COSATU Mandela Day statement 2020

The Congress of South African Trade Unions joins millions around the world to commemorate the 102nd anniversary of one of our struggle icons Nelson Mandela. This struggle icon died seven years ago but his legacy lives on in South Africa and around the world.

Now more than ever, the legacy of Madiba, what he lived and was willing to die for remains relevant for all South Africans. As we grapple with the challenges of combatting the Covid-19 virus and an economic implosion, Madiba remains a source of inspiration. His courage, perseverance and bold leadership helped this country to bury an evil regime and navigate the most difficult time of transition from apartheid to democracy. 

In honouring our heroes, COSATU President Zingiswa Losi said; “Ours is not to extoll the virtues of our past leaders but to emulate them”. This reminds us that it does not help to spend a day praising the corrupt free leadership of President Mandela, while we do nothing about thieves who are looting the country and stealing the money that is supposed to help the most vulnerable in the fight against Covid- 19.We need to use this day to reflect on the cancer of corruption ravaging our country and our tolerance of it. To honour Madiba, we need to fight and win the fight against corruption.

One of the first acts Madiba did on assuming the Presidency of the country was to donate a third of his salary to the Mandela Children’s Foundation. The same cannot be said of the CEOs of the five largest banks in South Africa who are reported to earn on average R150 000 every single day whilst paying their bank tellers peanuts. The business leaders of this country have gone to retrench thousands of their poorly paid workers, while using Madiba as a prop to hide their corrupt and reactionary tendencies during Mandela Day.

Madiba told the apartheid court, he was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to dismantle an unfair and oppressive system but today we have a government that continues with policies that sacrifice millions of poor people to lives of brute survival. The National government cannot distract people by using Madiba to hide the fact that the last budget and the overall economic policies being pursued represent a political expression of the white monopoly capital with an agenda to undermine transformation and perpetuate existing inequalities.

He spent much of his retirement years fundraising for the building of schools and children’s hospitals. But today we see kids being killed and maimed daily and schools are looted, vandalised and burned down by community members. The fight against gender-based violence is the fight we must win as country in honour of Madiba and other heroes and heroines of our struggle.  

Local government leaders cannot continue to use Madiba to hide the fact that there is an escalation of evictions and disconnections to municipal services in working class communities in cities like Cape Town and around the country.

Political parties like the DA should be ashamed of mentioning Madiba while they are electing more right-wing elements and supporting positions that reinforce racism in their ranks. Madiba fought against racial divisions and it is senseless for people whose political strategy is to deepen racial divisions in the country to want to appropriate him when it suits them.

If we want to genuinely want honour Mandela and preserve his legacy, we need to do real work and do much more than political stunts. We should use this Mandela day to take time to reflect on the values and principles that anchored and guided Mandela’s life and then work to emulate him in our actions.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (COSATU National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 679