The National Office Bearers of the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) held a bilateral session on Monday 13 February 2023, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. The meeting took place at a difficult time when our democratic transition is facing serious challenges, not least the multiple capitalist system crises and its results. Inequality, unemployment and poverty are persistently high, and the productive capacity of the state, among others in major State-Owned Enterprises, has deteriorated.
In 1996, the government adopted the neoliberal economic policy called Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR), as “non-negotiable” and “cast in stone”. In the same year, unemployment rose to the crisis-high annual levels of above 20 per cent, increasing with every global capitalist crisis and worsened over time. At 43,1 per cent in the third quarter of 2023, total unemployment affected approximately 12 million active and discouraged work-seekers.
The neoliberal shock therapy that the 1996 GEAR class project imposed exposed the semi-peripheral, underdeveloped South African economy to the extents of the impact it endured from external shocks. It also paved the way for capital flight and associated domestic crises, such as the 2001 currency depreciation crisis.
Putting profit interests before the people, neoliberalism emphasised privatisation, deregulation and liberalisation, among others to insinuate private competition to Eskom in energy generation as a sector. Eskom’s productive capacity to generate electricity, transmit and distribute it uninterruptedly aged, deteriorated and started failing. In some areas, it collapsed altogether.
There was no single successful state power station replacement since the government adopted the neoliberal White Paper on Energy in December 1998 under the auspices of GEAR. The maintenance of Eskom power stations was also compromised under the approach followed. This led to Eskom’s productive capacity being lesser now than going back. The conditions for the development of the current electric power generation under-capacity crisis developed from there, leading to the dilapidating load-shedding.
The destruction of Eskom’s productive capacity undermined the impressive post-1994 household electrification programme. So were the poor designs, poor work and failures to meet completion deadlines at the belatedly introduced Medupi and Kusile Power Station projects. These are also among the factors that built up the Eskom debt crisis and led to the collapse of the chimney stack at Kusile Power Station in 2022 and the explosion at Medupi Power Station in 2021. The two accidents amounted to additional costs, also causing further project completion delays.
Together with governance decay and corruption under corporate state capture, neoliberalism is directly responsible for the energy crisis and the general deterioration of the productive capacity of the state, not least in major State-Owned Enterprises such as Eskom. Outsourcing and sabotage in outsourced operations are part of the problem of neoliberalism and corporate capture of State-Owned Entities.
Uniting the working-class against neoliberalism and state capture
The SACP and COSATU share the strategic imperative to unite the working-class through active campaigning, mass mobilisation, political education and building a powerful, socialist movement of the workers and poor. This is essential to confront capitalist exploitation, neoliberalism and corporate state capture.
The aims of our shared programme include intensifying the struggle to increase the total productive capacity of the state as rapidly as possible, as part of the national-revolutionary democratic imperatives to meet the material needs of the people. To this end, it is critical to secure the turnaround of all major Public Entities, including, but not limited to, Eskom, TransNet, PetroSA, and PRASA.
The SACP and COSATU will not form part of any programme to collapse Public Entities. We reject the statement by the Presidency that government departments and local government should get off the Eskom grid in favour of renewables through private sector involvement. The notion will remove a key income stream from Eskom and harm it further. The state cannot abandon its responsibility to generate, transmit and distribute energy in favour of private capital and leave the workers and poor with no power.
As a public utility, Eskom must be supported adequately to thrive. The government should look for better ways to address its debt as a matter of urgency, as part of the wider imperative to turn Eskom around. This imperative should include increasing the total productive capacity of the state to generate electricity to meet the energy needs of the people.
We say “No to the South African Post Office retrenchments and collapsing of public entities”.
The SACP and COSATU are deeply concerned about the South African Post Office’s intention to retrench around 6,000 workers. The information emerged just after President Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the State of the Nation Address on Thursday 9 February 2023, asserting that government programmes were designed to leave no one behind. The retrenchments, if allowed to proceed, will leave not only the affected workers but also their dependents behind, with a massive impact amid the persisting high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality. The contemplation of the retrenchments by South African Post Office directly contradicts what the President said.
The SACP and COSATU call on the government to stop the planned South African Post retrenchments. We will support the trade unions organising at the public entity, including the COSATU affiliate, the Communication Workers Union, in the fight against the contemplated retrenchments. The South African Post Office should form part of the public entities that the government has to turn around and modernise technologically and operationally to thrive.
Retrenchments in other sectors
Besides the planned mass retrenchments by the South African Post Office, we have seen capitalist bosses in the retail and mining industries, among others, continuing with retrenchment plans. Together, supporting trade unions organising in the affected sectors, including COSATU affiliates, we will strengthen our efforts in the struggle against the retrenchments.
A state bank and transformation of the financial sector
In delivering the State of the Nation Address, President Ramaphosa said the government will transform the Post Bank to establish it as a state bank by first ensuring that it is granted a required licence.
The working-class, including the rural masses, needs the branches of the South African Post Office to be extended to roll out the services of the forthcoming state bank.
Beyond that, the SACP and COSATU will work together to intensify the financial sector transformation campaign. Instead of a single state bank, this struggle aims to achieve a developmental state baking sector, as well as a thriving co-operative banking sector, to diversify and de-monopolise the financial sector.
Public investment corporation
The Public Investment Corporation and the Government Employees Pension Fund must develop financial products to support working-class needs and infrastructure development, including housing and education.
The national state disaster in energy
The declaration of the national state of disaster in energy as a way of intervening to resolve the energy crisis must not be used to implement a neoliberal policy framework.
Also, during the national state of disaster in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a nexus of unscrupulous public sector officials and representatives and private sector interests corrupted procurement to enrich themselves. The government must not allow this to rear its ugly head again. To this end, mass mobilisation will also be essential. The energy national state of disaster must benefit our people who need a solution as a matter of urgency.
Alliance Economic and Energy Summit
The SACP and COSATU reaffirmed their call for an urgent Alliance Economic and Energy Summit, towards a common economic, energy and social policy direction. This should help South Africa to resolve the interrelated crises of energy and high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, and to strengthen the fight against corruption and crime.
Minister of Electricity in the Presidency
While the idea to appoint a Minister of Electricity in the Presidency may be well-intentioned, the lack of consultation directly contradicts the spirit of a reconfigured Alliance and programmatic unity.
Our joint commitment to the reconfiguration of the Alliance aims to see the Alliance play its role as a strategic political centre of the national democratic revolution, as opposed to tailing what the government decides with no consultation, including imposing policy direction on the movement.
The pronouncement undermined the role of the Alliance, excluded a consideration of other options, and portrayed a picture of Presidential unilateralism. This must be addressed. We will play our role in this regard as well.
The national budget for the 2023/2024 financial year
We look forward to the upcoming national budget for the 2023/2024 financial years, to be tabled next week. We call on the National Treasury to abandon its restrictive fiscal policy, which is obsessed with pursuing austerity or “fiscal consolidation” in relation to the national debt, instead of tackling economic stagnation to turn around the economy as a source of revenue.
Austerity or “fiscal consolidation” affected developmental priorities and targeted curtailing workers’ income, the so-called public service wage-bill in the public sector. In this regard, the focus has been on workers at lower levels in the public service hierarchy, rather than the managerial or executive levels.
The restrictive fiscal and monetary policies have affected spending in the economy, as well as the expansion of domestic productive capacity. To this extent, the restrictive macroeconomic framework has affected employment creation. Additionally, the monetary policy followed by the South African Reserve Bank has contributed to rising household debt obligations through interest rate hikes. In this context, the economy is now teetering on the brink of a recession not only because of the energy crisis but also because of the restrictive macroeconomic framework.
We call on the government to deliver a people-centred budget that emphasises employment creation at scale to address the unemployment crisis. This policy should also target poverty eradication and inequality reduction.
The measures to achieve sustainable employment creation should include adequate support for co-operatives, the social economy, and the not-for-profit sector.
The importance of a strong focus on developing the productive capacity of the state cannot be overemphasised.
Advancing, deepening and defending the national democratic revolution
We remain concerned about the rise of anti-majoritarian forces who are hell-bent on implementing neoliberal policy reforms and following the same path that brought us to this economic and energy crisis. We will not keep quiet and watch the gains of the revolution being reversed.
Besides elevating these matters in the Alliance Secretariat and Political Council, we will intensify our joint campaigns and the struggle for a change in policy direction. The objectives of this struggle include the imperative to secure a new macroeconomic framework that will help South Africa to industrialise its economy, advance large-scale employment creation, poverty eradication, radical inequality reduction, and a caring social policy. It is part and parcel of this struggle to establish a universal basic income grant.
Urgent repealing of unconstitutional provisions in the Municipal Systems Amendment Act
COSATU and the SACP are deeply disturbed by the increasing numbers of municipal workers being threatened with dismissal by municipal managers for exercising their constitutional rights to hold office in a political party. This is untenable. It is a blatant undermining of workers’ hard-won constitutional rights, and a naked attempt to demobilise the working-class and collapse the building of working-class power.
The ANC in Parliament needs to repeal the unconstitutional provision in the Municipal Systems Amendment Act that suppress the political rights of all municipal employees. We must revert to the original wording in the Act, which the Alliance had agreed to.
Such limitations should apply, if adopted, to municipal managers and senior managers reporting directly to them.
Whilst this matter is attended to by the ANC in Parliament, COSATU and the SACP will support the South African Municipal Workers Union in its appeal to the Constitutional Court to declare this provision unconstitutional.
Confronting violence, gender-based violence and general criminality in our communities
The SACP and COSATU are deeply concerned about the rising number of killings, both targeted and mass killings, in places of entertainment and elsewhere, including in other industries. The problem reflects the prevalence of premeditated, organised killings in what also appears to be a complex web of underworld activities and gangsterism.
South Africa needs thoroughgoing investigations to get to the root of the problem, refine its national approach to community safety and policing, and more effectively combat crime and corruption.
We convey our condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones because of the violence, including the family of the rapper and activist Kiernan ‘AKA’ Forbes. AKA was murdered on 10 February 2023 in Durban.
It is hurting that the perpetrators of many of the crimes continue to roam around the streets, with no success in hunting them down and bringing them to book.
We wish the family of the Tshwane University of Technology’s student Ntokozo Xaba solace. Ntokozo was stabbed to death in a case of gender-based violence at the university’s Ekhaya Junction campus on 2 February 2023. Institutions of higher learning should be the sites of knowledge production and not slaughterhouses. We call on the law enforcement authorities to do everything in their powers to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to book.
Through our Red Forums and Shop Steward Councils, we will mobilise our communities to launch Community Defence Units and to ensure Community Policing Forums play their role more effectively in fighting crime to the finish.
Unite Swaziland’s progressive forces to bring down the oppressive Tinkundla regime.
The recent provocative and brutal posture of Mswati the autocrat is disgusting, to say the least. We call upon all progressive forces in Swaziland to unite the people’s camp and confront the enemy with full might.
The recent cold-blooded assassination of former Swaziland People’s United Democratic Movement General Secretary and Human Rights Activist, Thulani Maseko, is nothing but a cowardly act of a collapsing tyranny.
The ANC-led government and the Southern African Development Community should push hard to secure the unbanning of political parties in Swaziland and return of exiles for a peaceful dialogue to take place, towards democracy.
Consolidation of joint programmes and campaigns
The SACP and COSATU will implement joint programmes and campaigns, which will include celebrating the 50th anniversary of the 1973 Durban Workers’ Strikes, calling for an inquest into Chris Hani’s assassination, and fighting the rising cost of living.
Issued by SACP and COSATU
Solly Mapaila – SACP General Secretary
Solly Phetoe – COSATU General Secretary
Dr Alex Mashilo – SACP National Spokesperson
Mobile: 076 316 9816
Sizwe Pamla – COSATU National Spokesperson
Mobile: 060 975 6794