COSATU Message of Support: Commemoration of Steve Tshwete Municipal Workers

Comrade chairperson,

Leadership of our militant municipal workers’ union, SAMWU,

Leadership of COSATU, the ANC and SACP present,

Most importantly, the workers and members of COSATU,

Please accept the revolutionary support of your Federation as we commemorate the 1st anniversary of the Steve Tshwete Municipal tragedy.  A year ago, municipal workers were shot at on the orders of their employer, by private security guards.

Their sin?  To demand to be paid the salaries they were legally entitled to.  Their crime?  To exercise their constitutional right to protect, to picket, to strike.

On this day one year ago, we tragically lost comrade Tshepo Maseko.  Comrades Harris Sithole, Sibusiso Thabang and Sarel Vilakazi were brutally shot and wounded.  This painfully occurred as we were mourning the 10th anniversary of the Marikana Massacre where 44 workers had been murdered before and during that strike.

Workers fought for this democracy.  Unions, including SAMWU, the union of Petrus Mashinini and Salie Manie, valiantly fought for this constitutional democracy.  COSATU, the Federation of Elijah Barayi, helped give birth to our democratic breakthrough in 1994. 

This struggle was paid for in the lives of countless workers.  It did not come cheaply.  Workers have the constitutional right to protest, to picket, to strike and no one will take that right away.  No Mayor, Municipal Manager will ever stop us from exposing corruption and demanding workers be paid their wages.

Our workers here in Steve Tshwete had been on strike to protest against their employer pickpocketing their wages and victimizing through dismissals.  It is our unity as workers, as SAMWU and COSATU that stopped this abuse of workers.

Whilst we won that battle, it came at a heavy price for the Steve Tshwete Four, in particular our fallen comrade Maseko. 

Never again must we allow this to happen.

Workers must not allow themselves to be divided.  We must work with our comrades in SATAWU to ensure that security guards, who are also workers, must be conscientized to never allow themselves to be used to shoot workers for protesting against their exploitation.

We must work with our comrades in POPCRU, to ensure that our SAPS members, who are also workers, to protect the right of all workers to protest and strike. 

Karl Marx correctly reminded us that workers of the world must unite, we have nothing to lose but our chains.

It is only when we are united that we can stand up to our enemies, to defend workers and to emerge victorious.

Our struggles are not here alone in Steve Tshwete.  Today municipal workers have been denied their increases in 2021 and 2023 in Tshwane.  And now the municipality has dismissed 50 workers for protesting this theft of their wages.

We are witnessing with the mismanagement and collapse of local government, workers in 36 municipalities in 6 provinces routinely being denied the salaries due to them.

SALGA tricked Parliament into amending the Municipal Systems Act to ban all 350 000 municipal workers from holding leadership positions in any political party.  This is a deliberate move by the leadership of SALGA to demobilize the working class, to weaken SAMWU and COSATU.  It is yet another attack on the hard-won constitutional rights of workers.

COSATU and SAMWU will continue to defend workers.  Not only here in Steve Tshwete and across Mpumalanga, but also in Tshwane, in the North West and the Free State and all provinces.

We have submitted papers to the Constitutional Court to declare the ban on municipal workers from holding positions in political parties.

We can only be victorious as the working class if we are united, if we build a strong and militant SAMWU that leads across all municipalities, if we build a well organised COSATU that is present in all workplaces and sites of struggle.  We cannot afford to be divided or to neglect SAMWU.

COSATU will remain side by side with our mighty SAMWU of Koena Ramatlou in this struggle.  This is a war we cannot let up on.  It will be difficult, but we must persevere and ensure that we are victorious.

We must ensure that we make this Municipality a place that our late leader, Steve Tshwete would be proud and not ashamed of.  We owe to his struggles and sacrifices.  We owe it to the memory of Cde. Tshepo Maeko and the pain of comrades Harris Sithole, Sibusiso Thabang and Sarel Vilakazi.

Their sacrifices must not be in vain.

Thank you.  Matla!