COSATU Special Central Executive Committee statement

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a Special Central Executive Committee meeting on the 13th of August 2018 to discuss amongst other things the preparations for the 13th National Congress to be held next month.

The meeting received a report stating that the federation is ready for its 13th National Congress that will be convened between the 17th -20th of September 2018. The congress will be convened under the theme; Deepen the Back to Basic Campaign, Consolidate the Struggle for NDR and Advance the Struggle for Socialism”.

The upcoming 13th National Congress will represent the consolidation of worker democracy and worker control and will also allow workers to take forward the work done by the pioneers, who founded this glorious organisation. We owe it to these pioneers to sustain, build and strengthen the engines of COSATU, unite workers and wage relentless struggles against exploitation.

Our priority going to the National Congress is to continue to defend workers and also fight for the dreams and the aspirations of workers and the working class in general. The congress will not be about idealising the past but will be about imagining and shaping the future.

Marikana and the Mining sector

The meeting took some time to remember the 6th anniversary of the tragic events of Marikana that took place between 10 August 2012 – 20 September 2012 and led to 44 mineworkers losing their lives. The Marikana tragedy stands as a shameful symbol of how government and the mining sector have failed the mineworkers for over a century in this country.

The Marikana tragedy was supposed to be a turning point but over the last six years we have seen the mining sector retrench over 80 000 workers and in the last six months it has killed 51 workers, leaving hundreds of them injured.

The last six years have proved that the mine bosses are still not paying serious attention to job security and economic growth. It is their insatiable quest for profit maximisation that has led to an increase in the number of mining fatalities and the abandonment of the five {5} point pledge plan that was meant to achieve zero harm with regard to mining fatalities. What is more disappointing is the fact that government has shown no appetite to implement the ANC resolution on nationalisation.

The CEC has concluded that government has no tangible enforcement mechanism to help reduce and ultimately stop mining fatalities. There are no sufficient labour inspectors to ensure that there is compliance with health and safety regulations in the mines.

The meeting has therefore resolved to mobilise workers, not just in the mining sector but across the board to demand more action and accountability from the mine bosses and our government. This campaign will start with a march this coming Friday, 17th August in Rustenburg against Impala Platinum that has decided to retrench 13 000 mineworkers over a period of two years

Unemployment and Job losses

The Special CEC noted that the federation will be going to the 13th National Congress on the back of persistent low economic growth rate that has left millions of workers and citizens facing unemployment, inequality and deepening poverty.

COSATU is worried about the influence of finance capital that is now dictating macroeconomic policy decisions taken by the government. The National Treasury’s obsession with pacifying ratings agencies and foreign investors in the face of growing unemployment and retrenchments and the stubborn adherence to the Neoliberal macroeconomic framework ,despite a failing economy points to a government that has abandoned the concept of radical economic transformation.

This is happening at a time, when the cost of living has been rising, with severe impact on poor households that on average spend 40% of their income on food. The VAT increase, corruption scandals, deepening poverty and unemployment constitutes a setback for revolutionary forces and the working class in general.

It is clear that the current balance of social and political forces in the country favour white monopoly capital that still maintains its stranglehold on the commanding heights of the economy. The failure by the ANC to reign in its National Treasury and monitor government, coupled with our flagging economy has further strengthened monopoly capital.

The SCEC reflected on the failure by the ANC to implement the Alliance resolution to review the labour market and economic policy chapters of the NDP that have not only contradicted but also undermined the objective of building a capable developmental state. Chapter 3 of the National Development Plan (NDP) states that unemployment would have declined from 25% to 14% in 2020 and to 6% in 2030 and that 11 million jobs would have been created by 2030. By 2020 the unemployment rate was supposed to have been reduced to 20% but in 2018 it still around 27%. The NDP targets have clearly been missed and it is unlikely that they would be realised by 2030.

The upcoming National Congress will have to resolve on how we deal with the ANC’s failure to implement its own policies and those of the Alliance. This will also be central in the process of reconfiguring the Alliance going forward because the status quo is unsustainable.

Public Service retrenchments

The National Treasury’s austerity measures that have resulted in government permanently closing existing public service vacancies and the recent talk of retrenching thousands of public servants is the last straw for the federation.

It is obvious that this plan is not at all informed by the policy decisions of the African National Congress because in its last National Policy Conference, the ANC reaffirmed its commitment to the creation of a developmental state capable of intervening in the economy and driving its developmental agenda

The ANC has for many years been calling for the building of a “capable developmental state”. The notion of building the developmental state was drawn especially from the 2012 Mangaung conference that consolidated the anti-Neoliberal spirit of Polokwane. The 2014 ANC Manifesto which is meant to guide the current fifth democratic government makes the following commitment in this regard:

“The ANC is committed to building a democratic developmental state able to lead efforts to overcome unemployment and poverty and reduce inequality. The developmental state would play a strategic guiding role in the economy and decisively intervene in the interests of the people, particularly the workers and the poor”.

We reject the myth that has been recycled and regurgitated for a long time that the public service is bloated. After the TBVC states were incorporated into the South African Apartheid state, there were about 1,4 million public servants servicing a population of 40,1 million people.

This number shrunk in 1996 to 960 000 after the introduction of GEAR. Currently we have about 1, 3 million public servants servicing a population of 52 million people.

The source of many problems currently facing the public service today is the ill conceived decision by government to introduce the New Public Management system under GEAR in 1996.

The New Public Management represents a right-wing ideological model of the public sector that seeks to change the public service and parastatals to operate along the lines of the private sector. It introduces private-sector practices such as public-private-partnerships, outsourcing, agencification, privatisation, etc. It seeks to curb spending on personnel salaries which it sees as consumption (therefore wasteful) rather than investment, hence it promotes the containment of the public service wage-bill.

In the delivery of services the New Public Management insist on the user-payer principle (e.g. such as the e-tolls) as opposed to cross-subsidisation of the poor by the rich. It promotes the commodification of public services rather than the promotion of constitutional or citizenship rights, and as such citizens become “customers” or “clients” in the practice of the delivery of public services.

The imposition of GEAR in the mid-1990s meant that the necessary reform of the Apartheid public sector would take place along the lines of the so-called New Public Management – in which GEAR set the overarching Neoliberal framework. Thus, the monumental twin tasks of integration and transformation of the Apartheid state, inclusive of satellite Bantustans, unfortunately took place at the height of Neoliberalism. Hence, the ideas of the New Public Management were reflected in the extreme attention paid to the reduction of the head-count of personnel in the public service and in the manner in which the parastatals were commercialised and in their mode of governance. To this day, the South African public service has not recovered from the massive “rationalisation” that took place under Cde Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, the then Minister of Public Service and Administration (1999-2008) leading to the loss of scarce expertise and experience.

We continue to argue that in part the crises of poor service delivery, manifested in the often violent community protests, are related to the impact and legacy of such reforms that have weakened the state’s capacity and unleashed profit-maximisation in the delivery of public services.

The Special CEC has therefore instructed the National Office Bearer’s of COSATU to request an urgent meeting with the ANC Top Six to communicate a clear and unambiguous message to them that workers will not vote against their interests in the upcoming National elections. We view the plans to retrench workers as an act of ultimate betrayal, especially after the government’s decision to increase VAT after promising not to do so. This makes a mockery of the Alliance.

We are allied to the ANC, not for sentimental reasons or historical nostalgia, but because we believe its claim that it is biased towards the poor. If the ANC abandons its own manifesto and sabotages our dreams and aspirations as workers; we have no reason to support it. We therefore demand a moratorium on all retrenchments until the promised job summit has been held or we will pull out of the summit. A job summit will become redundant and useless if we continue to allow these job losses to continue unabated.

The ANC should know that it will pay a price for failing to balance the demands of capital and demands of labour; we are not going to compromise in our firm demand for the economy to be restructured with a bias towards labour and the poor. The aspirations of the working class have to be reflected in the ANC government policies and programmes and if the ANC rejects or dishonours those aspirations, there will be no need for us to be in an Alliance with it.

The meeting has also instructed all unions to start the process of mobilisation in both the public service and the private sector in preparation for the anticipated battles ahead. The forces ranged against us are powerful, big business, imperialism and an obviously hostile government. We issue a call to all our members in the public service to prepare for a serious push back against Treasury’s austerity measures and the planned retrenchments. We shall be taking this matter to next month’s national congress to resolve on the date of a national strike and the subsequent programme to fight and protect jobs.

Privatisation

COSATU remains unyielding in its assertion that the task of fundamental transformation of our economy, the creation of decent work and the provision of basic services to the majority of our people cannot be left to the market forces. Guided by the ANC policies of the 52nd Polokwane, 53rd Mangaung and 54th Nasrec Conferences, we still insist on the creation of a strong developmental state to intervene decisively in the economy, to redistribute resources in order to address unemployment, inequalities, poverty, and rural-urban development divide.

The May 2008 Alliance Summit’s was unambiguous in its call for a moratorium on privatisation and outsourcing and the review of current outsourced public sector utilities.In its 2012 Policy Conference the ANC, committed itself to the objective of ensuring that; “state-owned commercial entities operate as powerful instruments of economic transformation and remain firmly within the control of the state in order to have the capacity that is capable of responding effectively and efficiently to the developmental agenda of the ANC”. This was reaffirmed by the 2017 National Policy Conference that was held at Nasrec in Johannesburg.

The privatisation of SOE’s that has been proposed by some in government and inside the ANC will adversely affect the state’s capacity to: provide basic services to the poor; provide for infrastructural development; intervene to restructure the economy to ensure growth and employment creation.

It will lead to significant job losses and will not provide for job creation. It will foster the casualisation of labour, with more and more workers being hired on limited fixed-term contracts of employment. It will also remove workers from the bargaining units established over many years in the public sector, generally leading to a reduction in incomes, benefits and job security.

COSATU stands ready to fight against privatisation. We shall pushback against the sinister and cynical alliance between government and big business that has excluded the poor majority and whose policies on privatisation has brought nothing but suffering for the workers and poor.

On NHI

The CEC welcomes the release of the NHI bill as this enabling legislation seeks to take us closer towards the realisation of Universal Health coverage. The CEC is concerned about the state of health care in South Africa with many reporting a collapse in provincial health. The CEC further noted that the state of healthcare is further worsened by the incorrect appointment of managers in health care facilities through patronage networks. The incorrect appointment of managers is at the heart of a number of issues that plague the public health sector. COSATU will continue to vigorously defend the NHI policy until its full implementation and we continue to reject the forces that seek to derail the implementation of the NHI. We will continue to work with our alliance partners to safeguard the NHI. Going forward, we will seek to embark on a campaign that will ensure that NHI finds expression on the ground with the foot soldiers of the policy, the workers.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794