Workers have High Expectations from President Ramaphosa’s upcoming State of the Nation Address

South Africa is facing many crises and the key amongst these is the 37% and growing level of unemployment and the ongoing retrenchments that are decimating workers. We also face a possible collapse of Eskom, SABC, SAA and other key parastatals, declining public services and uncontrollable levels of corruption.

COSATU and workers across the nation expect the President to show bold leadership and take decisive actions and set reasonable timeframes to deal with these ticking time bombs. The federation expects the President to make it clear that there will be harsh consequences for those who undermine these objectives.

The President needs to exercise his new democratic mandate to act with speed and vigour to execute the desperately needed policies to save South Africa from a return to an economic recession.

The Federation understands the pressures against the President are great, however, there is no time to waste. There is no honeymoon because workers and voters, in general, expect the government to deliver on its election promises and mandate.


COSATU sees the present unemployment rates as a national crisis. While we do not expect millions of jobs to be created overnight, we do expect a comprehensive plan for job-creation that involves the creation of new businesses, and the expansion of the economy into growth industries, such as energy, water, auto-manufacturing, agriculture, tourism, education, health, clothing, electronics etc.

The creation of jobs and spurring economic growth cannot simply be left to the Department of Trade and Industry alone. Each department must contribute. Each department must be allocated job creation and economic growth targets, be adequately resourced and held accountable for any failures. Without this, the nation will not be able to move forward. Any department that fails to implement the Auditor General’s recommendations or fails to spend money should see its political leadership and senior bureaucrats dealt with. 

The President needs to hold business accountable for its failures to honour the Jobs Summit Agreements. Equally, the President needs to rein in the SOEs and Treasury who seem to believe that retrenching SOE workers will stop their bleeding and contribute towards economic growth and job creation.

State Enterprises

The Federations is deeply worried about the dire state of our SOEs. However, to date, we have not seen any tangible plans to halt their decline, stabilise and grow them. All that the workers have heard is that the SOEs wants to retrench the in their thousands.

Clear plans are needed for Eskom, SAA, SABC, Denel, Prasa etc. These need to give confidence to the country that the government is on track towards saving these SOEs. 

COSATU expects the President’s commitment that SOE workers will be accommodated into a jobs plan and will not be unilaterally retrenched to be honoured by the SOEs. We need a solid plan that will accommodate the reskilling, upskilling and redeployment of all those workers whose jobs will be dislocated by any turnaround plan. 

Climate Change

COSATU expects the president to recognize the major threat that climate change poses to all South Africans, specifically workers. From farm workers who will suffer from drought to those involved in manufacturing, who will be retrenched due to the economic crises that will arise from warming earth – we expect their needs to be addressed.

We further expect policy plans that will focus on the renewable energy industry and jobs that will be created in industries that actively adapt to climate change, and mitigate its effects. E.g. sustainable farming, urban farming, recycling, and businesses that use environmentally friendly production processes.

Government’s climate change plan needs to go far beyond carbon taxes. It needs to be based upon creating new environmentally friendly, sustainable and jobs intensive sectors such as electric vehicles, water conservation, industrial and consumer recycling, land rehabilitation and more scientific methods for agriculture.

Corruption and Looting

Corruption is a national crisis and COSATU has already voiced its disdain at the state of looting in the country. We expect a firm commitment to prosecuting corrupt officials. We also expect a bolstered set of internal policies for preventing future corruption. It is time to match rhetoric with some action. Corruption is tantamount to treason and should be treated with a sense of urgency.

COSATU welcomes the imprisonment of the former MEC for Finance in the Northern Cape but much more needs to be done. The NPA and SAPS must act upon what is being revealed at the Commissions of Enquiry, media etc.


The transport crisis has scarred workers since the days of apartheid. Their income is sunk into unsafe and inefficient private taxis, or into broken public transport. The failures of Prasa amounts to an attack on workers. We expect the president to prioritize the recovery of Prasa, expand public transport in urban areas and regulate dangerous taxis.

Metro Rail is broken and it must be fixed asap. The government must also accept that the E Tolls have been rejected and come up with a plan to sort them out.

Land Reform

It is time that the government acted on the cry for comprehensive land reform. Workers in urban areas can no longer live in shacks, backyards or overcrowded housing. Land for decent urban settlements must be released. Equally, the government needs to intensify land reform to ensure that farm workers, village residents and others who wish to farm are given the land. This must include all the necessary financial, resource and logistical support to ensure emerging farmers survive and grow.

Parliament and the government must act with speed to pass the relevant land reform legislation and constitutional amendments to ensure that land reform happens.


Public healthcare is in a massive crisis and the President needs to step in and ensure that it is fixed. The SONA needs to flesh out what is the government’s plan and timeframe towards building a National Health Insurance. It can no longer be acceptable to have doctors, paramedics and nurses being attacked on duty, to have clinics run out of medicines, for ambulances to be so overstretched that they take hours to deal with an emergency situation.


COSATU calls for the protection of teachers and learners from violence and drugs. The government must make schools safe for both teachers and learners.

The SONA needs to indicate how far the government has moved to ensure all schools have decent sanitation and when this national disgrace of not providing learners with decent sanitation will end.

4th Industrial Revolution

COSATU calls on the government to begin the process of reskilling the population for the 4th Industrial Revolution. Further increases in unemployment must not be made worse by automation, mechanisation, digitisation and the shifting of entry skills of the modern economy. We call on the government to include digital literacy in the school curriculum, allow for apprenticeships in information industries or any other policy choices that will prepare South Africa for the changing economy.

The Presidential 4th Industrial Revolution Commission needs to be reconfigured and relocated from the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies to the Presidency. It cannot simply look at the 4th Industrial Revolution in isolation from the entire spectrum of the economy.

Crime, Drugs and Policing

We call on the government to expand the police service, improve its operations and pursue innovative policies in reducing crime. We expect the President to offer leadership and support to those South Africans who have suffered from this plague. The deployment of SAPS personnel must be shifted away from the head and provincial offices and desk jobs to community policing and specialised units.


Workers applauded the adoption of the new National Minimum Wage. Further action is needed against employers who still refuse to abide by the NMA Act. The CCMA and Labour Courts need to be adequately resourced. The LRA must be amended to end labour broking once and for all. The LRA must further be strengthened to make retrenchments an act of last resort and to compel employers to reskill and absorb workers where needed.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act must be amended to limit the working week to 40 hours. Workers need to be allowed adequate time with their families and to rest. This must be done in a way that will also protect their wages. 

The Public Holidays Act and the BCEA must be amended to declare Freedom, Elections and Workers’ Days as non-trading public holidays. The existing public holiday’s legislation is woefully inadequate. Workers must be guaranteed their right not to work on public holidays. The 2019 elections have seen thousands of workers being disciplined, wages docked and even dismissed for not working on election day, especially in the retail, service and agricultural sectors.

Immigration policy 

The government needs to explore a sober immigration policy that will ensure that we do not have an immigration system that drives down wages of the poor and benefits the rich. Poor immigration policy and open borders are bad for the economy and the poor workers are the ones who suffer. The government already has many solid policies that are not being implemented.

Financial sector transformation

Our big banks are not properly held accountable and they make decisions that sometimes undermine the country’s developmental agenda. They abuse their hegemony and monopoly, as we saw with the currency manipulation scandal. The Federation also believes that large banks want to deal with large customers so that they can make large deals. Small businesses are therefore sidelined because no one caters for them and they are the ones that will help us reduce our alarming rate of unemployment. We, therefore, demand a State Bank to help drive government’s developmental agenda and also want the Competition Commission to stop big banks from buying small banks as a way of killing competition.

Issued by COSATU

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