COSATU Freedom Day Statement 2021

The Congress of South African Trade Unions joins all South Africans in celebrating this year’s Freedom Day, marking the twenty-seventh anniversary of our first democratic elections. The date of the 27th of April 1994 is the day that gave the people of this country hope for a better life after centuries of suffering, struggles, and sacrifice.

At the time there was a wide consensus that the main task for the nation was to build a united, democratic South Africa free from oppression and economic exploitation. At the head of the liberation project was a broad multiclass movement of liberation that was able to mobilise alliances of the widest range of social forces who shared a critique of capitalist development and were mainly committed to following an anti-capitalist alternative development.

 Sadly, twenty-seven years later, a lot has changed. We are dejectedly witnessing the deep entrenchment of neoliberalism and the abandonment of national democratic tasks by the current six administration. There is a lack of shared perspective within the Alliance around “radical economic transformation” that underpins this phase of our revolution.

The national bourgeoisie in our midst is struggling or failing to retain its revolutionary potential as an ally to the working class and other classes to pursue the completion of the tasks of national liberation and towards socialism. They are unashamedly capitulating and seeking incorporation into the existing colonial structure of apartheid capitalism.

 The gap between the rich and the poor has widened. In South Africa, New World Wealth reports that there are 38 000 millionaires and five-dollar billionaires. This is happening while the public sector workers and workers, in general, are being berated by purveyors of bourgeois ideology for demanding a living wage.

The country’s rate of unemployment has soared to unprecedented levels and attempts at revitalising the capitalist economy, within the neoliberal framework of cutbacks and bailouts have only induced new and bigger rounds of crisis.

Inequalities have risen with about 71% of the population in South Africa living on less than R100 a day. The country’s national debt is projected to 80,3% of GDP in 2020/21 to 87% of GDP by 2023/24, with debt-service costs reaching R338,6 billion in that year.

Unable to deal with this crisis, our reactionary government has resorted to increasing austerity measures by cutting public spending, leading to a massive reduction in all aspects of social and economic benefits to the people, in wages, retirement benefits and pensions, health and education, and social welfare transfers.

As more working people are attacked, through cuts, job losses, and asset repossessions, inequalities have widened. The increase in inequality means working families’ purchasing power is significantly diminished.

Disturbingly, even on the project of nation-building, we are struggling. In 1994, we were united around the project of non-racialism and non-sexism, and more precisely around the project of nation-building.

 Recently, we are confronted with the twin curses of racism and gender-based violence.  The most disturbing development though is the resurfacing of narrow Africanism, including tribalism, something that was at the heart of the apartheid strategy.

The criminal apartheid regime was able to maintain state power through the use of the “divide and rule” strategy that sowed tribal and racial divisions and denied us our common identity as South Africans.

 As we commemorate the 27th anniversary of our democratic breakthrough, we need to reflect and acknowledge these shortcomings. Only an honest and sober reflection will help us find the right solutions or else we risk failing in our task of undoing the damage done by the Apartheid regime and at worst perpetuating its legacy.

 Happy Freedom Day to all!

 Issued by COSATU

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