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Shopsteward Volume 23 No. 3

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  |  COSATU Press Statements

COSATU’s End-of-Year Statement for 2012

21 December 2012

We are at the end of a year that none of us will forget, full of memorable events – the SACP and COSATU Congresses, the ANC policy and elective Conferences, the ANC’s centenary, the launch of CorruptionWatch, the visit of Former President Lula of Brazil, and our move into our magnificent new headquarters.

2012 was also the year of explosive strikes - by truck drivers, Post Office casuals, mine workers at, among others, Impala, Lonmin, Angloplats, Goldfields and Xstrata, and finally Western Cape farm workers. The exceptional feature of all these strikes has been their spontaneity and ferocity, which has confronted the trade union movement, and society as a whole, with huge challenges.

We have for the past few years being talking of ticking time bombs, as an inevitable product of a society riven by a crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality, outrageous levels of corruption, ruthless exploitation of workers by labour brokers and our two-tier levels of service in education, healthcare and transport.

Millions of South Africans, in the most unequal society on earth, have had enough of being left on the margins of society, exploited by ruthless employers and forced to struggle every day to put food on the family’s table. They demand that the promise of the Freedom Charter that “the people shall share in the South Africa’s wealth” must be made real. And they are absolutely right. That has been the biggest challenge we face in 2012 and will remain so in 2013 and beyond.

2nd Phase of the Transition

COSATU fully understands the workers’ anger and frustration. That is why our National Congress directed us to submit a Section 77 Notice to mobilise our members and the people, and further engage with the new ANC leadership, on demands for a radical policy shift, including:

  • A radical economic shift, with specific commitments to align macro-economic policies, and all institutions of state, to the agenda of promoting decent work;
  • Interventions to scale up the state`s role in strategic sectors of the economy;
  • Changes in strategic ministries, Treasury, SARB and key SOEs and DFIs, and that their mandates be changed accordingly;
  • A coherent labour market, wages and incomes policy, including a legislated national minimum wage, linked to a minimum living level, and comprehensive collective bargaining;
  • Social protection measures, including a grant for the unemployed;
  • Special intervention programmes to address crisis situations, in public health and education, and other areas of service delivery;
  • An Alliance protocol on governance to ensure effective implementation of ANC and Alliance policies, co-ordination with the work of government, and a co-ordinating mechanism between the President, ANC, SACP and COSATU, to ensure a structured forum to deal with issues of governance.

These policies should be the foundation of the ANC’s 2nd Phase of the Transition, a coherent package of economic policies explicitly aimed at redistributing income, radically raising incomes of the working poor, and reducing inequality.

The 2nd Phase of the Transition draws parallel with the Brazil experience where former President of Brazil, Lula da Silva, faced very similar problems South Africa is facing today: unemployment, poverty and inequality, but in his second term achieved real improvements on all these fronts, raising minimum wages and introducing social security, providing cheap loans for emerging small businesses, etc. These not only made a Brazil a less unequal society but led to faster economic growth, more sustainable new jobs and lower inflation.

COSATU will engage the new ANC leadership with a view of ensuring that the second phase of transition produces conditions which can produce these results.

Lessons of the strikes

If we fail to win this fight against unemployment, poverty and inequality in South Africa, the workers involved in this year’s waves of spontaneous strikes are giving us a clear warning of the serious consequences for the country. Millions of the poor and marginalised are losing patience and have begun their own militant fight against poverty, unemployment and inequality and for economic transformation.

That is why Congress called for a mindset change in COSATU, with greater focus on the expectations of our members at the workplace, fighting for greater job protection and living wages, greater solidarity and unity in action, making leadership more visible and interactive, and communicating more effectively with our members.

We have launched a campaign to listen to all the workers, particularly the most vulnerable, at workplace and community meetings, and will do everything possible to recruit the unorganised workers into the unions and create a more united, militant and powerful workers’ controlled trade unions.

We shall continue to struggle against splinter unions, which will only please the worst employers, who will see worker disunity as the opportunity to play ‘divide and rule’ and keep their employees under their thumb.

We shall be holding a crucial Collective Bargaining, Organising and Campaigns Conference in March 2013, to discuss recruitment strategies and targets, servicing of members, closing wage gaps and raising minimum wages, collective bargaining strategies, job evaluation and grading, issues of social security, strategies for successful strikes, a critique of strike laws and building effective solidarity.

Labour brokers

One of the highlights of 2012 was the massive demonstrations on 7 March demanding the total banning of labour brokers and against e-tolls. Yet, scandalously, after three years of discussion, the government is still stalling on legislating a total ban on labour brokering, this modern-day form of human trafficking. The campaign to get it scrapped will be a top priority for 2013.

Alliance

We congratulate the ANC on its successful conference and the newly elected leadership. We also congratulate the four trade union leaders elected to the NEC – COSATU President Sidumo Dlamini, NUM President Senzeni Zokwana, NEHAWU General Secretary Fikile ‘Slovo’ Majola and COSATU Free State Provincial Secretary Sam Mashinini. We wish them success and commit ourselves to work together to drive forward the national democratic revolution and implementation of the Freedom Charter.

We are going to make an assessment of the ANC conference to determine if it has helped us give the necessary content to the 2nd phase of the transformation. A fuller statement will be issued when we have studied all the resolutions.

COSATU has continued to engage regularly with our allies and has repeatedly recommitted itself to defending and strengthening the alliance. The federation was therefore concerned at comments made in the Organisational Report to the Mangaung Conference, suggesting that COSATU is becoming “ill-disciplined”, that it “tends to get so angry that it becomes reckless with its pronouncements”, and that it “often articulates its views in a way similar to opposition parties”.

None of this is true and in particular we vehemently refute the statement that “COSATU is the only alliance partner that from time to time sees the democratic government as worse or the same as the apartheid regime”. COSATU has never made any such comment and never will.

The issues on which there have been disagreements would have been handled much better if the alliance was working with tighter co-ordination mechanisms that allow meaningful consultation. Partners would then have less reason to react to government policies in public. We have already once again made proposals on how the alliance can improve its coordination.

COSATU will be discussing all these issues within its structures and is keen to have an internal discussion with the ANC and address whatever concerns they have.

Corruption

The launch of CorruptionWatch was a milestone in the battle against this social curse. In Transparency International’s corruption perception index for 2012 South Africa now ranks 69th out of 176 countries. This index measures perceived levels of corruption in the public sector, bribery, the abuse of public resources, secrecy in decision making, anti-corruption laws and conflicts of interest, but there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the perceptions are based on reality.

As Corruption Watch executive director, David Lewis, says: “the results are not surprising, as the survey echoes what we hear in the thousands of reports from ordinary people confronting corruption daily".

The overwhelming majority of our public representatives and officials are honest and hard working but their work is undermined by the few rotten apples who are growing more powerful and prepared to bribe, threaten and kill to defend their ill-gotten gains.

We welcome the ANC Conference decision to set an Integrity Committee and the Government’s establishment of institutions to probe corruption, and especially the President’s frank admission that one area of vulnerability in government is the tender system, which COSATU strongly believes should be replaced wherever possible by the public authorities’ own staff doing work currently put out to tender.

E-tolls

The fight against e-tolling and the commodification of our highways goes on! We oppose the concept of ‘user-pays’ for what should be basic public services. That is why we support the NHI and the roll-out of free education.

The campaign of mass action which began with marches in Johannesburg and Pretoria and the highly successful slow-drive campaign on the highways will continue and be intensified. We urge motorists not to register with Sanral or buy e-tags, and to make the system unworkable.

Limpopo textbooks

The scandal of the year was the late delivery of text books to Limpopo public schools. Without the dogged determination of the NGO, Section 27, they might well not have been delivered at all.

This episode was symptomatic of the continuing existence of a two-tier education system, a symptom of the wider inequalities referred to above. It provides first-class education for the children of the rich minority, and, despite the heroic work by our teachers, a third-class, under-resourced service for the children of the poor majority.

The Protection of State Information Bill (POSIB)

The federation’s engagement with the ANC on this legislation confirms what we stated earlier about the value of engagement through the alliance before laws are passed. The original version of the Bill would, if passed unamended, have been a serious attack on every South African’s constitutional rights.

As a result of engagements major improvements were negotiated with ANC members of both Houses of Parliament. We have referred the current draft to our lawyers for advice.

Our interests are simple and clear - the Act must never be used to classify information which exposes corruption or other crime as ‘secret’, or which criminalises whistle-blowers who reveal such information.

International Solidarity

COSATU has continued to campaign in solidarity with workers and oppressed people’s throughout the world. This year’s highlight was our involvement in the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, whose hearings led it to conclude that the Israeli regime’s policies towards the people of Palestine are a crime against humanity on a par with the policies of apartheid South Africa.

COSATU will continue its campaign of solidarity and support for the Palestine people’s justified struggle for national sovereignty and the withdrawal of Israel from illegally occupied Palestinian territories.

We applaud the decisions of the United Nations to grant full recognition to “The State of Palestine” and the ANC Conference to support the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) Campaign against the Israeli regime.

The federation’s campaign of support for the struggle against the corrupt monarchist dictatorship of Swaziland and for democracy and human rights has continued. We have warmly welcomed the launch of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland and attended their protest marches in April 2012. We hope that the new federation will be able to unite the workers and give a strong lead to the pro-democracy movement.

We congratulate Comrade Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on her election as Chairperson of the African Union, the first woman ever to hold that office, and a great honour for her and South Africa.

In memoriam

We once more lower our banners for all the victims of violence when 34 workers died within minutes at Marikana on 16 August, and many others were murdered by forces of darkness in senseless worker-on-worker violence. As we bid 2012 goodbye we call on all workers to unite against their real enemies who exploit them daily and not against one another. There can be no membership of any union worth a life of anyone. Our deepest condolences go to all families of mine workers who are going through a dark festive season having lost breadwinners.

This year has also seen the sad loss of too many of our comrades, including trade union stalwarts - Xolile `Boss` Nxu of SAMWU and Danny Oliphant of NUMSA, towering legal and academic leaders - Arthur Chaskalson and Jakes Gerwel, renowned photographer - Alf Khumalo and assistant Bafana Bafana coach - Thomas Madigage.

We also mourned the passing of SACTWU Branch Organiser, Maria Davia Monaheng, and Tselane Adeline Lipali, a SACTWU shop steward and also Provincial Treasurer of COSATU’s Free State Province, who lost their lives when their car crashed into a truck on the N1, and three YCL leaders, Maria Kebarutile Mochaka and Chemist Khumalo who died on their way to the funeral of the YCLSA deputy national secretary, Mike Mokhutshane.

We must also remember the hundreds involved in fatal accidents at work, the worst being the 20 farm workers who died when the lorry in which they were being taken to work was hit by a train in Mpumalanga.

Sport

We salute the nation’s 2012 sporting heroes – the athletes who won 3 gold medals, 2 silver and one bronze at the Olympic Games and the heroes and heroines of the Paralympics who won 8 gold medals, 12 silver and 9 bronze.

The Springboks had a clean sweep in their recent European tour and the Proteas remain the world Number One Test Cricket team. Let us now all get behind Bafana

Bafana as they seek glory in the African Cup of Nations next year.

It is sad however that our sporting achievements have been tarnished by scandals of improper bonuses in Cricket SA and serious match-fixing allegations against SAFA.

Matric

COSATU sends its best wishes to all the students waiting for their Matric results. To those who will be successful we wish them good luck in their endeavours for further development and knowledge acquisition. To the unsuccessful students, it is not the end of the world; we urge them to take advantage of the existing support mechanism and we encourage relevant government departments and institutions of higher learning to provide the necessary assistance

COSATU wishes all South African a happy and restful holiday, but urges them to buy Proudly South African presents for the loved ones, to remember the HIV and Aids prevention message – Abstain, Be faithful, Condomise - and to obey the rules of the road and help us bring down the number of tragic deaths on our roads.

And finally, we send our best wishes to our beloved struggle icon, Madiba, for a full recovery and many more years to inspire us to follow his example of unselfish commitment to the liberation struggle.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street
Braamfontein
2017

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 or Direct: +27 10 219-1339
Mobile: +27 82 821 7456
E-Mail: patrick@cosatu.org.za

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