, especially the Fabricated Metal Products sector is already showing signs of strain.

We cannot afford to go into a recession, and revert to the 2008 and 2009 period where the country lost close to a million jobs, which we are still battling to recover. We wish the employers and workers well as they seek a solution to this wage impasse. Government will continue to provide support to the negotiations, through the Ministry of Labour.

Comrades,

Let me also reiterate our call to employers to implement the provisions of the Mining Charter.

The Charter takes into account the fact that we have had a particular history as a people who emerged from colonial oppression and apartheid.

It is also informed by the fact that the industry itself has had an unfortunate history in terms of the treatment of workers in the more than 100 years of mining in our country.

As a result, companies intending to invest in mining in South Africa must understand that they are, in terms of the law, expected to redress past imbalances in the mining industry.

These past imbalances are related to the failure of the colonial system to invest in the labour force and the local economy and to protect the environment.

Therefore, our legislation requires investors to commit to the Mining Charter, the Social and Labour Plan, and sound environmental management.

Mining companies are required to improve the housing and living conditions of workers and also to invest in skills development, employment equity, ownership as well as local community development.

They have to meet certain targets for the conversion and upgrading of single sex hostels formerly used by migrant labourers into family units or single occupancy accommodation by 2014.

Companies are also expected to facilitate home ownership by 2014. Our monitoring indicates that 50% have complied with the provisions relating to improving living conditions. We applaud those companies that are complying with this provision, to humanise the living conditions of workers.

At the same time, we know that the situation is complex in some instances.

Employers argue that some workers prefer to take a living-out allowance and do not want to use the improved mine accommodation. In that way, the campaign for better living conditions is undermined by the development of informal settlements. Comrades, it is clear that the mining sector needs a lot of discussion in our country.

The transformation of the mining sector will also feature in the ANC national conference in Mangaung in December. Comrades,

The challenges in Marikana and also the protests that arise from time to time, should not deflect attention from the progress that we have made in transforming the country since 1994.

We should not listen to those who are making a career out of rubbishing our country and the gains of our national democratic revolution.

The fact is that the ANC government has reduced the numbers of people experiencing the worst levels of income poverty significantly.

We have achieved the United Nations Millennium Development Goal target of reducing the number of people living on less than one US dollar a day.

Most of the achievements in poverty reduction have been achieved through our comprehensive social protection programme.

To date more than 15 million people receive social grants while others enjoy free access to health care for the poorest. Others receive free basic services to indigent members of our society.

South Africa has also made progress in health care, especially the fight against HIV and AIDs as well as TB.

About 1.7 million people are on treatment following, an increase from 600 000 in 2009.

A total of 20 million people have been tested for HIV since the launch of the testing campaign by the President in April 2011. Our most dramatic success is in the rate of mother to child transmission, which has dropped from 8% in 2008 to 3.5 per cent in 2010 and to 2.7 percent in 2011. We thank health care workers for running this campaign successfully.

We also thank COSATU for consistently being part of the campaign against HIV and AIDS. These successes are our successes jointly as the Alliance and the ANC government.

This year we have started piloting National Health Insurance scheme in 10 districts to lay the ground for improving health care for all especially the poor and workers.

With regards to basic education, the numbers of children attending school are over 95 percent, which means we are close to meeting the universal access goal.

The number of girls attending primary, secondary and tertiary education has also improved significantly which augurs well for gender parity.

We would to urge parents to continue supporting the ANC government by sending children to school. The situation in the Northern Cape is shocking, where parents have for the past four months prevented children from going to school because they want a tarred road.

Government is engaging with the parents to make them see the danger of abusing children in this manner.

To further expand access to education, over eight million children are now in no-fee schools. More than eight million children in more than 20 000 schools receive food at school.

These measures are aimed at reducing the impact of poverty on academic performance.

Work is also ongoing to eradicate mud schools, with 8.2 billion rand having been allocated to the programme. The matric percentage pass rate is on an upward trend and we have to improve the quality of the teaching of maths and science as well as the teaching of literacy and numeracy.

We also continue to improve the functioning of schools, especially the improvement of school management, teacher knowledge and levels of accountability.

The schools must also have the tools of the trade, such as workbooks and textbooks. I know that this matter is close to your hearts as COSATU as you were worried about the failure to deliver textbooks on time in Limpopo and other areas.

The Department of Basic Education has been directed to improve the distribution logistics so that books arrive in schools on time next year.

I will in a few days announce action we are taking regarding the Limpopo textbook debacle. The Presidential Task Team has submitted its report.

There may be difficulties in some provinces in education, which are being attended to, but all in all let us continue working together to improve our education outcomes.

Comrades,

Skills development remains critical in order to improve the performance of the economy and of the country in general.

That is why we have expanded access to higher education through converting loan to bursaries for students from poor households, and making study at Further Education and Training Colleges free for children of the poor.

We need more artisans, engineers and technicians to mention a few.

As workers and parents, we need to encourage our children to consider careers as artisans and technicians. We need more electricians, welders, fitters, plumbers, builders and others.

The National Skills Accord signed by the ANC government with social partners made numerical commitments to increase apprenticeships. That will be most helpful in boosting the country’s skills development plan.

Comrades, the ANC government continues to steadily improve access to basic services as well.

Over two and half million houses have been built for the poor giving shelter to over ten million people.

Six million households have gained access to clean water since 1994 and electricity has been connected to nearly five million homes.

Crime statistics show a decrease in most crimes, including armed robberies, housebreakings and contact crimes.

The fight against corruption requires all of us to play a part. We have to unmask those who divert for their own use, funds aimed at improving the lives of our people.

Between January and the first week of September, I have signed 10 proclamations authorising the Special Investigating Unit to investigate some government departments for maladministration or corruption.

We must unite as the ANC Alliance to deal a blow to corruption which is giving the ANC and its government a bad name.

Comrades

We have not done very well with regards to land restitution. In Polokwane we undertook to redistribute 30 percent of agricultural land. We have only transferred less than 10 percent.

This matter will be discussed and finalised at the national conference in Mangaung, more so given that we are approaching the centenary of the 1913 Land Act.

On creating decent work, we continue to implement the New Growth Path. Our massive infrastructure programme, which is one of the New Growth Path job drivers, has identified 17 strategic infrastructure projects that aim to improve electricity, railways, roads, dams and social infrastructure.

The programme is coordinated by the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission, and is expected to create jobs while improving access to infrastructure in many communities.

There is a lot more that we have achieved as the ANC government in implementing the mandate of the people. As the Alliance we need to acknowledge these achievements and build on them to improve where we still need to do more.

Moving ahead to the national conference in Mangaung, we should re-affirm the gains of Polokwane as agreed in the policy conference.

We reaffirm the Polokwane economic transformation resolution, with the premise that our most effective weapon in the campaign against poverty is the creation of decent work, and creating work requires faster economic growth and to address monopoly domination of the economy.

We acknowledge the contribution of COSATU at the policy conference.At the policy conference we also reflected on the role that South Africa should play to deepen the African agenda and promote Africa’s development.

We wish to remind congress as well that in March next year, South Africa will host the fifth BRICS summit in Durban. COSATU may want to reflect on how the mechanism can be utilised to promote meaningful economic development.

In conflict resolution, the ANC will continue to support a credible inclusive dialogue between Palestine and Israel on the basis of a two state framework.

Comrades at this point, allow me to extend our deepest condolences to the Palestinian people and government on the passing of the Ambassador of Palestine to South Africa over the weekend.

He will be sorely missed by many comrades in the ANC and Alliance.

On Western Sahara, the ANC supports a negotiated settlement with the government of the Kingdom of Morocco under the auspices of the United Nations.

We continue to pledge our solidarity with the government and the people of Cuba and we call for an immediate end to the US embargo on CUBA and support the release of the Cuban five. Comrades and compatriots,

All revolutions reach a point where they face a challenge, where interests begin to diverge in the post-liberation period. It usually happens after the first two decades or so of freedom.

This calls upon us to remain vigilant and united as the Tripartite Alliance, and be ready to defend our revolution with everything at our disposal.

Let me emphasise that the ANC Alliance remains the only truly liberatory force in our country. It is the only force that has the interests of our people at heart.

Let me also reaffirm the character of the ANC, as a disciplined force of the left, with a bias towards the working class and the poor.

Given this orientation of the movement, regardless of its multi-class nature, the working class element should always fight for a bigger space so that it can continuously influence the nature of the organisation.

Therefore, workers in organised unions must swell the ranks of the ANC at all levels, and defend our revolution.

For workers to be able to do so, COSATU must emerge from this congress stronger, united and ready to continue protecting and advancing the interests of workers.

COSATU must be united and ready to continue its role of strengthening and defending the liberation movement as it has done together with the SACP, for decades.

Let me thank you again for the invitation to the ANC to address this congress.

We wish you success and strength in your deliberations over the coming days.

Amandla!

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