29 January 2024
Comrade chairperson, Gwede Mantashe,
President of the ANC and the Republic, comrade Cyril Ramaphosa,
Leadership of our alliance partners, the African National Congress, the South Communist Party, SANCO, the Leagues as well as the Federation, COSATU,
Comrades at all levels, good afternoon and best wishes for 2024,
We are pleased to be here for one of the most critical Makgotla in the history of our movement. This must be treated as no ordinary gathering. It is a moment to take stock of where we are as a movement, government and the nation and most importantly to chart the way forward for the remaining months of this administration.
Not only must we set a clear road map to take us to our 7th general elections, but most urgently to provide a clear platform to rally the nation and mobilise voters to come out in their numbers to reelect the ANC to continue building that better life for all!
As we determine how best to tackle our challenges, it is important to remember those who face even greater odds than us, from Palestine to Western Sahara, from Cuba to Venezuela, and closer to home, Zimbabwe and eSwatini. Just as we relied upon international solidarity so too should we reciprocate that spirit of internationalism.
We commend the principled stance by our government led by President Ramaphosa in standing up to the Israeli onslaught against millions of Palestinians.
Our tasks during this Lekgotla are simple, we must emerge united and determined with clear marching orders as we prepare for the most difficult elections since 1994.
It is natural for any party that has governed for 30 years to have made mistakes, to have alienated various constituencies and persons, even to be tired. Our challenges are made more difficult as some who once led us, who were entrusted by our people to deliver, have not only fumbled but in fact betrayed this movement of Oliver Tambo and Ray Alexander and indeed the entire nation by their lust for self-enrichment.
Let us not be distracted by such elements. Let us focus on our mandate to tackle crime and corruption, stimulate the economy and reduce unemployment, rebuild the state and deliver public services. This is the path to ensuring the movement will continue to enjoy the confidence of the nation.
Our challenges are immense, from a 41% unemployment rate to loadshedding, the crises affecting Transnet, Prasa, Denel, the Post Office and Postbank, SABC and other SOEs and municipalities, endemic crime and corruption which feed a sense of despair.
It is natural to feel despondent but there has been real progress. Unemployment fell by 5% over the past year, real strides have been made in reducing loadshedding, a sense of accountability for those who have stolen is being built and some of our largest poverty alleviation interventions have been undertaken.
As we prepare for the State of the Nation Address and Budget, government needs to be bold and aggressive, not timid or tepid. Nothing less will motivate workers to vote.
Mr. President, let us not pass SONA and the Budget speech without government announcing clear and bold plans to:
· Raise the SRD Grant to the food poverty line to recover its value lost to inflation.
· Extend the Presidential Employment Programme to provide 1 million jobs by April and 2 million by November.
· Ensure the implementation of the 2 Pot Pension Reforms on 1 September 2024.
· Remove delays and accelerate investments in public infrastructure.
· Intervene in the 36 municipalities routinely failing to pay workers.
· Provide additional support for Eskom to permanently end loadshedding.
· Urgently stabilise and modernise Transnet and Metro Rail.
· Intervene at the Post Office and Postbank to reverse the 6 000 retrenchments.
· Allocate additional resources to ensure law enforcement agencies and courts can win the war against crime and corruption.
· Resource SARS to ramp up the fight against tax evasion and customs fraud and deliver the revenue the state requires to fund public services.
· Fill critical public sector vacancies by April 2024.
· Ensure Parliament passes key remaining Bills before the elections.
· Draft legislation for non-trading holidays and extend election voting hours to ensure all workers are able to vote after completing their shifts.
As we assure workers that the ANC remains their home, it is important government heals the wounds of 2018 public service wage agreement and address workers’ genuine grievances in municipalities, SOEs and the private sector about the undermining of collective bargaining and workers’ hard won labour rights.
Workers continue to believe the ANC remains the best vehicle to champion their struggles but need to be convinced that the perpetrators of state capture and corruption have been cleansed from our ranks, that the movement has indeed turned the corner of the path of renewal. This is a struggle we cannot afford to let up on.
Elections are mere months away. The manifesto launch a matter of weeks. We are deeply concerned about our readiness. We need to ensure our candidates are persons of integrity and capability. We need to ensure our manifesto inspires society.
We need to be on the ground in our communities and our workplaces engaging and mobilising voters to come out in their numbers on election day. We simply do not have the luxury of time nor can we afford a climate of complacency.
The ANC is not perfect. It makes mistakes, but it has also worked over many years to champion and deliver working class demands. It is the product of workers’ struggles.
We dare not give up when the challenges facing workers are immense. We dare not abandon our many hard-won victories.
Let us mobilise workers in our numbers to ensure the ANC is returned to office on election day and continues to work to improve the lives of all South Africans. This is a struggle during which COSATU will be with you every step of the way.
Thank you. Amandla!