COSATU’s End-of-Year Statement- 2022

The Congress of South African Trade Unions wishes South African workers a peaceful and joyful holiday season followed by a productive and a happy new year.  We wish all those travelling on trains, planes and on the roads, a safe journey.

This has been a difficult year with inflation repealing workers’ salaries. We have continued to lose jobs and inequality has grown to a point that South Africa is now the most unequal country on the planet according to the World Bank Report. We, therefore, caution workers against abusing alcohol and indulging in needless expenditure during this festive period.

The capitalist crisis has persisted over most of this year. All major sectors of the national economy have been affected, with the harshest impact located in areas of deep concern to the people’s livelihoods. Unemployed levels shot up, wages have been severely depressed, and working families’ livings standards have been reduced.

In being incapable of dealing with this crisis, government 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, in wages, retirement benefits and pensions, health and education and social welfare transfers. Every attempt at revitalising the South African capitalist economy, within the neoliberal framework of cutbacks and bailouts has only induced new and bigger rounds of crisis.

Organisationally, the Federation has had a very busy year waging struggles and consolidating democracy and worker control across its affiliates and many structures. Amidst all the challenges, this year COSATU held its 14th National Congress which was a resounding success, and which was preceded by nine provincial congresses, Gender Conferences, and a Young Worker’s conference.

Most of the strikes in the period under review were accounted for by COSATU unions and COSATU itself has led strategic battles for the working class on issues such as the cost-of-living crisis, National Minimum Wage, corruption in the Unemployment Insurance Fund, and many others.

COSATU has continued over the course of 2022 and will continue in the new year to wage struggles on behalf of workers in the Alliance, Nedlac, Parliament and in the public discourse on a wide variety of legislative, policy and budgetary interventions.  Key victories have been won ranging from substantial increases in the National Minimum Wage for farm and domestic workers, over R70 billion released from the UIF to help 5.7 million workers who had lost wages, the tabling of legislation in Parliament to allow financially distressed workers limited access to their pension funds.

We have also seen the passage by Parliament of legislation to include domestic workers under the Compensation of Occupational Injury and Diseases Fund, and the progress in Parliament’s processing of the National Health Insurance Bill.  More needs to be done, finalising key progressive Bills before the end of the 6th Parliament ahead of the 2024 national and provincial elections.

The CEC has also been engaged with giving support to some affiliates that are experiencing weaknesses and internal divisions. The CEC has been empowered to intervene when it is necessary, and the federation has been working hard on resolving the challenges facing the affected affiliates.

The CEC also undertook to pay special attention to providing support and rolling-out solidarity programmes for unions that were engaged in various strikes.

COSATU emerged from the congress with a simple message of forging ahead to deepen and consolidate the unity and cohesion of the federation, based on an understanding that COSATU’s unity is sacrosanct.

But as Chairman Mao said “we must not become complacent over any success. We should check our complacency and constantly criticise our shortcomings” as there are numerous challenges ahead for COSATU and its affiliates.

Therefore, we intend to sharpen our theoretical tools and be reliable and consistent in practice. Similarly, we also understand that we cannot achieve our recruitment goal of two million if we think this is only a matter of recruitment, it is very much the question of providing good service to members.

Socioeconomically, the current economic trends have unleashed very harsh conditions for the working class and the poor, on top of the already severe triple-crises of unemployment, poverty, and inequality. Despite this gloomy economic situation, the Growth Domestic Product has stabilised in the third quarter and about 200 000 jobs have been created in this same quarter.

Whilst statistical economic information must be taken with a pinch of salt, it is encouraging that the economy avoided another technical recession and was also able to absorb some unemployed people despite an increase in loadshedding.

However, because of the reduced spending in the economy because of restrictive fiscal and monetary policies, we still expect the economy to struggle to deliver a necessary growth and meets employment targets.

With the recent economic down-turn, household food security and hunger can only get worse unless drastic interventions are taken to pull the economy out of the recession and placed on a sustainable path of industrialisation and decent job-creation. 

The implementation of conservative economic policies favouring capital at the expense of the working class is a political programme reflecting the balance of class forces inside and outside of government. We have continued to contest privatisation because we believe it adds nothing to the economy. It is only about the private sector taking over utilities set up with taxpayers’ money and maximising profits.

We have continued to fight against privatisation. South Africa cannot afford the conversion of basic needs into commodities. The brutality of capital makes it impossible to delegate the responsibility of delivering basic needs to the private sector. Our position is not just about anti -privatisation but it is about the role of the state in the economy. The state needs to play a significant role in the economy, including some state ownership of the means of production and the provision of basic needs. 

Early next year we expect the newly elected ANC leadership to ensure that its government delivers a people centred budget. The budget should be progressive and should be judged by the extent to which it moves the tax burden away from the poor to the rich. 

It is critical that the 2023/24 Budget provides a road map to enhance the Special Relief of Dispensation (SRD) Grant and lay it as a foundation for the Basic Income Grant.  It is equally important for the Presidential Employment Stimulus to be significantly upscaled from the current half a million participants to at least 1 million by February 2023 and 2 million by October 2023.

We want government to rethink the various tax concessions to promote economic and industrial growth because they have not worked. Businesses invest the money in share buy backs and keep it in tax havens.

Politically, the Alliance has continued to struggle with its reconfiguration political programme. We have consistently argued that the Alliance must not become an elections machinery only and that its usefulness and activities must not be limited to delivering and working together only during the elections, while being excluded from governance. To that end, it must exercise effective oversight and collectively define a deployment strategy.

Our Fourteenth National Congress reaffirmed that COSATU must continue to push for the Alliance to act as a political centre with the SACP starting its consultation process in preparation for it to contest elections. As such, the parties to the Alliance must drive transformation jointly.

The Federation believes that the Alliance should drive transformation, with tighter coordination of Alliance programmes. Our challenge is to take forward our Congress mandate but avoid polemics that would not help conclude this discussion or divide the federation.

The Alliance partners agree on the need for a fundamental change in the nature of the Alliance and post the ANC Conference, we need to start the process of engagement on how to achieve this goal. The independent Alliance formations have a right to determine what kind of political alliance(s) they want to be part of in the interest of their own members.

We have been exemplary in raising the proletarian internationalist flag with campaigns on Palestine, Swaziland, Cuba, amongst others.

Lastly, with over 16 million South Africans struggling to have three meals a day, inflation ravaging households, we urge everyone to show Ubuntu by sharing with those at the bottom end of the economic pyramid. We wish all our members and every South African enjoyable holidays and a well-earned break.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (COSATU National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 679