COSATU statement on Minister Tito Mboweni’s misguided attacks on the nation’s labour laws

21 June 2021

 The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) rejects Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s misguided and uncalled for attacks on South Africa’s progressive labour laws. Minister Mboweni, as usual, in his moment of exuberance and superficiality lost his bearings in front of investors and decided to make extravagant promises to them about undoing the country’s labour laws.

 In a closed conference, he promised the investors that government will establish a commission to amend South Africa’s labour legislation and to exempt small and medium employers from these laws.

 Firstly, it must be noted that Minister Mboweni is the Minister of Finance and not the Minister of Employment and Labour. He is not the country’s Prime Minister but another mediocre Finance Minister who is pathetically trying to appease the so-called investors by reading from the script they wrote for him.

 This is not even a new idea but its an old proposal that has been repeatedly presented at Nedlac but rejected by all properly adjusted people, who do not believe in the apartheid model of transforming workers into glorified slaves.

For years now, the National Treasury has to been pushing policies that have led to the fragmentation of the state and rendered it a mere “regulatory state”through the “right-sizing” of the public service, “down-sizing” of the public sector through privatization and deregulation.

Workers have become used to Minister Mboweni pontificating about everything under the sun, but his rehashing of tired policies and ideas is becoming tedious.

 He is trying to hide the fact that government’s policies have worsened the glaring inequities and have condemned millions of human beings to lives of brute survival. This is an attempt to hide the fact that the deepening poverty that is destroying families and communities is a social construct and it flows from the logic of the capitalist system.

Minister Mboweni did not provide any proof of how the nation’s labour laws that only insist that workers be decently treated like human beings and not like glorified slaves impede investment or job creation. 

About 2.2 million workers were retrenched in 2020 and more than 1 million were later employed. This shows that our labour laws are not an impediment to employers, if anything our laws are too soft when it comes to protecting the rights of workers.

One of the most fundamental features of our national situation has been the inability of our policymakers and decisionmakers to find a solution to the systemic and deep existential crisis of the South African capitalist system.

 In this country, our economic crisis has persisted for more than a decade since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008.Since then unemployment levels shot up, wages have been severely depressed, and working families’ livings standards have been greatly reduced.

In the face of this prolonged crisis, the South African government has resorted to increasing austerity measures and cuts in public spending, leading to massive reduction in all aspects of social and economic benefits to the people.

Logically as these cuts intensified, inequalities have widened, and more jobs have been lost. The increase in inequality means working families’ purchasing power is significantly diminished.

 The government’s decision to suffocate the economy has backfired and Minster Mboweni is trying to deflect by provoking workers.

 It would be nice if Minister Mboweni was spending some of his time addressing the real blockages to investment, job creation and economic growth.  Investors will invest in a country with reliable and affordable energy, where corruption and wasteful expenditure are not the hallmark of state finances, where State Owned Enterprises spur and do not impede economic growth.

Year after year, the Auditor General of South Africa has been scathing about the ineffectiveness of the annual turnaround plans for SOE’s and the continuing and frightening quality of financial management in government in general.

One would expect that Minister Tito Mboweni as a leader of a department that is ethically responsible to see to it that the public money is used for its designated purposes and spent within guidelines of existing legislation across the state is having sleepless night trying to fix this mess.

Instead, his own department received a less than clean audit from the Auditor General last year. According to the Auditor-General of South Africa, the National Treasury incurred R249 million in irregular expenditure and failed to comply with guidelines and financial regulations last year.

Instead of dealing with this mismanagement of resources, Minister Mboweni has been busy preaching about zero budgeting, undoing the nation’s labour laws, and implementing cuts in public spending.

What is even more troubling, though, is that as a government Minister Mboweni is deployed on a mandate to review the macroeconomic framework to address the basic needs of our people, transform the economy, strengthen the public service, renew efforts to build a capable developmental state and address the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty, and inequalities in our society.

 It goes without saying that COSATU will resist this misguided attempt at undermining our labour laws and will protect these hard-won progressive laws that protect workers from abuse.

 Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911
Cell: 060 975 6794