COSATU is 37 Years old today

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is celebrating its 37th Anniversary today, 1 December 2022. On this day, we salute all our members past and present all leaders who have contributed to the building of this federation.  

The Federation has shown remarkable strength and resilience over the last 37 years. It has outlived the evil Apartheid regime that tried to silence it in the early hours of the morning of 7 May 1987, when two large bombs ripped through the basement of COSATU House in Johannesburg. Although no one was killed the badly damaged building was declared a health hazard by the City Council.

COSATU and its affiliates were forced to vacate their offices. In 1998 the former Minister of Law and Order, Adriaan Vlok, as well as 22 former members of the former security police appeared before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) to apply for the amnesty for their involvement in the bombing of COSATU House.

Over the last 37 years, rival federations were formed to try and liquidate COSATU without any success. The Federation outlived them all because it continues to be a democratic and mandate driven federation.

The organization has also seen its fair share of tragedies. The biggest one was the Bethlehem Bus crash where 53 COSATU members perished on their way to QwaQwa, when their bus drove into a dam near Bethlehem, Free State on the1st of May 2003.

Recently, our affiliated the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) lost six young leaders of the NUM Youth Structure who tragically passed away in a car accident over the weekend. We remember and honour these leaders and salute their contribution and sacrifices.

Despite all these challenges and setbacks COSATU has continued to defy all predictions by growing from strength to strength. This year we had a robust and successful 14th National Congress that proved that the federation is still an accountable and worker-controlled organization.

We remain a united, combative, and powerful worker-controlled federation.  We remain focused on meeting the expectations of our members at the workplace, including fighting for greater job protection, and living wages. 

We also appreciate and recognize that we are trying to achieve all of this under qualitatively different conditions. All our actions going forward shall always be informed by the need to unite workers and ensure the goals and aspirations of the working class are attained.  

We are proud of the victories that we have won over the last 37 years. COSATU has registered some notable victories for the workers and the working class. The federation managed to ensure that we have a progressive Labour Relations Act, a legislated National Minimum Wage, made progress on the National Health Insurance, including changes to the Unemployment Insurance Fund Act. Recently,parliament has adopted the Compensation of Injury on Duty Amendment Bill providing cover for 900 000 domestic workers and increasing protections for all workers.

We have fought against State Capture and Corruption, Job Losses, and pushed back against what we considered to be government’s reckless Neoliberal policies that weaken and undermine the state and service delivery. We fought and defeated the Free Market Foundation that took COSATU and other unions to the Constitutional Court undermining collective bargaining. We launched, led, and won the boycott against e-tolls in the province of Gauteng.

We are not sitting idly basking on our past glories but we are busy waging battles on behalf of our members. We remain concerned about the state of our key labour market institutions which are meant to provide support and relief to workers, in particular the Unemployment Insurance Fund, the Compensation for Occupational Injury and Diseases Fund, the CCMA, the labour inspectors, and our labour courts.

The CCMA and Compensation Fund are a mess and a constant source of delays for workers applying for their monies and forever being found implicated in allegations of corruption and fraud.  The CCMA is struggling with long queues due to budget cuts.  The Labour Courts experience perpetual delays alienating workers.  The labour inspectors are far and few.  These are the battles that will occupy us going forward.

Many of our affiliates continue to assert their presence across the sectors of our economy.  It is this uncompromising attitude and fearless character by our affiliates that acts to re- affirm the character of COSATU as a militant, radical and class-oriented federation of trade unions.

Our unions and our members remain the backbone of this federation and they are the ones who will ensure that COSATU survives another 37 years.

Long Live COSATU, Long Live!

Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)     

Tel: 011 339 4911
Cell: 060 975 6794