COSATU Message on the occasion of the 109th Anniversary of the founding of the African National Congress by COSATU General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali

Leadership of the ANC and its Leagues

Members of the ANC NEC.

Leaders of the COSATU, NOBs collective and Members of the COSATU CEC

Dear Comrades

On behalf of the COSATU NOBs, Members of the Central Executive Committee, and the entire membership, we congratulate our ally the African National Congress (ANC) on reaching such a significant milestone of 109 years of existence. This is an important Anniversary that tells the evolution of the South African story of persistence and resilience.

The ANC represents an inspiring African story of revolution, heroism, and liberation. This year we are meeting under difficult conditions, where a deadly virus is running rampage and destroying lives and livelihoods. 

As usual the people of this country have responded with courage, resilience and even with humour. This is a country of survivors and at this difficult time, the ANC as the leader of society is being called to play its historical role of leading during these difficult times. 

We hope the ANC is up to the task of keeping this country united and helping it navigate these uncertain and difficult times. For this to happen the ANC needs to do some honest reflection and spring cleaning inside the organisation. 

One of the achievements of the ANC over the last 109 years has been its ability to mobilise and unite our people, particularly the black majority around the project of non-racialism and non-sexism, and more precisely around the project of nation-building. 

This is an important achievement precisely because it was informed by the deliberate programme of dismantling the apartheid legacy of “divide and rule” that thrived on maintaining tribal and racial divisions and denying us of our common identity as South Africans. The emergence of narrow black nationalism and tribalism in the ranks of the ANC is anti-ANC and a cancer that should not be tolerated.

The organisation needs to ensure that it is led by disciplined and principled leaders and that all its deployees in the state are of a similar character. Money should not be allowed to determine the fate of ANC conferences and the demon of factionalism needs to be exorcised without fail. 

There is an urgent need to do away with corruption scandals, public bickering, and the lack of decisive action by the elected officials. The on-going challenges of unity and cohesion especially amongst leadership at all levels of the organisation and between the organisational leadership and those deployed in government is a big problem. 

The problems facing this country are not insurmountable, but they are difficult to resolve because our leaders are unprincipled and lack discipline. They lose their heads when the editorials and opinion pieces of the mainstream media encourage and mask their ill-discipline by calling them words like “mavericks” and “freethinkers”. The ANC has to make it clear that people cannot continue to hide their ill-discipline by claiming to be “freethinkers” Mavericks are free to leave the ANC and go be mavericks outside, they cannot be allowed hijack the mandate and pervert it to suit their narrow interests.

Only ill-disciplined and unprincipled people will impose deadly austerity measures at a time when millions of poor people are struggling to have three meals a day, despite the ANC having committed itself to building a developmental state. Only ill-disciplined and unprincipled people can renege on the contracts they signed with the workers, and yet find billions to pay consultants, corrupt service providers and their lenders. Only ill-disciplined and unprincipled people can find the courage to steal food parcels and money meant to take care of the poor during a deadly pandemic. 

We are currently having heated debates about the COVID-19 vaccine and the capacity of the state to deliver it on time, we act as if we never adopted a resolution of a State Pharmaceutical company. 

We talk about an overwhelmed and overburdened health system, but we sold the idea of the National Health Insurance in our manifesto to the people of South Africa and got a mandate. Now we hear others arguing that the current economic crisis makes NHI unrealistic. 

This argument is less concerned with protecting the working class and the poor from the crisis that is not of their own making. Our position is that Job losses have resulted in nearly a million workers losing their medical benefits and workplace restructuring has cut back the benefits of millions of workers. It is because of the inability of the current system and the worsening crisis that we need an NHI.

The health profile of South Africans is further compromised by inadequate access to basic services including health, clean water, and basic sanitation. Why is this happening? This is happening because our leaders at local level are corrupt and incompetent. COSATU is not saying this but the Auditor- General of South Africa has been saying this for years now.

We have an economic crisis that has led to small businesses and many citizens sinking deeper into debt. We endorsed a Loan Guarantee Scheme to give relief to these businesses and it was handed over to the private sector and we know what happened to it. This is happening because we are not bothered with implementing the resolution of a State Bank. We have endless studies and research, then accept when billionaires loan our people money outside of normal financial regulations.

The COSATU developed Eskom Social Compact when it was initially dismissed by some in the ANC because they were championing the unbundling of the power utility at the urging of the private sector.

The ANC needs to take a step back and remember the promises and commitments made to the people of this country over the last 109 years. The Freedom Charter was a commitment, the RDP programme was a promise, and the numerous manifestos are contracts that the ANC has entered not with the electorate. It is heart-breaking for hardcore ANC members and voters to see an ANC government perpetrating attacks against collective bargaining.

The people are still waiting for these to be fulfilled and honoured and this year’s January 08 message they are waiting to hear about what the plan with regards to a State Pharmaceutical Company is, the NHI, State Bank, fighting Corruption and improved service delivery and commitment to collective bargaining. 

As we celebrate this 109th Anniversary of the ANC, let us all remember that half the country lives in poverty or a category called near poverty. The working class and the working poor are priced out of the health care system. The poorly funded schools struggle to educate their children, who live without adequate food and often clean water, are repeatedly evicted from their homes, have their utilities shut off, cannot find jobs, and are crippled by punishing debt. 

While this pandemic is killing indiscriminately, the working class is dying at disproportionally higher rates. 

Whether the ANC will live another 109 years will depend on what it does to fix this situation.

I thank you