The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (POPCRU) held a successful 2-day Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting from the 23rd to 24th of September 2021 under the theme “30 years of Working Class Consciousness, Defending Workers Rights and Building a Self-Sustainable Union”.
This CEC meeting was also convened strict Covid-19 protocols; wherein proportional delegates from across our 9 provinces convened to, among others assess the state of the organisation in light of the effects of the current challenges emanating from the impact of the pandemic faced.
It took considerable time to reflect on the state of the criminal justice cluster, the massive social challenges facing workers, educational, policy issues and further received reports covering all four pillars of the union which includes international, political, socioeconomic and organisational assessments.
In accordance with the POPCRU constitution, the CEC has among others the power and duties to manage the affairs of the union in between National Congresses, to fill vacancies, to generally give effect to the aims and objectives of the union and to assume powers as are necessitated by the union’s constitution.
· Covid-19 Vaccination
The CEC noted that the broadest vaccination of frontline workers is central to maintaining the much needed staff complement in continuing efforts to fight the pandemic, and in reversing the disruptive effect the pandemic has had on the capacity of our law enforcement officers to provide the necessary services to our populace.
Over the past 18 months, there has been a recorded number of 55 854 infections within the criminal justice cluster, while over 856 lives have been lost to the virus. This has had an adverse effect on the already strained staff complement within our correctional centres, traffic and policing institutions, and therefore compromising service delivery.
The CEC noted the improving levels of turnout to vaccination centres by its members in the frontline, as it is particularly concerned about the implications the pandemic has had on their lives.
Within the SAPS alone, and out of the 179 640 staff complement, 111 004 have thus far vaccinated, bringing the total vaccinated members to 62%.
Though individual members have a choice on the matter, the CEC finds it important to further increase the numbers of people to be vaccinated as it is the only way of preventing new and potentially more infectious variants from emerging.
The CEC further expressed the need to put efforts in combating the many conspiracy theories about vaccines. They remain our only way towards preventing severe illnesses from Covid-19.
The CEC further urges government to speedily encourage the South African Health Products Authority (SAHPRA) to speedily approve and roll out the Cuban, Chinese and the Russian vaccines in fast-tracking vaccination.
· On Defending Collective bargaining
The CEC noted that market fundamentalism, the ideology which still dominates policy making despite its role in causing the global economic crisis, remains the major driver of labour market deregulation and decentralisation of collective bargaining. These policies have led directly to the decrease in collective bargaining coverage, and the consequent increase in income inequality.
It has further noted that there is a now open and well-coordinated drive to destroy public sector unions and end collective bargaining. The right of workers to stand together to negotiate with their employer about wages, hours, safety and other working conditions is under threat.
Such continued reactionary attempts will leave us with no option but to take militant responses as they are clearly aimed at destabilising labour relations in the country.
The CEC resolved to never allow for our democratically won gains to be destroyed by authoritarian, undemocratic means and committed to waging struggles to defend its members’ benefits and livelihoods. Collective agreement must be implemented to its logical conclusion without any contamination of any form.
Any people-centred democratic government should ensure that matters related to signed agreements are not outsourced to the courts, and should be addressed as agreed.
With the deep fiscal cuts, particularly within the public service, and other social cuts such as in the public railway transport, this can only be meant to plunge the economy to even deeper depths of regression, and thus creating yet another round of various cycles of economic contraction.
These measures also pose a threat to the post-establishment of structures within the criminal justice system as has been demonstrated, with lessened staff capacity and resources being the hardest hit.
It is in this regard that the CEC resolved that government needs to ensure that the parameters of fiscal policy are consistent with employment creation and retention strategies; and avoid imposing rigid and rapid deficit reduction targets which limit public expenditure and infrastructure development. The source of the macroeconomic quagmire is stagnation and not debt, therefore, rather than choking the economy with austerity measures, government need to implement policies that support economic growth.
The CEC is unwavering in its commitment to defend collective bargaining, and will pursue all avenues in this regard to ensure all agreements are honoured to the latter as workers will never allow themselves to be cheated out of their hard-won gains.
The CEC resolved that the struggle to defend collective bargaining should be intensified, and calls on members to remain battle ready to push back against this anti-worker neoliberal offensive that is directed at them. They must treasure their unity, consolidate their cooperation, and avoid being divided by narrow sectarian differences.
· On State Capture
The CEC broadly reflected on the manner that activities contained within the reports of state capture have crippled our economy, and that a lot of resources have been spent, amounting to billions of rands. This prompts an observation into considering as to whether the country will have sufficient resources to address the recommendations of the commission, considering the many pressing priorities facing our country. The CEC feels a debate around this matter is unavoidable.
· Police Killings
The CEC expressed concern over the increasing killings of police officers in the past months, noting that as it stands, there are high possibilities that a police station is being attacked or an officer is losing their life at the hands of criminal elements daily.
While this is happening, there has been limited discussion about the matter, and the Parliamentary Committee on Policing, which is supposed to ensure a strategic and structured approach, has been totally mum.
Members are tired of burying their colleagues and attending annual memorial services, and what they need is a concrete plan and measures in ensuring our men and women in blue are protected.
Widowed wives and orphaned kids of deceased members find it hard to survive beyond losing their partners as the death allowances do not cover their essential needs, and while still alive, those who continue leaving their loved ones in the early mornings, without the guarantee or returning alive, have been getting a meagre danger allowance.
The CEC suggested that there is a need urgently formulate a protective and preventative strategy necessary to save the lives of our men and women in blue. This should be an inclusive approach that takes into consideration communities, government and all other stakeholders.
There must be improved exertions to better understand why police officers continue to be killed in South Africa, as well as to formulate and recommend preventative, interventionist and protective strategies and measures to reduce the number of officers being killed yearly.
A Policing Indaba is of paramount importance to streamline and reshape the criminal justice system for the sake of accountability and, how the system works as a whole inclusive of other departments such as Justice, Prosecution and Correctional Services, and plans are afoot to conclude its realisation.
· On Gender Equality
Although there have been many positive legislative and policy advancements towards gender equality, and significant progress with women’s representation in state institutions in the past years, this has not been enough to achieve fundamental change towards non-sexism and women’s emancipation.
The inclusion of women in institutions of power certainly contributes towards creating conditions for the removal of gender inequalities, but it does not challenge the structural basis of these inequalities.
We need to change the economic configuration of society and the structural basis of women’s oppression, particularly with regards to the issue of the gender wage gap that has not been adequately addressed.
It is estimated that South Africa, despite being the most unequal society in the world, has the world’s highest wage inequality overall, with women earning 70% of what men earn, and women with no education earning 50% of what men with no education earn.
We should therefore continue supporting the demands for Equal Pay for Equal Work and Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value as there is no justification for pay inequity between men and women.
· On Local Government Elections
The CEC took place at a time wherein Local Government elections scheduled for 1 November 2021. Being conscious of the challenges faced by the ruling party which are both internal and external that have a potential to weaken showing at the polls the CEC understands clearly our role in ensuring victory of the African National Congress so that there is accelerated service delivery to our people. As a COSATU affiliated trade union, we are going to participate robustly in the elections campaign as the victory of the ANC is the victory of the nation as a whole and workers in particular.
We believe that the ANC remains the legitimate leader of the society and it is the responsibility of all to build the ANC from within than fight it from outside. Also important, is the cleaning of our service itself where our members are involved. We will work hard to remove from among us those that give a bad name to our members by engaging in corrupt activities. We must root out corruption, improve service delivery and build a better society. We reiterate our resolve to be part of a broader movement to pull all like-minded forces together to pull society out of the crises and build an activist based society that has the capacity to hold the leadership accountable.
· On the filling of vacancies
The CEC further dealt with issues of leadership consolidation and, accordingly and constitutionally elected the following comrades: Cde Jeff Dladla as the General Secretary, Cde Zamikhaya Sikade as 1st Deputy General Secretary and as 2nd Deputy General Secretary Cde Ouma Mosadiwamajwe Mokokong.
· On International dynamics
The security situation in our neighbouring countries especially Mozambique is a cause for concern and the CEC believes that SADC must take full responsibility to assist than wait for colonialist to lead the way. The CEC also condemns the granting of Israeli an observer status at the African Union-AU. Israel has no business in African Affairs and this decision must be reversed.
Issued by POPCRU on 25/09/2021
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