Politics

Essence of trade unionism is social uplift – Zingiswa Losi – POLITICS

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COSATU president says the federation must win the battle on behalf of the working class

COSATU President opening address for the 7th Central Committee Meeting

21 September 2021

The President of the Republic, cde. Cyril Ramaphosa,

The leadership of COSATU and its Affiliate Unions,

Leadership of our sister Federations present here,

Leadership of our Alliance Partners, the ANC and the SACP,

Our invited guests from South Africa and internationally,

Delegates of our Affiliates present today,

Most importantly the ordinary members of COSATU and workers across South Africa,

Good morning,

Introductory Remarks

I have the honour on behalf of the leadership of COSATU of welcoming you to this historic Central Committee of your Federation, COSATU.

Before we commence, let us please observe a moment of silence for our fallen comrades.  Since our Congress we have lost many comrades.  These include the General Secretaries of NUM and SAMWU, David Siphunzi and Koena Ramatlou.  It includes 85 000 South Africans including countless members of COSATU. 

In the beginning of the year we paid farewell to Minister Jackson Mthembu, a former MAWU Organiser in Mpumalanga.  Last week we mourned the loss of Deputy Minister, Hlengiwe Mkhize.  And just this Saturday evening, we lost the Mayor of Joburg, Jolidee Matongo.  There are simply too many comrades, friends and relatives we have all lost during this period.

These are no ordinary times.  We are meeting today virtually for the first time as the Central Committee.  This is necessitated due to the pandemic that has claimed the lives of more than 85 000 South Africans and millions more across the world.

2.2 million South African workers lost their jobs at the height of the lockdown in 2020.  Millions more last wages, pensions and benefits.  Families went hungry.  The economy is in its deepest recession in a century.

Workers more than ever need COSATU and its Affiliates to defend their rights, protect their salaries, secure their pensions and save their jobs.  They need a COSATU that is united and fighting fit.

Our battles will not be won easily.  There will be no victories handed to the working class on a silver platter.  It requires us to work hand in hand with our sister Federations.  A working class that is divided cannot be victorious.

It requires us to defend the gains of the democratic breakthrough of 1994.  And to hold our Alliance Partners accountable to delivering upon the 2019 electoral mandate.  It compels us to intensify the fight against corruption, to rebuild the state and grow the economy.

These are the issues we must interrogate.  We must emerge with clear objectives, practical solutions and a concrete programme of action.  We cannot afford to walk away with slogans and to outsource our tasks to government or business.

As the leadership of COSATU, the Federation of Elijah Barayi, we are confident that we will emerge more united and determined than ever to wage the battles to improve the lives of workers across South Africa.

International – Workers Under Siege

The challenges facing workers in South Africa are no different than those facing workers across the world.  Workers in Zimbabwe have fled in numbers due to years of political and economic mismanagement.  Thousands have left Somalia, a country which has not had a functioning government in 30 years.

Workers eSwatini continue to be abused by a decadent monarch.  Our comrades in Western Sahara continue to bear the pain of lives in refugee camps.  Our sisters in Palestine witness their land for an independent state being swallowed by Israel. 

Our brothers in Venezuela suffer under economic hardship due to sanctions imposed by the United States.  The poor in Brazil are have been decimated by the deliberate mishandling of the pandemic by a right wing President.  Cuba despite suffering under sanctions imposed upon it by the US, provides unbelievable solidarity across the world, and in particular to Africa. 

The United States has removed Donald Trump from office but continues to be beset by a right wing and toxic political paralysis and seems intent on provoking a new Cold War with the People’s Republic of China.

COSATU and our Affiliates have continued to engage and champion the cause of workers in SATUCC, ITUC, WFTU, the ILO and other international fora. 

The Federation has led solidarity campaigns in support of eSwatini, Zimbabwe, Western Sahara, Cuba, Venezuela and Palestine.  Let us reflect on how we can increase the practical solidarity we provide to our comrades across the world.

The National Democratic Revolution Under Siege

It is not an exaggeration to say that the NDR is under siege and facing some of its greatest challenges since 1994.  The ANC’s 2017 Nasrec Conference was a critical and progressive game changer in the history of the movement.  It provided a chance to cleanse and heal the ANC that has been battered by the decade of state capture, corruption and factionalism.

The election of the founding General Secretary of the National Union of Mine Workers, cde. Matamela Ramaphosa as President, has given hope for change for the better.  On many fronts the President has begun the hard work of cleaning the movement and rebuilding government and growing the economy.

The challenges are steep.  The economy is bleeding.  Many organs of state have collapsed or are falling apart.  These range from State Owned Enterprises e.g. SA Express, SAA, DENEL, the Post Office, Metro Rail to dozens of municipalities who fail to pay their workers on time.

Billions are lost in the fiscus due to corruption, wasteful expenditure and tax evasion.

The credibility of government and the ANC is battered.  Yet public surveys show that workers continue to support the President and hope for the ANC to return to its roots.

We welcome the efforts to clean the state and the ANC.  The implementation of the step aside resolution is critical.  The crack down on tax evasion is welcome.  The recovering of stolen funds from Eskom is positive.  This cleansing must be intensified.  We cannot afford to lose the war against corruption.

If we are serious about winning the war against corruption, then there must be speedy not never ending prosecutions.  The NPA, Hawks and SAPS must get their houses in order and deliver.  Equally we must protect whistle blowers.  It cannot be acceptable that we allow whistle blowers to be assassinated like some lawless republic.

We are heading to local government elections in less than 6 weeks.  The ANC’s manifesto will be launched within the week.  It speaks to many of COSATU’s demands including growing the economy, saving and creating jobs, tackling corruption, supporting local procurement and rebuilding local government.

We are all disappointed with the behaviour of many of our comrades in government.  But let us not delude ourselves into thinking that workers will be better off with the ANC defeated.  The DA will scrap all our progressive labour laws, including the national minimum wage that has improved the wages of 6 million workers. 

The EFF has established a Labour Desk and sought to enter the workplace and displace trade unions.  Let us not be complacent about organising, servicing and representing our members.  We cannot afford to be found wanting. 

Let us not waste time on commenting on the myriad of tiny parties.

The ANC has its faults, but it has worked with COSATU to pass the Labour Relations, Basic Conditions of Employment and National Minimum Wage Acts.  It is working with COSATU to pass the Compensation of Injury on Duty Amendment Bill to ensure that domestic workers are covered and better protection is afforded mine workers and women. 

It has ensured that Parliament passed the 3 Gender Based Violence Bills that will be a powerful tool in the fight against women, children and the vulnerable.  It is the ANC that has tabled the NHI Bill at Parliament to ensure all will have medical care.  It is the ANC that has tabled the Expropriation Bill and the Section 25 Constitutional Amendment Bill to accelerate land reform.

As the leadership of COSATU we must appreciate and applaud the tireless efforts of our Affiliates and members who went out and helped ensure the ANC was returned to office against all odds in the 2019 elections.

As we end this Central Committee on Thursday, let us go out and mobilise our members, their families and workers…

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