NEHAWU Statement on the Outcomes of the National Policy Conference

The National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union [NEHAWU] held a very successful and robust National Policy Conference on the 26th -29th of June 2019 at the Birchwood Hotel in Boksburg.

Over 380 delegates representing all members of the national union, delegates from 13 international fraternal organisations, representatives from COSATU affiliates and Alliance components including the Minister of Public Service and Administration attended the National Policy Conference to review the Strategic Policy Framework [SPF] which deals with the union’s political, socioeconomic and organisational strategy and to also extensively discuss the notion of a progressive developmental state and locate our role in building such a state

The conference received addresses from the Chairperson of the African National Congress [ANC], Cde. Gwede Mantashe; 1st Deputy General Secretary of the South African Communist Party [SACP], Cde. Solly Mapaila; President of COSATU, Cde. Zingiswa Losi and Minister of Public Service and Administrator, Cde. Senzo Mchunu. It further received addresses from the World Federation of Trade Unions [WFTU] Financial Control Committee President, Cde Hariharan Venkatachalam, and messages of support from the embassies of Cuba, Venezuela, Palestine and Western Sahara.

The National Policy Conference coincided with the 32nd anniversary of the founding of our union. This for us represents a very important milestone in the history of this giant public sector union. Throughout the 32 years of our existence, we have grown into a very strong union that is preoccupied with the transformation of the public sector and the struggle to end exploitation, outsourcing and the oppression of one class by another.

We emerged from this conference as a maturing affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions [COSATU] and a class oriented World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) proud of our history and confident of our future, with confidence and determination to strengthen, deepen and advance our work on all that we have achieved on the key pillars of our programme of action since we were born 32 years ago.

Through robust and intensive debates at the conference, we emerged with a clear and rigorous program of action that will be implemented in the next two years towards our 12th National Congress to take place in 2021 in order to bring us closer to our strategic goals. In this regard, all 43 regional congresses to be convened between July and November 2019 will in great details discuss the notion of a progressive developmental state noting that whilst in itself the developmental state would remain within the bounds of a capitalist economy system, however, as an overarching task of the moment the conference directed the working class to campaign for a “Progressive Developmental State” based on the demands and claims of the Freedom Charter as a means of deepening of the National Democratic Revolution [NDR] and the struggle for socialism and continue with the programme to enrich our Strategic Policy Framework [SPF] draft document. Subsequently, the 9 provincial congresses to be convened in 2020 will also be preoccupied with the debate on the developmental state and the SPF. At our 12th National Congress the national union will then adopt the SPF document.

NEHAWU will immediately start to prepare for its battle of ideas project which is in a form of public discourse or debates towards the 12th national congress in 2021 where the public will be afforded an opportunity to interface with our policy proposals for inclusive views. We are open to be influenced by the public, stakeholders and fraternal organisations as much as we also want to influence them with our SPF. In this regard, we will organise roundtable discussions, debates and other platforms across the country to engage on these imperative policy matters.

Indeed, as the national union we emerge from the conference more invigorated to confront the capitalist class and ready to dismantle the status quo. We hold a strong belief that we are on the right track to contribute in the building of building blocks towards the attainment of a socialist South Africa and ultimately the world.

On the developmental state

The National Policy Conference used the discussion on the developmental state for grounding the discussions for the policy conference. Firstly, at a theoretical level we understood the state as instrument of class oppression where the real antagonistic and irreconcilable class contradictions of society find expression and the dominant becomes a ruling class as the state mirrors class contradictions of the society. As NEHAWU, we characterise the South Africa State as a capitalist state which exploits the working class and is not just nor favourable to the majority of its citizens.

Secondly, we also understand the state as a terrain of struggle because largely our members in the public sector are located there hence we have a huge responsibility to transform the state through our sector as workers. We envisage a progressive developmental state that will respond to societal needs through its improved capacity and pays more attention to better the lives of its people particularly the working class.  

The state is a workplace for our members and it urgently needs to be holistically transformed in a manner that builds a conducive working environment whereby their rights are respected. We need a state that will recognise and appreciate the role played by our members because they are at the coalface of service delivery.

Mandate of DPSA

As the national union we understand the mandate of the Department of Public Service and Administration [DPSA] to be divided into four. The first being to build a single public service which also incorporates State Owned Enterprises [SOE’s] at the level of ethics and conduct. The second one is the professionalization of the public service which is a big area of concern for us because we are aware of blames directed at our members and workers for the poor service delivery in the public service. We are vehemently opposed to such misguided assertion because we believe that the government must create a conducive working environment in order for our members to perform at their optimum best. In this regard, the national policy conference acknowledges that we have a responsibility to orientate our members to appreciate the fact that individually as public servants and organisationally we have to play a role to ensure that there is a sense urgency in dealing with issues of service delivery and that the public is treated with the respect it deserves.

Thirdly, the DPSA is tasked with dealing with the scourge of corruption. This is a fight that we are more than willing to fight side by side with the department as we have seen the impact corruption has on the state and the quality of services delivered to our people. This is a fight we dare not lose and will require all South Africans to join hands in defeating it. Post the policy conference the national union will develop a component that will pay extra attention to corruption especially in government departments and the SOE’s. The national leadership will discuss and define in great detail the form and content of this component very soon.

Moreover, the conference has taken a decision that the national union must study closely the Cuban Ratification Process which was launched by Fidel Castro in 1986. The campaign suggests a renewed regime commitment to socialist values and socialist organising principles to moral versus materialistic incentives. We strongly believe that such revolutionary spirit will assist our members in undertaking their duties with a great sense of pride.

Fourthly, the department has to provide clarity in relation to the issue of the welfare and the benefit of the public sector provided by the state because up to so far it has not been providing any because in our view a salary and medical aid are not benefits but incentives due to a workers for services rendered to the state. Currently, as the national union we don’t see any benefit that can motivate and encourage public servants to triple their efforts

Posture towards the 6th administration

As a union organising in the state and who values political activism because we recognise that we are members of the society first before we are members we discussed in length the posture we will be adopting in dealing with the 6th administration of our government as led by Cde Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa. The national union was the first nail its colours to the mast and raised the name of Cde Ramaphosa for the Presidency of the ANC and ultimately of the country.

We strongly believe that the 6th administration has a duty to implement the promises made in the manifesto as delivered in Durban at the anniversary rally. The ANC promised to fight corruption, bring labour peace, improve service delivery, implement the NHI to ensure universal health access and provide free higher education for the poor. These promises were guided by the resolutions of the ANC 54th National Conference.

The national policy conference has decided that it will give the 6th administration a chance to implement all the programs it intends to implement with the view that if fails to resolve our issues or treat workers with dignity and respect we will not hesitate to be confrontational through mobilisation of our members, workers and society as a whole for a real fight. While on the other hand, the union will complement their work if most of our demands are met and they are working hard to ensure that they bring betterment into the lives of the working class and the poor. Our support for the ANC in the General Elections was not a blank cheque and was based on the fact that we believe that only the ANC can lead a relentless struggle to obliterate the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequalities.

In this regard, henceforth the union working with COSATU will engage the SACP on its 14th resolution on the Left Popular Front and Reconfigured Alliance as a strategic political centre and also revive the campaigning and fighting left axis capable of representing the actual aspirations of the working class and South Africans in general.

Issued by NEHAWU Secretariat Zola Saphetha [General Secretary] at 082 558 5968; December Mavuso [Deputy General Secretary] at 082 558 5969; Khaya Xaba [NEHAWU National Spokesperson] at 082 455 2500 or email: