The Congress of South African Trade Unions convened a one day Special Central Executive Committee meeting {SCEC} yesterday to analyse the 2017 National May Day celebrations, prepare for the Alliance Political Council and also finalise the preparations for the upcoming COSATU Central Committee {COSATU CC} that will be convened next week, 29 May -1st June 2017.

Amongst a number of things that the Central Committee {CC} will do is to make an assessment of the implementation of our 12th National Congress resolutions and campaigns. We will also use it to prepare for the Policy Conference of the ANC and the upcoming Congress of the SACP. The central focus of our work though is to build our organisation so that we are able to defend the gains of the workers and also better represent the dreams and aspirations of the workers and the working class with confidence.

The SCEC engaged in robust discussions reflecting on the current political landscape as well as on how the federation should respond to critical and strategic organisational matters. The meeting agreed that we need to work to maintain our internal stability as a federation to ensure that we work towards ensuring that there is continuous stability within COSATU and all our affiliates.

COSATU remains clear and totally understand that workers remain the lifeblood of the federation and that they represent the very essence of our existence. This therefore means that we need to dedicate all our time and efforts towards properly servicing our membership at all material times.

The SCEC acknowledged with a deep sense of distress and unease that the broader revolutionary movement is bleeding due to wide divisions and factionalism that continues to eat at the fabric and erode the very soul of the movement.

Unfortunately this political disintegration combined with the deepening socio-economic crisis, lack of strategic oversight and leadership in government has resulted in the workers and working class in general suffering the most. This has the potential of reversing the gains of the revolution.

The meeting reiterated our position that in all of our engagements, we should continue to be guided by our class interests and that we should not abandon our class position. Our strategic enemy remains monopoly capital and white monopoly capital in particular. This is based on our own practical experiences and not wishful thinking or abstract theoretical conceptions. The strategic task of the NDR remains that of resolving the fundamental contradictions of Colonialism of a Special Type and Apartheid as a direct route to Socialism. In this regard, the Special CEC insisted that the ANC led alliance and COSATU and the SACP must be more coherent than at any other time in the history of our struggle.

We remain steadfastly opposed to Neo liberalism as an economic philosophy and will continue to ceaselessly fight free market acolytes and true believers both inside and outside the movement. The meeting reaffirmed our position that we should work to strengthen the unity of COSATU because that is the only weapon that will not just help us survive our enemies but also help us to destroy them.

The SCEC strongly condemned the recent spates of abuse and killings of women, children, LGBT Community and joined the call for stronger actions and stiffer sentences against the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. This calls not only for imaginative legislation and reinforcement of the training of law enforcement agencies in dealing with these issues but also for the unity of all social partners in fighting this scourge. Government should consider setting up a special investigations unit, including a special court that will deal with this matter. If we could do it for the 2010 World Cup, we should be able to do it for our vulnerable citizens.

May Day assessment

The SCEC saluted and congratulated the thousands of workers, who participated in this year’s COSATU May Day celebrations. The meeting acknowledged that this year’s mobilisation, overall turnout and broader participation by workers in our May Day activities showed a remarkable improvement. This shows that our decision to decentralise and take May Day celebrations and marches back to workers and near their localities was the right one.

We congratulate all our members for showing remarkable discipline and all our affiliates for making sure all those workers, who attended the events and remained safe throughout the celebrations. COSATU held about sixteen rallies all across the country and all of them were successful and well attended. The SCEC noted what happened in Bloemfontein and in some areas of the country, where some leaders of the ANC were booed.

The meeting concluded that some of what happened in these May Day events reflects the level of frustration that is felt by workers about the absence of leadership in the country and the deteriorating state of our political situation. May Day remains a carnival and fiesta of the oppressed and while it is always characterized by discipline and a celebratory atmosphere; it is also a platform for workers to register their unhappiness and dissatisfaction about the failures of those who hold political and economic power.

The SCEC meeting condemned the divisive actions by some leaders of the ANC, who attempted to rent crowds in Bloemfontein in order to disrupt and hijack our national event in Free State. We shall raise sharply some of these concerns, when we meet with our Alliance partners in the soon to be convened Alliance Political Council meeting.

The SCEC also took time to deal with the sentiments expressed by some of our members before May Day, who felt that allowing President Jacob Zuma to address our May Day event in Bloemfontein was inconsistent with our position calling for him to step down. In helping to interpret and clarify this resolution ,the SCEC agreed with the position of the workers that the decision to allow Cde Jacob Zuma was not consistent with our position that we no longer trusted and supported his leadership and that he must step down. The meeting ultimately resolved that going forward, in respect of the mandate from the workers and in line with the SCEC resolution for him to step down; President Jacob Zuma will no longer be welcome to address COSATU activities. This shall be communicated to the ANC, including engaging on its implications for our alliance.

COSATU remains very much committed to the Alliance but we want an Alliance which is at the centre of driving the National Democratic Revolution and that collectively develops policy in line with our vision in the Freedom charter.

We will continue to fight to have an Alliance, which is conscious that the primary task in this phase of our transition is to resolve the colonial and apartheid contradictions based on radical economic transformation.

We also remain a reliable ally of the ANC. We want to see an ANC that will not only rediscover its mass character but that will use its organisational mass power to assert a people driven and a people centred development; instead of using it to fight internal factional battles to get people elected to positions of power. Organisational mass power should be seen as a strategic element to drive the NDR, not reduced into a tool to be used for patronage.

Preparations for the Central Committee

The meeting received a report that shows that the preparations for the Central Committee meeting next week are progressing well. Whatever pockets of challenges that might exist in the federation, the SCEC appreciated the fact that we go to the CC with overwhelming evidence that many of the COSATU unions are on the ground leading struggles of workers .It is also encouraging to note that affiliates have continued to be on the ground leading workers struggles from the front taking forward the Back to Basic Campaign as adopted by the 12th National Congress.

The most recent 2015 Annual Industrial Action report from the Department of labour has clearly shown that COSATU affiliates’ have been busy since the last congress leading struggles on the ground. We are also involved in the process of intervening in some of our affiliates that are experiencing internal problems and we can assure members that COSATU remains committed to building stronger unions, with the capacity to better service them.

The issues to be debated by the CC will be broad and wide-ranging but we have some key focus areas that will receive our attention at the meeting. Workers can expect the meeting to reflect on a number of issues including the following:

1. Global balance of forces and fight against capitalist globalisation

The Central Committee shall take stock of the challenges facing the working class in the international terrain and also critically examine the problems facing our own revolution. We shall use this meeting to reflect on the global political situation and link that with our national political developments in order to better understand the balance of forces locally and around the world. This is crucial if we are to develop correct strategies and tactics to defend the working class against the capitalist onslaught.

Currently there is unequal distribution of wealth in the world, with the rich 10% of the population owning about 90% of the world’s wealth; 71% of the population lives on less than R100 a day; 780 million people have no access to clean drinking water; 2.5 billion people no health facilities and 3.5 million people die from hunger every year. The world capitalist system not only drives unequal development but also slows down the growth of all world economies, sharpening all its social contradictions.

2. Unity of the federation and Solidarity amongst workers

In the 2015 Special National Congress we declared that “we want to unequivocally declare that we want unity of COSATU. This federation remains a home of all workers and workers will be better organised under the leadership of COSATU.

In the 12th National Congress we declared that “we must move with speed to implement the resolution of the 11th congress….. This we shall do as part of returning to the outcomes of our 2013 Collective Bargaining, Organising and Campaigns Conference, whose organisational tasks, combined with the resolutions of this 12th congress shall be part of the Organisational Building and Development Programme of our new medium-term strategic plan, building on what we have achieved in terms of the 2015 Plan”.

We shall therefore use the CC meeting to reflect on whether we have succeeded in ensuring that our COSATU remains grounded on the traditions of strong shop floor organisation and militant struggles for worker rights and collective bargaining. We shall reflect and assess the work that has been done to ensure that this federation remains a democratic organisation controlled by workers, whose approach and overall orientation continues to be based on campaigns that incorporate broader social issues. We shall also do an assessment of our work in building alliances with community organizations, progressive political movements and progressive academics, etc.

We shall also be dealing with the challenges that relates to the new type of work, vulnerable workers and informal sector which is growing daily. The future of work is bringing another dimension to our organizing work and we need to shift from our traditional/conventional ways of doing things to accommodate this new phenomenon. To do this we need to build and strengthen the engines of COSATU and the CC shall help us asses the progress in this area and also plan the way forward.

According to the Human Development Report (UNDP) of 2015, globalisation and technological development have resulted in transformation of the workplace and the nature of work is set to change further with advent of the so called 4th Industrial Revolution, which is based on digital technology, advanced robotics and automation and smart factories, where human intervention is minimal. About 200 000 robots are sold every year around the world and the largest purchasers of these robots is the automotive sector, which is one of the largest exporting sectors in most countries. Jobs that are likely to be affected include tellers, title examiners, order clerks, cargo and freight agents, etc. We shall be discussing these issues and coming with proposals and the way forward.

We also go to the Central Committee to account to the workers and the working class about the extent to which COSATU has been able to wage a relentless struggle against monopoly capital in general and white monopoly capital in particular.

3. Radical Economic Transformation and the fight against piecemeal reform

We go to the CC clear that radical economic transformation will not happen through public declarations or through wishful thinking. It will also not take place in an environment that is dominated by white-monopoly capital and imperialism and in which the ANC is at its weakest state since 1994 and remains deeply divided.

We have also noted that some comrades in the ANC talk about radical economic transformation as if they are not in power and this level of helplessness does not inspire confidence on workers.

As COSATU ,we shall remain vigilant to make sure that a second more radical phase of our Transition is not used to mean transformation that either seeks to consolidate the capitalist mode of production or to amend the national accumulation strategy without fundamentally transforming the underlying property relations, and without effecting a fundamental shift in ideological orientation.

In this context, we argue that the Second more radical Transition cannot and must not be predicated on the National Development Plan. The fact is that the revolutionary class forces, especially the primary motive force, the working class, does not share the neo-liberal approach of the NDP, which seeks to effect cosmetic changes to Colonialism of a Special Type, by consolidating and perfecting the mechanisms of the capitalist mode of production and imperialist domination.

We also go to the CC to resolve that a Second more radical phase of our Transition must not be predicated on a fallacious notion of an attempt to separate GEAR from neo-liberalism. Neoliberalism is characterised by the reduced role of the state in the economy, privatization, trade and financial liberalisation, labour market de-regulation, restrained fiscal policy, inflation-targeting as the overriding goal of monetary policy and central bank independence.

We shall also deal with the reality that while the National Treasury is run by deployees of our movement; it has positioned itself as a political hub to force through the neo-liberal economic policy trajectory. In our view the National
Treasury is not run by our country, but it is run by foreign institutions whose agenda stands in opposition to the policies taken by the movement.

  • It is the National Treasury which rammed through the youth wage subsidy against our wish, a policy which was not even the ANC policy.
  • It is the National Treasury which openly came out against the implementation of the National Health Insurance. It is the National Treasury which for many years has frustrated the implementation of a Comprehensive Social Security System.
  • It is the National Treasury which attempted and failed to ram through the Taxation Laws Amendment Act,
  • We also shall discuss the National Treasury and its role in how the PIC uses workers’ pension Funds
  • Our failure as a movement to fundamentally transform the colonial and apartheid economy
  • We shall also discuss the decline in the Share of workers’ wages in the National income

4. An urgent need to convene a Job Summit and a fight against severe rise in unemployment

The South African economy continues to shed jobs particularly in the primary sectors; agriculture and mining, which should be the engines of growth. COSATU shall use the CC meeting to discuss the fact that the Labour Relations Act in sections 189 and 189A contain flexible labour laws that favour employers. These sections state that employers have a right to dismiss workers for various reasons including the lack of economic growth, decrease in the market shares, imports, introduction of technology and improved working methods. Courts have interpreted this flexibility to mean that employers can dismiss workers in order to increase their profits. In essence workers cannot protect or defend themselves against these ‘lawful retrenchments.’

As of March 2017 there are close to 9 million people who are unemployed. The number of people who are the recipients of social grants (currently about 17 million) is now exceeding the number of the people who have work (about 15 million). This is clear indication of the failure of government to preserve current jobs and to put in place viable job creating policies.

The CC shall also discuss the fact that government has come up with policy interventions including the industrial policy action plans and special economic zones. However, these policies tend to favour big capital projects and foreign companies than local and small companies.

The process of establishing factories and reviving industrial parks in the former TBVC states or homelands is progressing at a snail’s pace. The failure to transform the productive sector has resulted in government incentives being channelled to mainly white companies and factories being concentrated in coastal cities; Cape Town and Durban and in Gauteng which is unacceptable because SA has 9 provinces. The inputs and final products that used in the infrastructure projects such as steel have been imported rather than produced locally.

The meeting also expressed shock and deep concern at the decision of General Motors to disinvest in the country, a decision that will result in thousands of workers losing their jobs. COSATU continues to argue that foreign direct investment is based on accumulation of profits using cheap raw materials and cheap labour. FDI will move to any country as long as their profits can be guaranteed. The GMSA statement is clear that its profits in SA might be in danger of falling to lower levels.

The disinvestment by GMSA is a setback and a blow to the objective of industrialisation and creation of jobs. We are currently having at least 9 million people without jobs and therefore, the disinvestment will create more problems than solutions.

One of the unmentioned reasons for the disinvestment by GMSA is the question of lack of leadership which has been raised by rating agencies. They have raised the issue that foreign investors will not invest until there is new leader whom they can trust. Whilst the issue of leadership is currently a challenge it is regrettable that GMSA may be using politics to deal with business challenges.

Multinational companies remain loyal to their own countries. Therefore, the long term challenge is to develop the auto sector in such a way that it is owned and controlled by locals. The current model of FDI which implies importing and exporting foreign produced goods for local assembly is not sustainable. We are going to the CC to make a call to government to ensure that auto sector is transformed and locally owned by worker owned companies. Our economy will remain vulnerable to changes in global market condition if SA does not develop locally owned automotive companies. This is a clarion call that SA needs its own auto industry. Relying on multinational auto companies is not sustainable in the long term.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (National Spokesperson)
Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct 010 219-1339
Mobile: 060 975 6794