COSATU Message of Support for the SACP’s 102nd Anniversary

06 August 2023

Comrade Chairperson, leadership of the SACP, COSATU, our Affiliates, and the ANC,

Comrades, please accept revolutionary greetings from COSATU as we join the SACP in celebrating 102 years of tireless struggles on behalf of the working class.  We applaud the SACP’s efforts to champion the causes of the working class.

It is correct that we meet in Marikana where our most painful tragedy since 1994 occurred.  Never again must the blood of the working class be shed in our democracy.

The challenges facing workers are massive.  As we celebrate this anniversary, we must redouble our efforts to advance working class struggles.  Revolutionary slogans and songs may boost our morale, but they will not address unemployment, collapsing State Owned Enterprises, endemic corruption and the crisis of capitalism.

Let us remember Amilcar Cabral’s words, “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head.  They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children.”

Let us remember our many fallen comrades, including John Gomomo, Chris Hani, Ruth First and Chris Dlamini.  We owe it to their memories, to redouble our efforts to build the party and mobilise workers.

The 15th National Congress of the SACP met under the theme “Together, Let Us Build a Powerful, Socialist Movement of the Workers and Poor”.

This is what back to basics is about.  It takes place when the liberation movement and our post-1994 gains are under siege like never before.  These are the issues that COSATU and its Affiliates have been tackling.

COSATU was founded upon the objective of one federation, one country, one union, one industry.  We have championed the ANC as the shield and COSATU, the spear of the working class and the liberation movement.

Our 14th Congress provided a clear mandate to unite the working class.  COSATU and other Federations work closely together at Nedlac. Our Affiliates have united with other unions in their sectors in defence of workers, from NUM at Sibanye and Eskom, SATAWU in the transport sector and SACTWU in the clothing and textile industries.  We welcome the SACP’s call to support these efforts.

The party has played a critical role in working class struggles for more than a century.  JB Marks led not only the mine workers’ struggles but also the party.  Ray Alexander led campaigns to unionise workers across the Western Cape over many years. 

Whilst we laud these struggles, we cannot rest when workers are under siege and many remain unorganised.  We need the support of the party to unionise and conscientize workers, to build militant unions and mobilise support for COSATU.

What is the role of the SACP? 

Many of our neo-liberal class enemies have written off the party.  They did so when socialist block collapsed in 1990.   Yet the party has survived against difficult odds.  We have seen its membership grow and party leaders play critical roles in government.

As the party grows, it needs to invest in its organisational capacity.  We need to build the party and ensure it has the ability to implement its revolutionary demands.

We must reflect on what is our vision for socialism in South Africa?  What is our road to building it within our lifetime?  We must answer these questions if we are to mobilise the working class. 

Let us heed Amilcar Cabral’s wise words “Hide nothing from the masses of our people.  Tell no lies.  Expose lies whenever they are told.  Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures.  Claim no easy victories.”

The party has been a progressive voice.  It has been vocal against state capture and the lack of transformation in the private sector and against the crude exploitation of workers by capital.

We must help the party to ensure that workers hear its voice when workers are denied wage increases, employers undermine collective bargaining, our labour laws are violated.  Our labour laws are binding upon everyone.  We must lead joint campaigns against employers who continuously choose to treat workers like glorified slaves.

Workers are under siege like never before since the 1994 breakthrough.

Unemployment is at an unbearable 42.6%. Those lucky to have jobs, are drowning in debt. Key SOEs have and many municipalities are collapsing.   

The economy is in a deep recession.  Thousands of companies have closed.  Our economic recovery is crippled by load shedding, cable theft, rising fuel and electricity prices, and interest rate hikes.  We must develop clear solutions to these crises. 

There can be no economic recovery without a capacitated developmental state.

Our state is bleeding.  The damage done to it by state capture and corruptions is massive and will cost us for many years.

Companies are closing because municipalities cannot provide basic services.  Workers are denied their increases because billions are lost to corruption.  Today 36 municipalities routinely fail to pay their employees and yet SALGA is silent on this attack on workers.  Public services are deteriorating because the state is running out of money.

We applaud the work being done by workers at SARS to tackle tax evasion generating an additional R94 billion enabling government enabling government to extend the SRD Grant and the Presidential Employment Stimulus.  These positive poverty relief programmes must be massively expanded.

We must not allow the state to be decapacitated by reckless budget cuts.  Why should we be surprised by rising crime when the SAPS headcount has decreased by 30 000 over the past decade?

Our SOEs are in real trouble yet a decade ago they were world class institutions fulfilling their developmental mandates, spurring the economy and creating jobs.  Today, they are bleeding the state, retrenching workers, and suffocating the economy, yet they can and must be saved. 

We need to wage joint campaigns as the Left Axis in defence of Eskom, Transnet, Prasa, the Post Office, SABC, SAA and other key State-Owned Enterprises.  We must stand united in opposition to privatisation and threats to retrench workers or roll back the role of the state.

The Left Axis must table clear proposals on road maps on interventions to reindustrialise the state, slash unemployment, build the cooperative movement and transform the financial sector into one that serves the working class.

Key to transforming the economy into a socialised one is to accelerate the land campaign.  At its heart must be placed the empowerment of farm workers, rural residents and informal communities.  This is key to ensuring food security for the working class, ending malnutrition and uplifting the poor.

COSATU appreciates the close partnership that we have enjoyed with some members of the party in Parliament.  Key legislative victories advancing the cause of workers were achieved because of the support we received from Members of Parliament from the party, including the amendments restricting labour brokers, the introduction of a National Minimum Wage, and the PIC Amendment Act tackling corruption.

If we are to salvage and save the NDR, then we must cleanse the ANC, and rebuild the Alliance.

We cannot afford to see the ANC further deteriorate.  The ANC needs the party and COSATU to help restore it to its path.  If we fail to rebuild the ANC and reconfigure, then we may lose the 2024 elections. 

If the Alliance fails to secure 51% it will struggle to form a coalition that is biased towards the working class.  Many of the opposition parties are determined to destroy the Alliance and reverse the gains we have secured since 1994.  This we cannot allow.

President Thabo Mbeki is correct.  There can be no unity with criminals.  Those who break the law must go to prison no matter their status.  The failure to ensure the most senior criminals amongst us go to jail is why the nation is in this crisis.

COSATU and workers were correct to place their faith in the Alliance, but we need to help restore the ANC to its path.  To do this we need a vibrant working class orientated SACP at the front with the clarity of vision Joe Slovo provided. 

Allow me to conclude by reaffirming the support of COSATU for the Party.

Our tasks are daunting.  The challenges facing the working class are immense.  Workers are looking to the party to provide a clear plan of action in defence of the working class and a road map to socialism.  The Party must play its role in defending the liberation movement, the NDR and our gains.  Thank you.  Matla!