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COSATU Today  |  COSATU Speeches

Address by COSATU President at the Alliance Summit held from 30th - 1st September 2013, St Georges Hotel, and Centurion

The President of the ANC comrade Jacob Zuma and the entire leadership of the ANC The General Secretary of the SACP comrade Blade Nzimande and the entire leadership of the SACP The President of SANCO comrade Ruth Bhengu and the entire leadership of SANCO present here today The leadership of all leagues and the student movement present here today

We want to declare right from the onset that as COSATU we come to this Summit preoccupied with one intention, which is to find answers and solutions to the challenges facing our country and to generate practical ideas on how we strengthen the Alliance to execute its task of deepening and advancing our common objectives to achieve total liberation for blacks in general and Africans in particular.

We want this summit to desist from generating hopes full of air and not real commitments, which by one shivering finger from capital in the name of investors and one single press statement from the opposition may bubble out and be blown out into thin air living our people in despair.

The success of this Summit must not be measured by how much we are able to convince each other about this or that policy position, instead its success must be judged by its ability to provide real and practical solutions for the most marginalised people of our country.

This Summit must speak to the aspirations of the rural masses that still remain at the margin of economic activity, who are still faced with limited access to education and skills training, which further contributes to a life of poverty. It must be about youth who leave in despair because despite having finished a degree, they still cannot get a job. It must provide practical answers to the aspirations of the worker who despite having worked many years and produce wealth but can never access such wealth in his or her lifetime.

This Summit must give hope and clarity on the possibilities which exist for those who wake up in the morning to look for jobs and those who have even lost hope of finding a job that sooner rather than later, they too will get employment.

We must use this Summit to provide practical answers to our people who despite progress in the building of houses, in education, in health but still remain packed in shacks which get burned at any time or remain subjected to possibilities of evictions from their township four roomed house because the laws of the land have not given them any claim of ownership to the land.

This is what the 2008 January 8th statement meant when it said that "the task we face is to reconnect with and rebuild the mass movement and to close the gap that has emerged within the Alliance and between the Alliance and the State". This Summit must spend time on how we can practically rise to the challenge posed by this 2008 January 8th statement "to close the gap that has emerged within the Alliance and between the Alliance and the State". If the Alliance was once defined in the Morogoro as the "fighting Alliance" why should it not now, be defined in practice as the governing alliance?

It will become even more important to elevate the importance of the masses as we celebrate 30 years since the UDF was launched in 1983 that became a bulwark of our struggle which in concert with the ANC in exile at the time directed a people`s war against the Apartheid regime and implemented in practice mass mobilisation of all the motive forces inside the country leading to Apartheid`s regime`s ultimate political liquidation in the 1994 breakthrough.

UDF was actually a movement predicated on the notion that the transfer of political power to the representatives of the majority is a precondition for the realisation of basic economic demands such as decent shelter, cheap transport, proper health care, adequate education, the right to occupy land and the right to a decent and steady income[1].

It is the UDF which gave life to the theory of the mass line, it defined in practice the concept of people`s power, mobilised the masses behind a common and inspiring battle cry for the transfer of power to the people and through struggles which promised and in some occasions delivered real tangible gains helped to re-instil the mass based character of our movement.

As a tribute to the UDF this Summit should ask if as the Alliance we remain people centred and people driven or we get locked into conference rooms, take decisions and after that go to sleep having forgotten about all the commitments we made in the meeting. In the spirit of celebrating 30 years since the formation of the UDF this Summit should ask if we have not over time replaced mass power with over reliance on state power.

Comrades, we come to this Alliance Summit with high hopes that its outcomes will inspire our people and give answers to those workers who are currently on strike.

As we speak the NUM, NUMSA, SATAWU, POPCRU and very soon SAMWU will be joining them in the streets to demand that which belongs to the workers. This Summit must connect to these , it must speak to the aspirations of the rock drill operators in the gold and platinum mines , to those workers at ESKOM ,to the metal workers in the smelters and all over the country , to the construction workers , the transport workers who drive trucks , trains , taxis and buses , to the municipal workers who provide our services , who continue to be subjected to perpetual exploitation. This Summit must say to these workers the revolutionary Alliance is with you and will work with you to put pressure on employers to accede to your demands.

We want this Summit to give hope, clarity and assurance to our people that the dream articulated in the Freedom Charter that the people shall share in the country`s wealth is a closer reality which does not belong to a few who continue to enjoy it in the name of Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment which has not benefited the majority of our people.

Comrades we want to clarify that we do not come to this summit as people who cannot see what has been achieved but we come here walking with our heads up on the achievements of this glorious movement .We also come here with a burden of anxiety about our collective tasks on the work which still need to be undertaken.

We have come to this Summit as this generation of leaders carrying a heavy burden on our shoulders to answer the proverbial question posed by comrade Lenin many years ago on "what is to be done?".

In our view this Summit must achieve the following: (a) Unite our efforts strategically to achieve the strategic objectives which unites us and not to force in each other`s throats policy proposals which have been defeated in our own internal processes as the alliance such as the Youth wage Subsidy. Non amongst us in this hall can make a claim of possessing wisdom on the precise path which must be taken because none has travelled it before. So our collective wisdom must be valued and we all should respect each other`s views. (b) This Summit must generate practical proposals on how we should build our respective organisational structures and instil a sense of revolutionary responsibility to one another that if one Alliance Partner is weak , that is a costly weakness for the revolution as a whole and it is a weakness for all of us which we must confront collectively (c) This Summit must give answers on how we should re-build a broader mass democratic movement and Mobilise popular forces behind an inspiring programme (d) This Summit must creating a platform which will constitute the bases of unity in the alliance based on what should be the content of the radical phase of transition to which all alliance partners have resolved to pursue (e) This Summit must reclaim the credibility and relevance of the Alliance in the Society and make sure that the decisions taken here are binding for all of us. No Alliance partner must have an exclusive right to convene its constitutional structures which will have powers to veto decisions taken in this Summit which actually all revolutionaries and cadres of our movement must consider as the highest decision making organ of our revolution in between the congresses of each alliance partner. This also applies to government departments that no government department and bureaucrats (in particular the National treasury) must think for a moment that they have a right to misinterpret, negate, undermine or openly refuse to implement the programme which will emerge from this Summit and instead develop their own policy proposals which are not a product of democratic processes of our movement.

We call on this Summit to defend the integrity of the Alliance. Decisions taken here must be owned and implemented by all of us and ideas generated here must be respected by all of us. If we do not do that, gradually the Alliance will become a body whose importance will only be defined through its past.

As this generation of leaders we have to make the alliance relevant and an important factor in the political life of the movement not to see it as an important factor only at the point of elections, such an attitude will ultimately dampen the moral of the revolutionary forces and force them to break away from our ranks and thereby weaken the people`s camp.

Our engagement here will be based on the progressive positions of the movement in particular the outcomes of the 2008 Alliance Economic Summit, the resolutions from Polokwane and Mangaung ANC National Conferences including all historic Alliance policy positions such as the Freedom Charter as well as the consensus to push ahead with a second phase of transition for radical economic transformation.

In this context we want to reaffirm the perspective of the 2002, Alliance Summit which asserted that "The primary task of this epoch is the creation of a national democratic society. All the classes and strata which share this objective, as well as the schools of thought found in the democratic movement, see this as their current strategic objective. There is one NDR, at the core of which the liberation of black people is in general and Africans in particular. Among these classes and strata, the working class is the leading motive force."

We also want this Summit to reaffirm the resolution of the Alliance Summit held after the Polokwane Conference from the 9th-10th May 2008 and the Statement of the Alliance Political Council held on the 13th October 2009 which reaffirmed that "we seek to strengthen the Alliance as an ANC led strategic political centre that will act together as a revolutionary formation to advance the objectives of the revolution".

In our view there is no contradiction between this Alliance position and the notion of accepting the ANC as the leader of the core of organised forces that drive transformation, represented by the ANC itself, the South African Communist Party (SACP), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African National Civics Organisation (SANCO).

All these organisations remain firmly committed to the creation of a new society based on the principles of the Freedom Charter. The ANC in particular, and the Alliance in general, are the organisational fountain from which ideas, strategies, programmes, conduct and demeanour that should inform the project of fundamental change should emerge.

We further call on this Summit to reaffirm the resolutions of the Alliance Economic Summit, which was convened from the 17th-18th October 2008 which on among others agreed on the (a) restructuring of Cabinet and reconfiguration of government departments (b) Implementation of Decent Work Agenda (c) Macro Economic Policy particular that "decisive action was required to transform the patterns of wealth production and distribution

We come here as Alliance partners clear on our roles as individual formations and a collective. In this context we recall the 2010 ANC -NEC January 8th statement which said that the ANC, as a leader of the revolutionary Alliance, has the historic duty and responsibility to provide direction. The Alliance partners, on the other hand, have the responsibility to support the ANC in this role. They must also work to ensure that the ANC remains strong and united in order to fulfil its leadership responsibilities.

On the role of each alliance partner the 2008 January 8th statement defined SANCO as a dynamic civic movement that leads the struggle of communities for a better life for all.

The 2011 January 8th statement said that the Alliance has always been at the forefront of exercising people`s power and each component has a historic role and mission within the Alliance.

It said that the revolutionary trade union movement and the ANC continue to work together, with the ANC playing its historical role as the shield and the trade union movement as the spear, as pronounced by the President-General of the ANC, Chief Albert Luthuli.

In defining our role it specifically said that the two organisations plus the SACP must continue to act in unison to defend and advance the interests of workers and the poor. The SACP, the vanguard of the working class, has always provided robust and profound intellectual and ideological debate to the Alliance.

The ANC as the leader of the Alliance has the responsibility of providing revolutionary support to the Alliance components. The SACP and COSATU have a responsibility to strengthen and defend the ANC. These responsibilities must be executed within the established and time tested culture and discipline of our movement.

The most effective and concrete way of building the ANC-led Alliance is through a common programme of action based on our shared strategic objectives. The programme of action must be implemented at all levels of organisations of the Alliance. It is this Alliance Programme of Action which provides the line of march for every cadre of the Alliance.

We remain inspired by the 2011 January 8th statement which said that "we have to live the promise of the Freedom Charter, which states amongst others, that all our people will share in the wealth of the country. Political emancipation without economic transformation is meaningless. That is why we have to commit ourselves to economic freedom in our lifetime, and the ANC must continue to be in the forefront of that transformation".

The 2012 Mangaung conference declared that "we are boldly entering the second phase of the transition from apartheid colonialism to a national democratic society. This phase will be characterised by decisive action to effect economic transformation and democratic consolidation, critical both to improve the quality of life of all South Africans and to promote nation-building and social cohesion".

Comrades, if there is so much clarity about the roles of each alliance partner and the common programme we should pursue as an Alliance what explains the reason behind the failure to implement the resolutions of our previous Alliance Economic Summits and all our progressive policies.

In the last Alliance Economic Summit we agreed that the Alliance, working closely with our colleagues in government, should set up a task group to receive reports and to assess the effectiveness of our macro-economic policies in the face of the global crisis, and to evaluate possible measures to ensure a relatively stable and competitive currency. This resolution was never taken forward.

That Economic Summit also agreed that the activities of all government departments, parastatals and DFIs, should be reviewed to ensure more purposeful achievement of decent work outcomes. This resolution has again not been implemented.

The previous economic Summit said that exchange rates and interest rates need to be calibrated to take account of industrial policy imperatives. This will require, among others, a discussion on the mandate and practices of the SARB to include considerations of employment and economic growth in addition to the mandate on price stability. We have not seen an Alliance coordinated process to implement this resolution!

In that Summit we said that the Competition Act should be amended to make considerations of decent work an explicit goal of the competition authorities. We have not seen any Alliance coordinated review of the Competition Act.

The Summit agreed that DFIs, like the DBSA, Land Bank and National Housing Finance Corporation, have an important role to play in development, though the private financial institutions also need to be involved in development. The Summit demanded the urgent implementation of the Resolution of the Growth and Development Summit that 5% of the entire financial sector`s investible assets should be invested in socially beneficial projects.

It was agreed that there should be a National DFI Council, to co-ordinate better the different Development Finance Institutions and avoid overlaps and streamline them so that each has a specific strategic area for investment. We will wait to get a report in this Summit on how far these resolutions have been implemented but we have not seen any alliance driven process to this effect.

Comrades we are concern that these are pointers to the fact that unlike the pre - Polokwane period where the alliance nearly collapsed, currently the Alliance appears to be acknowledged on paper but in practice it remains a disturbance or an albatross which should be removed as soon as elections are over.

As part of our positive approach to this Summit which focuses on finding solutions rather than lamenting we will propose that the Summit should resolve to institutionalise the Alliance driven monitoring and evaluation in the implementation of Alliance Summit resolutions.

Part of the discussion which will also take place in this Summit will be on the NDP. We want to state that the NDP is a departure from the 2011 January 8th statement which said that "we have to live the promise of the Freedom Charter, which states amongst others, that all our people will share in the wealth of the country. Political emancipation without economic transformation is meaningless. That is why we have to commit ourselves to economic freedom in our lifetime, and the ANC must continue to be in the forefront of that transformation".

The NDP in its current form and content does not take forward the spirit of 2012 Mangaung conference which declared that "we are boldly entering the second phase of the transition from apartheid colonialism to a national democratic society. This phase will be characterised by decisive action to effect economic transformation and democratic consolidation, critical both to improve the quality of life of all South Africans and to promote nation-building and social cohesion".

Neither does the NDP move closer to the 2008 Alliance Economic Summit which on among others agreed that decisive action was required to transform the patterns of wealth production and distribution. There is nothing decisive in the NDP towards the realisation of the Freedom Charter instead the decisiveness remains in favour of capital

In this context we will argue in this Summit that the National Development in its current form does not even move closer to transforming the patterns of wealth production and distribution in our country.

Whilst we accept the NDP as a move to build the strategic, organizational and technical capacities of government with a view to a democratic developmental state but the NDP, especially in relation to its economic and labour market analysis and proposals, not only fails to advance a radical economic shift, but actually threatens to reverse certain progressive advances made by the ANC and government over the last few years.

We will argue in this Summit that no national development plan can succeed without an appropriate economic strategy, which must form the core, and the base, on which any plan rests.

Some proposals of the NDP are positive. However the success of even these, hinge on the appropriate economic strategy being adopted.

It is for this reason that we call on the Summit to resolve that an Alliance team be set under the guidance of the Alliance Political Council and the Alliance Secretariat to oversee the redrafting and fundamental overhaul of the political orientation of the NDP, the core economic chapter of the Plan, and any other aspects of the NDP in conflict with Alliance policies, or that undermines the radical economic shift which we all agree must form the main content of this phase of our transition. This redrafting should be based on agreed Alliance positions.

Comrades we should learn from our own history particularly with regard to how Gear got introduced and imposed on us and the rapture such an action created within our ranks.

We should learn from other revolutions particularly from how Chile`s revolution got disarmed. Just to quote from what General Secretary of the Social Party of Chile comrade Carlos Altamirano said at the time that "we do not believe the middle strata can be bought with flattery, with promises of a living standard that is often impossible to maintain in our impoverished country, or with legislation to provide them with special benefits. Historically the middle strata have sided with the victorious class. It is the strength and energy of the popular government that will either draw them to us or throw them into the arms of reaction." [2]

We also want to warn that it is dangerous to think that we will only derive power from the legality that put our government in office; such an approach may as well just become the very source of weakness for the whole revolutionary process. We agree that State power is important but it must never replace mass power instead we need to continuously buttress it with mass power mobilised by us and no other force.

The NDP must not be elevated to a position of being an overarching programme but must be subjected and be seen as an element of the National Democratic revolution. We must be guided by the knowledge that "in all social processes, and especially revolutionary ones, there is constant interaction between the opposing forces; one sector`s errors spur the energies and firmness of the antagonist, tactical weaknesses end up as strategic weakness, and theoretically fallacious programme leads inevitably to its defeat in practice".[3]

This Summit must prioritise the strategic unity of the people`s camp and the revolutionary forces above everything else!

Amandla!

________________________________________
[1] The United Democratic Front And Township Revolt South Africa,
Mark Swilling
[2] The revolution disarmed , Chile 1970 - 1973, Gabriel Smirnow,pp25
[3] ibid

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