COSATU statement for Freedom Day-2019

The Congress of South African Trade Unions call upon all its members and every South African to join the celebrations of Freedom Day on the twenty-fifth anniversary of our first democratic elections on 27 April 1994.

This is the day that gave us all hope that after centuries of suffering, struggle and sacrifice. On this day South Africans felt for the first time that change was possible and that our lives could be transformed.

Since then we have adopted a democratic constitution and many progressive laws that protect workers against exploitation and abuse. Millions of people have been provided with free access to housing, running water and electricity. Today South African students are getting free education and workers have seen the government adopting a legislated national minimum wage.

Before 1994, workers were nothing but glorified slaves that were forced to work long hours for poverty wages and often forced to live in unhealthy single-sex compounds. They were viciously attacked when they stood up for their rights but today they are legally free to join unions, bargain collectively and are protected by laws which guarantee minimum employment standards.

But while Freedom Day is a time to congratulate ourselves, it also presents us with a moment to reflect and explore ways to solve the numerous challenges that still afflict our lives. The 30 million South Africans who live in poverty and 38% of the working population who are unemployed are not truly free. One cannot enjoy the fruits of freedom with no income, no food or no proper health care for loved ones.

Freedom is also still a pipedream for many workers, especially on the farms, whose employers ignore the labour laws and treat them no better than before 1994. The trade unions and Department of Labour keeps coming across bosses who pay below the legislated national minimum wage and who ignore the health and safety laws.

Freedom Day also comes few days before May Day, and this gives us an opportunity to shine the spotlight the need to tackle unemployment, poverty, disease and crime. COSATU calls upon the government and other progressive forces to support our Living Wage campaign and the 40-hour week campaign that was adopted on the 27th of February 2019 in Johannesburg.

Mass unemployment and the poverty it causes remains the biggest single obstacle to our complete liberation. We are also demanding that all the progressive labour laws passed since 1994 be rigorously enforced. Workers’ rights must not exist only on paper but in our everyday lives.

Laws alone, however, will never win us complete freedom. The key to winning real freedom for workers is strong, militant trade unions. We must recruit all those workers in low-paid, insecure, dangerous and unhealthy jobs, and give them the confidence to fight back against their ruthless and racist bosses. We must also transform our own organisations so that they give better service to their members.

COSATU urges every worker, and all South Africans to celebrate Freedom day actively and Wednesday next week on the 1st of May, we want to see workers in their thousands flooding into the May Day rallies around the country.

We are also calling on the workers to come out in their numbers on the 08th of May to vote overwhelmingly for the African National Congress (ANC). On Election Day let us take the struggle for transformation to new heights and finish off the national democratic revolution.

Let us empower the ANC to push forward the fight for the economic liberation of our people, the same way, it led the fight for our political liberation that we celebrate today.

Issued by COSATU

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