COSATU State of the Nation Address Expectations statement

06 February 2024

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and workers across the nation have high expectations for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that will be presented by President Cyril Ramaphosa to Parliament on 8 February.

The challenges facing workers, society, the economy and the nation are immense.  The nation is still battling to recover from a painful decade of state capture and corruption, stubbornly high unemployment at 41% generally and 60% for young people, the world’s highest levels of inequality, the global pandemic of COVID-19 and the economic lockdown, a painful period of loadshedding, endemic crime and corruption including cable theft, embattled State-Owned Enterprises and increasingly dysfunctional municipalities, badly overstretched public services and weak economic growth.

These are the key challenges workers expect government to respond to with a clear package of interventions, timeframes and outcomes if the SONA’s announcements are to enjoy credibility amongst an increasingly frustrated public.

Society is correct to expect more from the governments they elect to office, and which is funded through their hard-earned wages and taxes.  Whilst we are all disappointed by the pace at which our numerous socio-economic challenges are being resolved, and this is healthy for a robust and at times noisy democracy, we must equally acknowledge and applaud where progress has been made.

Key achievements we welcome since the last SONA include a 5% reduction in the unemployment rate, the commencement of a debt relief package for Eskom and a significant reduction in loadshedding, an 8.5% increase in the National Minimum Wage, the passage of progressive legislation including the National Health Insurance, Employment Equity and Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Acts as well as the pending enactment of the Two Pot Pension Reforms due to come into effect on 1 September 2024.  All of these have given relief and hope to millions of struggling workers and their families.

Whilst applauding these important achievements, much remains to be done, in particular in the remaining few months of the 6th administration and Parliament.  Key interventions that the Federation expects government to be bold and aggressive with regards to in the SONA and later the Budget Speech, include the following critical high impact interventions:

  • A massive expansion of the Presidential Employment Stimulus to accommodate at least 1 million people by April and 2 million by November 2024, to help break the back of youth unemployment.
  • Parliamentary passage and enactment of the Two Pot Pension Reforms by 1 September 2024 giving relief to millions of highly indebted workers.
  • Adjusting the SRD to recover value lost to inflation since it commenced in 2024 by April 2024 and to the Food Poverty Line by November 2024 helping 8 million unemployed persons.
  • Further relief to Eskom to ensure we emerge from loadshedding by December 2024.
  • A massive package of interventions, including debt relief, for Transnet to save thousands of at-risk jobs and unlock the mining, manufacturing and agricultural sectors.
  • Urgent interventions to stabilise and rebuild other embattled SOEs including Metro Rail, Denel, the SABC, Post Office and Postbank.
  • A stabilisation package for local government, including the 36 municipalities routinely failing to pay staff and those struggling to provide quality municipal services.
  • Reversing the freeze on infrastructure expenditure and an accelerated roll out.
  • Massive injection of financial support for industrial, localisation and export programmes to boost our manufacturing sectors and jobs.
  • Additional resources for key law enforcement organs to turn the tide against crime, corruption and tax evasion, in particular the South African Revenue Service, the South African Police Service, the National Prosecuting Authority and the courts.
  • Filling critical vacancies across frontline public services.
  • Finalising remaining Bills before Parliament as well as those awaiting Presidential assent, including the National Health Insurance, Expropriation, Public Procurement, Company and Post Office Bills.

If we are to stimulate the economy, create jobs, reduce poverty and inequality, end loadshedding, rebuild our railway network and modernise our ports, stabilise and fix local government, place SOEs on a sustainable path, tackle entrenched crime and corruption and generate the tax revenue the state requires to provide quality public services; then government must be decisive and match its progressive objectives with concrete interventions, resources and funding, clear time frames and install a culture of accountability for those who fail to deliver.

What we cannot afford to do is to treat the painful struggles the working class faces on a daily basis as an abstract matter best left to endless departmental PowerPoint presentations.  Workers’ patience is not limitless.   Nor do we have the luxury of time.  The President and his Cabinet collective must be bold and aggressive.

Issued by COSATU

For further information please contact:
Matthew Parks
Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator
Cell: 082 785 0687