COSATU Response to the  State of the Nation Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa 2023 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) notes the State of the Nation Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered in Parliament today.  The Federation notes the various commitments made to reduce and end loadshedding, inclluding the declaration of a State of Disaster. The economy cannot grow and jobs will not be created if load shedding is not eliminated.  We expect to see real progress in the next 6 months,we do not have the luxury of twenty four (24) months.  

The State of Disaster should be utilised to provide the power utility with all the necessary support. The February Budget Speech needs to finalise the details of reducing the Eskom debt by fifty (50) percent and also empower the government to deal with the coal cartels that are hobbling the power utility with their corrupt tendencies. Law enforcement agencies need to also tackle the cable theft mafia that is destroying the nation’s infrastructure. 

The Federation welcomes the inclusion of social partners in the government’s efforts to tackle the energy crisis and shifting the Bounce Back Scheme to support the rolling out of solar panels. Everything is dependent on the success of the plan to fix load shedding because with no electricity, there is no economy and with no economy there will be no jobs and public services. 

We expect the same commitments when it comes to the protection and rebuilding of  our passenger and freight railway network that is being decimated by rampant cable theft, vandalism and arson.  A functioning rail network is key to growing the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors and to ensuring workers in our cities can get to work on time. 

Whilst welcoming efforts by the government to rebuild the Post Bank and Parliament’s processing of the Postbank Amendment Bill, we need a plan to stabilise,  and rebuild the Post Office that does not include retrenching and robbing workers of their salaries legally.  It is disappointing that there is no coherent plan, yet, to rebuild ailing State-Owned Enterprises. 

Whilst COSATU supports the National Infrastructure Plan, which is crucial in stimulating and modernising the economy, we are deeply worried with the pace of its roll out.  This needs to be expedited to rescue municipalities and avert the water crisis like the one experienced by residents in eGqeberha.

 It is alarming that to date, the Department of Cooperative Governance and SALGA  have offered nothing tangible to rebuild the collapsing municipalities.  This needs to change fast.  

COSATU welcomes the commitment to mobilise R2 trillion to stimulate the economy but such commitments by both the public and private sectors need to be monitored. We want assurance that these commitments include the creation of jobs and decent work.  The banking, financial, mining, retail, manufacturing and hospitality sectors need to play their part in creating jobs and reducing the apartheid wage gap.

The Presidential Employment Stimulus has helped to create work opportunities for thousands of young people, this program needs to be  adequately funded to absorb two (2) million young people. 

The Federation is pleased that the President has endorsed COSATU’s call to extend and increase the SRD Grant that has provided relief to 8 million unemployed persons.  Its administrative challenges need to be resolved, all 12 million unemployed persons need to have access to it. The grant also needs  to be increased to the food poverty line and its participants linked to skills development and job opportunities.  The nation cannot afford to leave an army of unemployed and despondent people behind.

The government needs to reduce the 32% of the fuel price allocated to taxes  to protect workers, commuters and the economy from the rising cost of living.

The National Treasury and Parliament need to move with speed to finalise legislation allowing financially struggling workers early access to their pension funds by the end of 2023.

The green shoots that are beginning to be seen in the fight against crime are welcome, in particular recent arrests and seizing of assets and the rebuilding of SARS that has yielded badly needed revenue.

The hiring of an additional 10 000 and a commitment to employ a further 10 000 SAPS members is a welcome start to deal with the decline in the SAPS head count.  We expect all critical vacancies in the NPA need to be filled.  The passing of the three (3) Gender Based Violence Acts must be accompanied by the capacitation of law enforcement organs to ensure their effective implementation.  Legislative amendments to extend the protection for whistleblowers need to be expedited, including the allocation of adequate funding. 

Whilst COSATU welcomes many of the progressive commitments outlined in the SONA, none of them will materialise if  the government fails to fix its relationship with public servants.  The selfless nurses, doctors, police and correctional service officers, teachers, and public servants that heroically defended the economy and the nation during the pandemic have been shabbily treated since 2020. This has been done by a government that runs a corporate welfare state.  If the government is to provide the quality public services that society depends upon, then it needs a motivated public service.

COSATU supports the call for social compacts by the President.  We will continue to engage with government and business at Nedlac on the sectoral master plans to push for their implementation. A social compact needs to be based upon progressive principles, protection of workers’ hard-won rights , provision of meaningful relief to the unemployed, rebuilding of  the state and stimulation of the economy.

What the SONA said is useful only if the budget funds it. The 2023/24 Budget to be tabled at Parliament on 22nd of February needs to speak to the commitments announced in the SONA and then matched by clear implementation timeframes by the respective departments.   The 6th administration does not have the luxury of time because the electorate will be rendering its verdict in the national and provincial elections in 15 months’ time.  

Issued by COSATU.

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)

Tel: 011 339 4911

Fax: 011 339 5080

Cell: 060 975 6794