Comrade President Cyril Ramaphosa,
Former and current leadership of the ANC, the SACP and COSATU,
Members of the movement,
On behalf of the Congress of South African Trade Unions please accept our best wishes for the ANC, the Alliance and our entire membership for 2022. This will be a very busy year. For the first time all Alliance partners will be holding their various congresses. Whilst this is important, we must not fail to deal with the many burning issues facing the nation. We need to reconnect with the ordinary South Africans.
Unemployment has passed 46%, 2.2 million workers lost their jobs since 2020, millions more lost wages, 93 000 South Africans passed away to Covid-19, the economy is in its deepest recession in a century. Many SOEs have collapsed or are in ICU. The AG’s reports into local government and many departments are a horror story.
A week cannot pass without us seeing comrades, including those serving in Cabinet and the NEC, gracing the front pages of newspapers for one scandal after another. We have paid the price for our failures in our worst election results in 2021.
This Lekgotla, has the opportunity to address and correct these existential crises facing the nation, the state and the movement. The question is whether or not we will?
We held robust Makgotla in 2021. Progressive decisions were reached. Yet many of these decisions have not been implemented. We are here at this Lekgotla without a systematic audit of the decisions taken by the 2021 Makgotla, which have been implemented, which have not, why not, what are interventions are being undertaken to address these, what new proposals are being tabled?
Equally these progressive decisions of our Makgotla will be meaningless if they are not backed up with sufficient financial resources from government.
Are we here for the sake of tradition? We talk, raise issues, feel good and then depart. If we are serious about saving the movement, rebuilding government and growing the economy, then we must be serious about the decisions we reach in these Makgotla. The Alliance Secretariat must be strengthened and develop mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the implementation of our decisions. Otherwise these Makgotla will become talk shops.
The movement is dying, only bold action can save it
It is deeply worrying that this Lekgotla does not have a commission focusing on organisational renewal, nor the local elections. Yet the movement is in mess. For the first time since 1994, we received less than 50% of the vote and lost the majority of metros. Denialism will not make our problems disappear.
As COSATU we must raise our anger and condemn the failure of our Alliance partner to pay its employees since October. It is unacceptable. It is unbelievable that we allow this to continue. ANC staff are treated little better than cheap labour. They have been forced to embark on a stayaway, yet our comrades in government receive their comfortable salaries.
The ANC staff are correct to put down their tools. And they must not be threatened with disciplinary action. Pay them what they are owed and do it now.
COSATU is disappointed and angered that the attacks on collective bargaining that started in local government, then went to SOEs, spread to the public service resulting in it abandoning a signed wage agreement in 2020, have now spread to the ANC itself as an employer. We must condemn how the ANC treats its own workers.
It’s disappointing to hear Luthuli House blaming the Party Funding Act for its failures to pay staff. The Act came into effect in April 2021, yet ANC staff have been subjected to repeated delays in salaries and no increases for more than 3 years. In our desperation to raise funds, we must not gut the Party Funding Act. This is a progressive Act, the ANC was correct to pass it, we must now defend it. We may say increase the limits on donations, but we must not touch the requirements to disclose the source of donations, unless we are saying we receive funds from criminals.
The ANC has a proud history. It is the movement of Madiba, Tambo, Hani and Ruth First. Yet today we see factions running amok. We witness NEC members insulting each other on Twitter. And no action is taken.
We deploy members to represent the movement not themselves in government. Their mandate is the ANC’s election manifesto. Yet we are now subject to persons who swore an oath to defend the Constitution, running to the media to rubbish the very Constitution this movement of Madiba drafted. It is unacceptable and unbecoming for senior leaders and Cabinet members to attack the Constitution. The failure of the ANC to discipline deployees is feeding a culture of mediocrity. In fact we are seen to reward and promote those who have been found wanting. If comrades are tired, then they must leave. As we emerge from a decade of state capture, we cannot tolerate ANC public representatives publicly attacking our Constitution.
Our performance in the 2021 local elections was not a surprise. It was expected given an unemployment rate of 44%, rampant corruption and deteriorating public services. What have we done to turn the tide, to correct our mistakes? Judging by the behaviour of some of our Councillors who think being an effective opposition means knocking over tables and disrupting Council meetings, we have not learned much. If we continue on this road, then we must accept that we will lose the 2024 elections.
Growing the economy and creating jobs must be at the centre of government’s work
We do not seem to appreciate the extent of the economic crises facing workers. We cannot sustain an unemployment rate of 46% and bleed a million jobs a year.
Every sphere of government and SOE must have job creation and economic growth at the heart of their work. Government did well to create 500 000 job opportunities with the Presidential Employment Programme and to increase its funding to R24 billion per annum. We need to double this to R50 billion to create 2 million jobs.
We need to modernise the UIF and Compensation Fund systems to ensure that all workers are registered for them and receive their monies timeously.
The National Minimum Wage has improved the wages of over 6 million workers, in particular farm, domestic, construction and hospitality amongst others. Government needs to move with speed to implement the National Minimum Wage Commission’s recommendations to increase the NMW from 1 March 2022. This will help more than 6 million workers to feed their families and equalise 900 000 domestic workers to the NMW. Workers cannot afford delays.
We must extend the R350 SRD Grant beyond March, increase it to the food poverty line and use it as the foundation for a BIG. We must provide relief to battered sectors of the economy. The banks must be engaged to provide affordable loans for businesses. These relief measures must be incentivised to support job retention and creation. We need to mobilise every bit of stimuli for the economy including the finalisation of Regulation 28 of the Pensions Act.
Government and the private sector need to accelerate the implementation of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, in particular ramping up local procurement, giving additional support including debt relief for Eskom to ensure we have reliable and affordable electricity, fixing Transnet and PRASA, and rebuilding our other embattled SOEs and ensuring that their workers receive their salaries.
We need a social compact with government and business where they commit to halting retrenchments and creating jobs.
Central to renewing the movement and growing the economy, is a well governed state
Corruption and factionalism have bled the state. We are now paying the price with municipalities that cannot fix potholes, deliver water or electricity. Many municipalities’ financial records are so bad that the Auditor-General cannot make sense of them.
The Zondo Commission did well to shine the light on state capture and corruption. Our movement has been found badly wanting, in particular comrades we had entrusted to run government. We need to see the law enforcement agencies move with speed to act on its findings. We need to move with speed to implement its recommendations. If this doesn’t happen, then we must not be surprised when corruption continues unabated.
Central to our efforts to cleanse the state must be to overhaul the public procurement system, to ensure a single transparent online public procurement system for the entire state and the finalisation of the Public Procurement Bill. SARS must be reinforced and empowered to undertake lifestyle audits of members of cabinet, provincial executives and mayoral committees, senior management of the state and SCM officials.
Equally if we are serious about building a capacitated developmental state, then our ally needs to respect collective bargaining in the PSCBC, SALGA, SOEs and the entire state. We need to respect signed agreements and the need to protect the wages of public servants and workers from inflationary erosion.
We must not allow Treasury’s rush to reduce the public deficit and debt, to hollow out or collapse key institutions that protect workers, e.g. the CCMA or to weaken DTIC and other economic cluster institutions key to saving jobs and growing the economy.
COSATU is pleased with Parliament’s passing of the 3 progressive Gender Based Violence Bills. What is needed now is for government to enact and implement them. We need to ensure that the police and all government organs are geared to ensure they come into effect. As a movement, we need to embark on strategic campaigns to turn the tide against the unacceptable levels of violence and abuse faced by women, children and vulnerable persons.
Let us show practical international solidarity
We have said many words of solidarity Cuba, eSwatini, Venezuela, Western Sahara, Palestine and Zimbabwe but with little practical solidarity? COSATU is mobilising resources to send shipments to Cuba. We have blockaded border posts eSwatini. These are not enough. We need to ramp up political solidarity in the international fora, a SADC intervention eSwatini, and to ramp up trade and investment with Cuba and Venezuela. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement will be central to this.
We are at a crossroads. We have a simple choice. We can continue as is, unemployment will pass 50%, state organs will collapse, the movement will die, it will be removed from office in 2024. Or we can make the hard choices, cleanse the movement of factionalism and criminals, deal decisively with corruption, fix the state, grow the economy and slash unemployment. Our choice as COSATU is the latter. We hope our Alliance partners will join us on that path. Amandla!