COSATU Special Central Executive Committee statement – 05 February 2019

The Congress of South African Trade Unions convened a one day Special Central Executive Committee meeting {SCEC} yesterday to finalise the preparations for the upcoming COSATU led National strike on the 13th February 2019.

The CEC paid tribute to the former and late General Secretary of Limusa Cde Cedric Gina , who passed away recently from illness. Cde Cedric shall eternally remain a revolutionary giant in our hearts as; he was the pivot of unity not only within COSATU but also in the broader democratic movement. We will greatly miss him!

The CEC also strongly condemned the recent spate of killings of SAMWU leaders in Vhembe district municipality. We call on the law enforcement agencies to immediately arrest the perpetrators of these atrocious crimes and throw them behind bars for a lifetime. We send our deepest condolences to the families of Comrade Roland Mani and Cde Tshililo Tshimangadzo Mositho , who were both killed in Vhembe. It is blatantly obvious that the SAMWU and COSATU leaders in Vhembe district municipality are being killed for supporting our fight against corruption and for specifically speaking out against VBS looters.

Our message is very clear to the killers including our own government that we will not keep quiet on corruption, COSATU will go out and continue exposed those who are implicated on corruption which includes the VBS saga, we will also make sure that they don’t appear on the list towards the national and provincial election. The government needs to act decisively to protect whistle-blowers because we do not want to see another Moss Phakoe situation where the killers are allowed to roam free. The responsible criminals need to be locked up for good.

We also send our condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Cde Bonisile Philemon Norushe the former leader of the Food and Canning Workers Union, former SACTU Treasurer and Deputy President of the Veterans League.

COSATU also sends its heartfelt condolences to the families, learners and teachers of Hoërskool Driehoek following the death of four learners after a walkway collapse on Friday. We also wish all the injured learners a speedy recovery. The department of education needs to speed up its investigations because no learner should lose his or her life at school. The safety of our learners continues to be a big problem and this talk to the deteriorating health and safety standards in our public and private institutions.

No retrenchments, jobs for all

The preparations for the strike against job losses are in full swing and the workers stand ready to fight and defend their livelihoods. Currently, the real unemployment rate is 38%, with close to 10 million people struggling to get jobs and over 17 million on welfare. We have the highest jobless rate of more than 60 emerging and developed countries in the world. Both the public and private sector are unrelenting in their decimation of jobs.

COSATU believes that the labour movement must develop ways of contesting retrenchments at an industry-wide and economy-wide level because it is impossible to fight the retrenchment crisis effectively at a workplace level. We also believe that economic political and industrial restructuring is necessary to fight retrenchments effectively. Our campaign will be linked with demands for redistribution of wealth, state intervention and a moratorium on all retrenchments.

Our campaign against retrenchments will commence with a national strike on the 13th of February 2019. We have organised eight national marches on the 13th on February 2019 and another one on the 19th of February 2019 in Cape Town to coincide with the Budget Speech on the 20th of February 2019. The message from the workers is simple; we say “No retrenchment, jobs for all” and it centres on the demand for an end to retrenchments in all sectors.

All South African workers from all the sectors of the economy are legally protected to go on strike on the 13th of February since Nedlac has issued COSATU with a strike certificate in terms of Section 77 of the LRA. This strike is also about demanding a people-centred Budget Speech that will speak to employment creation and focus on rural and township economy.

Economic Transformation

Today also marks three years since Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi were trapped underground at the Lily Mine in Mpumalanga. We remember these workers and we send our message of solidarity to three families. What is more saddening is that over the last three years, both government and the mining sector have failed to retrieve the bodies of these three workers and the health and safety of the workers in the mining sector has deteriorated further.

The majority of the population still lives on the periphery of the capitalist production because of the structural economic problems, which have not been resolved by the market-oriented policies. South Africa was shaped by a grafted capitalism rather than an internally evolved capitalism, which is why market forces cannot resolve underdevelopment because they tend to reinforce the very distortions that perpetuate underdevelopment. 

We are tired of an economic growth that does not create employment opportunities, that increases inequality, ignores and undermines cultural identities, and that squanders resources needed for future generations. Market-driven reforms that have been used since 1996 have clearly failed and thus an interventionist state is needed to transform the distortions of our apartheid capitalist economy. 

Since the National Development Plan that was adopted in 2012, set as its target to reduce the unemployment rate to 14% by 2020 and to 6% by 2030, it has increased to 27.7%. A recent seminar at the University of Stellenbosch revealed that in South Africa about 5, 7 million jobs will be at risk because of digital automation.

This is happening while South Africa is losing roughly R147 billion from the money that is illegally taken out of the country per year. Corruption is also estimated to cost the SA gross domestic product (GDP) at least R27bn annually as well as the loss of 76 000 jobs that would otherwise have been created.

The fight against job losses means the workers must have a direct say in how the economy is managed and restructured. We understand the enormous responsibility that faces us because the economic forces of crisis and stagnation are deeply rooted. Only profound economic restructuring and the forging of new strategies for growth and development will solve these problems. 

We need a politically governed redistribution of wealth and opportunities from the formal to the non-formal sectors of the economy. We also need an alternative policy on science and technology based on harnessing the collective knowledge and wisdom of the people. An education system that addresses the needs for sustainable human development by improving technical, managerial, research and development skills. This requires a strong, effective state that is committed to economic transformation and social justice.

SONA and Budget interventions

Interventions are needed to restructure the economy internally and to make it increasingly inclusive and equitable. From the State of the Nation Address and the Budget Speech, we expect the following:

• We call on the state to, therefore, take the lead in transforming this legacy of underdevelopment. The inefficiencies of the enclave economy and the lack of linkages between sectors and value chains require a complete paradigm shift if the problem of mass unemployment and under-employment is to be addressed. 

• We need a shift towards a labour-absorbing growth path. An increasing part of the labour force that is currently in the non-formal sectors must be drawn into productive activities so that an increasing part of the population can contribute to the creation of internal demand, savings and re-investment. 

• We need interventions that place the creation of decent jobs at the centre of economic policy instead of relegating them to “trickle down” effect. The budget should create conducive conditions for the growth of the SME sector, which targets local markets, absorbs local labour and circulate its income into the local economy.

• Measures to be taken include access to credit, flexible forms of training, foreign exchange and imports, as well as creating backward and forward linkages with local agriculture and industries.

• The government needs to redistribute productive resources such as land and promote labour intensive, small scale but profit-making industries as well as small scale, commercial agricultural activities.

• We need to reinvigorate public institutions and strengthen the weak structures of the state to turn the public sector into an effective vehicle for the delivery of basic social services and goods such as housing, education, health and water. There is also a need to ensure effective controls over the abuse of state power and stop corruption.

• We also believe that in order for the mining sector to serve the interests of South Africa and its people, fundamental changes are needed. These include reversing the policies of privatisation, tax breaks, lax labour laws and financial liberalisation. Creating beneficiation industries would stimulate demand for other manufactured goods and services. We need progressive legislation in the mining sector that would ensure that companies pay higher taxes, create good working conditions, ensure that working conditions are truly safe, and develop surrounding communities. The government needs to also take ownership of the key mines or ensure that the ownership of and benefits from key mines are socialised. 

• The government also needs to assist communities to take ownership of small scale mines; this could be done through granting mining licences and providing financial assistance to communities. Since mining and mineral resources are finite, we also need well thought out employment and skills training programmes to ensure the survival of workers and mining communities beyond the lifespan of the mine.

• The President and the Minister of Finance need to reflect on the devastating effect that the VAT increase has had on poor households and low-income earners. They need to reverse the VAT hike and announce the wealth tax and also increase the corporate tax back to the 2012 levels of 34%. The National Treasury needs to overhaul the tax regime to make it more progressive, less burdensome to the poor and to ensure the rich pay their fair share.


The CEC welcomed the PIC Board’s resignation letter and calls on Minister Tito Mboweni to move with speed to appoint a new board that will be representative of broad sections of stakeholders, including workers. About 87% of the PIC’s investment funds are public servants’ pensions and about 6% are UIF funds. In short, the money that is being invested by the fund manager that is PIC belongs to the workers.

We do not want to see the recycling of old politically connected Board members and retired executives at PIC. It’s about time, the PIC brings in new fresh blood that is not tainted by scandals or carrying any political baggage. 

Workers are angered by the constant flood of rumours of mass looting and corruption at the PIC. This is their money and it should not be used to enrich morally vacuous politicians, their parasitic relatives and obnoxious business people.

The federation supports the PIC Commission of Enquiry’s efforts to shed light on what has been going on at the PIC. We urge workers at the PIC and elsewhere to come forward to disclose what they know to the commission about corruption in the PIC’s investment deals.

Lily Mine

Today also marks three years since Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi were trapped underground at the Lily Mine in Mpumalanga. We remember these workers and we send our message of solidarity to three families. What is more saddening is that over the last three years, both government and the mining sector have failed to retrieve the bodies of these three workers and the health and safety of the workers in the mining sector has deteriorated further. 

The families, the workers and the community around Lily Mine have been treated very badly by the DMR and the mining sector. The collusion between the DMR and the mining sector is the most cynical alliance since the Nazi-Soviet pact. Workers are paying a huge price for this unholy alliance. A dark shadow will continue to hang around the Mining Indaba in Cape Town until all the role-players acknowledge the orphans, widows and lives they have destroyed in the name of profits. We still demand that the Lily Mine worker’s remains are repatriated and the surviving workers are compensated.


COSATU is calling for law enforcement agencies to start investigating the allegations that are coming out of the State Capture and other Commissions on Enquiry. The cancer of corruption has become endemic in this country and both the private sector and the public sector are responsible for the mess we are in. Political parties and other relevant organisations implicated in the corruption allegations should act decisively against the implicated individuals. We are happy with the decisive manner that some of our affiliated unions have acted towards the implicated people in the Bosasa scandal. We are also calling on all those implicated in the State Capture and VBS looting scandal to recuse themselves from the ANC Elections list processes. The ANC has enough capable and honest people in its ranks and it should not be recycling compromised and tainted characters.


The CEC strongly denounced the embassies of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland for writing a letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa expressing their concern about corruption and other crimes. This unprecedented move is a reminder that South Africa is not entirely cut out from hard-nosed imperialist counter-revolutionary destabilisation. 

• This is also a reminder that South Africa needs a totally different economic development strategy that will not be led by the IMF nor the World Bank but that will be led by the people. Our overreliance on foreign direct investment perpetuates external dependency and we need to focus on developing an alternative production system that will be primarily be based on domestic demand and human needs and that will focus on maximising the use of local resources and domestic savings. South Africa has already been forced to accept bitter Washington policy dictates on trade issues relating to AGOA preferential access to US markets for instance. We call on President Cyril Ramaphosa to remind these countries that we are not a colony and therefore they should respect our country’s sovereignty. 

• We also offer our solidarity to the leadership of the Bolivarian revolution led by President Nicolas Maduro, who is under attack from the imperialist forces and their internal rightwing agents. We reaffirm our international solidarity with the people of Venezuela in defence of the Bolivarian revolution, against US imperialism and to assert the country’s sovereign right to pursue an independent path of social, political and economic development. We condemn the arbitrary nature of the Trump administration’s decision to support the coup in Venezuela. 

• The CEC condemned systemic abuse of power and repression against leaders and members of the trade union movement led by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions [ZCTU] as well as the members of the opposition. This cannot be tolerated. We are calling on the Zimbabwean government to release all arrested trade union leaders, stop abductions of political activists and respect people’s human rights and should allow people to express their wishes without fear of intimidation or arrest. COSATU is calling on all South Africans to support the protests in support of the people of Zimbabwe on the 06th of February 2019 at Beit Bridge Border Post in Musina.

Issued by COSATU

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