COSATU Message of Support – ANC National Congress

Comrades Chairperson,

President of the ANC and the Republic, Cde. Cyril Ramaphosa,

National leadership of the ANC, the SACP and COSATU,

Leadership, delegates and membership of our ally, the ANC,

Distinguished guests and comrades,

We are pleased to be with you for this historic congress.  It is not an exaggeration to state the future of the ANC and the liberation movement, lays in our hands. 

Cosatu has been pained by the release from prison of the assassin of our beloved Chris Hani.

Whilst we may not be able to reverse a Constitutional Court judgment, we can reflect on what Chris Hani meant for all South Africans. We can do better to honour his memory, sacrifices, values and beliefs.

Workers and all South Africans, are painfully aware of the existential crises the ANC has experienced over the past decade when state capture and corruption exploded.

Our task is to correct this downward trajectory, to intensify our efforts to cleanse the movement of corruption and factionalism, to restore the ANC to its bias in favour of the working class, to be a vehicle for the advancement of the interests of the poor and not a parasitic elite, an organisation that OR Tambo and Chris Hani could be proud of.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, its Affiliates and workers are deeply concerned at the state of the ANC.

It was not an accident of history that COSATU was founded in Alliance with the ANC, nor was it by chance that our predecessor, SACTU was a pillar of the Alliance.  Workers deliberately identified the ANC as an ally and a leader of the Alliance to lead the National Democratic Revolution, to defeat apartheid, achieve the democratic breakthrough and improve the lives of the working class.

It is unquestionable that the ANC had done well on many fronts; from defeating the apartheid regime, to drafting one of the most progressive constitutions, to passing a variety of labour laws improving the lives of workers.

However, we cannot be pleased with the state of the ANC.  Rampant factionalism if allowed to continue will destroy the movement.  We are shamed by the behaviour of senior leaders taking to social media to insult their own organisation and leaders.

We cannot be proud to read every week which Minister, MEC and Mayor has stolen what.  Workers are angry the ANC fails to pay its own staff and for years could not be bothered to give their staff members an increase to protect their wages from inflation. 

As a trade union movement, we will not keep quiet when our Alliance Partners fail to respect our labour laws.  Workers must be respected by our Alliance partners, and not treated like glorified slaves.

If the ANC is to be restored to its glory and fulfill its mandates than its renewal must be intensified.  No sober person will take us seriously if our leadership is populated by persons convicted of or charged with serious crimes.  Leadership is not a birthright.

COSATU recently held its national congress.  It was not an easy congress.  Workers are deeply angered by the state of the Alliance.  Yes it is not correct when workers prevent our ally, the ANC, from speaking but we will be failing as leaders if we continue to ignore the hurt workers feel and if we abscond when we should address the grievance of workers.

The mandate of COSATU’s Congress, is clear, we need to ensure the radical reconfiguration of the Alliance if it is to survive and to fulfill its historic mandates.

Whilst much of congress’ attention will be on the NEC elections, if we are serious about fixing our economy, reducing unemployment, tackling corruption and rebuilding a capacitated developmental state, then we need to spend the majority of this congress focused on interventions to turn things around. 

What must guide us at all times is a 43% unemployment rate, record levels of poverty and inequality, rampant corruption and wasteful expenditure, and a state eroded by corruption and austerity budget cuts.

We applaud the positive achievements made by the ANC administration, many achieved in collaboration with COSATU at Nedlac and in Parliament. 

These include managing the greatest pandemic in memory, the largest roll out of social relief to help cushion workers and the economy, the SRD Grant providing relief to 10 million unemployed persons and laying the foundation for a Basic Income Grant.

Government working with COSATU at Nedlac oversaw the release of over R64 billion from the UIF to help workers who lost wages during the Covid-19 lockdown.

We have seen progress on the legislative front from the adoption of the National Minimum Wage increasing the wages of more than 6 million workers, in particular farm and domestic workers, the passage of the Compensation of Occupational Injury and Diseases Amendment Bill providing cover to 900 000 domestic workers, the processing of the National Health Insurance Bill and the Expropriation Bill, providing for expropriation of land without compensation, by Parliament.

The economy has begun to emerge from a devastating recession with a 3% fall in unemployment this year. 

Whilst we welcome this progress, more remains to be done.  We cannot be complacent with a 43% unemployment rate, the most unequal society in the world, countless companies collapsing due to illicit imports, or when the number of people receiving social grants is double the number of people working. 

More needs to be done to meet the commitments of the Economic Recovery and Reconstruction Plan, in particular rebuilding Eskom and ending loadshedding, tackling cable theft and securing our railway lines, ramping up local procurement, and stimulating the economy to create jobs.

If Congress is to meet the hopes of workers, then it needs to focus on practical and sober solutions to our many socio-economic challenges.  Slogans do not create jobs.

If we are to save the National Democratic Revolution, then we need to rebuild a capable developmental state.

We applaud the work done to rebuild SARS that has generated badly needed additional revenue enabling government to extend the SRD Grant and Presidential Employment Stimulus and thus providing relief to millions.

We welcome the increasing numbers of persons being charged with corruption and the soon to be tabled Public Procurement Bill.

But this is not enough.  We need to see trials and those who have looted in prison and their assets seized.  We need to reverse the devastating decrease in the police from over 200 000 personnel in 2010, to 172 000 today.

If we are to build a developmental state, then government led by our Alliance Partners, needs to respect workers and honour agreements signed in the collective bargaining councils.  Employers both public and private must respect collective bargaining and the rights of workers.

Public servants feel betrayed that their own comrades unilaterally reneged upon a signed wage agreement in 2020.  We saw the anger of these workers when many did not vote in the 2021 elections.  This needs to be resolved if we are to heal the anger of workers and the wounds in the Alliance.

We must condemn in the strongest possible terms the repeated failure of 2 dozen municipalities to pay their workers their salaries and to transfer monies deducted to their pension and medical funds.  This is criminal.  Yet COGTA and SALGA are nowhere to be seen when workers are robbed of what is owed to them.

The leadership of the ANC on the international stage has been weakened as we have embarrassed ourselves with our litany of scandals.

The working class remains under siege across the world, from Cuba to Venezuela, from Western Sahara to Palestine, from eSwatini to Zimbabwe.  Many are looking to the movement to provide that progressive voice.

This call for solidarity needs to go hand in hand with efforts to support the African Continental Free Trade Agreement and the region’s industrial and integrated development.  These are critical if we are to stem the flood of migration.

The 2024 elections are less than 16 months away.  They will be won or lost over the next few days and months.  If we are to ensure the Alliance emerges victorious in the elections, then we need to intensify the renewal of the ANC, ramp up the fight against corruption, rebuild the state and SOEs, stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment, and provide solidarity and hope to the unemployed.

We simply do not have the luxury of failure, to procrastinate or to engage in the pursuit of factional and personal lust for power.

Workers have put us on our final notice.  We hope that Congress will not fail them.

Thank you. Matla!