COSATU General Secretary Solly Phetoe: Address

NUM Elijah Barayi Brigade Launch – Kimberly Region

Programme Director,

Leadership of our mighty National Union of Mineworkers (NUM),

Leadership of the Federation and our Alliance Partners, the ANC, SACP and SANCO,

Thank you for your invitation to join you today.  It is always good to be home with workers, with the membership of NUM and here in Kuruman.

We are pleased that you, the leadership of NUM, in this heartland of the mining sector, have gathered here today, not only to declare your support for the ANC in the upcoming elections, but to declare your determination to go door to door in Kuruman, on the mines and the farms, in the informal areas and the villages, to mobilise workers and their families on why it is important that all of us come out in our numbers, early and vote for the ANC on the 29th of May.

These are our most important elections since 1994.  Not only is the fate of the ANC and the Alliance on the ballot box but in fact all of the gains we have fought for and achieved since 1994.

It is natural to be frustrated by corruption, irritated by loadshedding, demotivated by unemployment and poverty.  We have been angered by the behaviour of too many of our comrades.  And we have correctly not been shy to call them to order.

But equally we must not lose sight of our many victories and what is at stake.

Today we are honouring the life and sacrifices of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu.  Some will ask was it in vain?

The values of Kalushi remain as relevant today as they did then.  Whilst South Africa is today a constitutional, non-racial and non-sexist democracy, the principles that Kalushi lived and died for continue to set an example for all South Africans.

He was born in Pretoria in 1956 and came of age at the height of its most brutal periods of apartheid from the imposition of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction for African leaners, to forced removals across Pretoria to not only neighbouring townships like Mamelodi and Atteridgeville but also far-flung rural areas in what later became desolate homelands such as Boputhatswana, KwaNdebele amongst others.

Despite all of these hardships and seemingly no hope of change on the horizon, Mahlangu did not despair or wait for others to change his life.  He crossed the border into exile in Mozambique to join the ANC and MK with the hope of returning to South Africa after receiving military training in Angola and playing his role in the nation’s liberation.  He did so knowing full well his chances of living to see this democracy were remote and the likelihood of his capture and execution high. 

We are confident that Kalushi would be appalled by some peace time charlatans riding on the heroic legacies of MK in pursuit of self-enrichment and staying out of prison.

Whilst we honour his memory, we must do justice to his sacrifices as we rebuild the state and uproot the cancers of crime and corruption, as we provide relief to the unemployed and the poor, grow the economy and create jobs.  It is natural in a democracy to complain about government and lose sight of our achievements.

We should be proud of our vibrant democracy and a progressive Constitution that compels government to address the legacies of the past and the inequalities of today. 

We should be pleased we have moved from the dark days when the apartheid regime deliberately underfunded the education of African, Coloured and Indian children to one where free schools and meals are available in working class communities.

NSFAS is helping millions of students pay for tertiary education, 27 million citizens receive financial assistance from the state, the Presidency has rolled out an Employment Stimulus helping 2 million young people earn and a salary and gain the skills and experience needed to find employment, and recently Parliament passed the National Health Insurance Bill laying the foundation for universal health care.

Whilst we have many challenges, and painfully own goals, that we need to address as a nation, we can without fear of contradiction state that the sacrifices of Solomon Kalushi Mahlangu were not in vain. 

At times we will stumble, but on so many fronts, South Africa is a better place than what it was when he was born in 1956 when forced removals were the norm, or 1966 when any form of opposition was banned, or 1976 when hundreds of Black learners were murdered by the police or 1986 when townships were under siege from the army. 

As we tackle our challenges we would do well to remember Kalushi’s example.

Elections are about choices.  We have a choice.  We can support the ANC or allow workers to vote for opposition parties.

The ANC like any other organisation makes mistakes.  At times criminals have infiltrated it to enrich themselves.  But it has consistently remained the only party that is biased towards the working class, that is able to win the confidence of workers, that has a track record of delivering to working class communities and defending the rights of workers. 

Yes, we are not shy to tell the ANC when it makes mistakes.  We do so because the ANC is the product of working-class struggles.  Workers, SACTU and later COSATU built the ANC.  We did not do so because we were bored.  We did so and continue to do so not because we want to go to Parliament, we do so because we want the ANC and government to advance working class demands, to invest in the lives of the poor, to improve the working conditions of our members, to build that better life for all.

We do not expect miracles overnight, but continuous progress.  And we have seen that progress.  We have put in place progressive labour laws that affirm the rights of workers to decent working conditions, to a safe work place, to equal pay for equal work, to protection from sexual harassment and gender-based violence, to paid maternity and parental leave, to paid time off and overtime pay, to a minimum wage, to the right to unionise and collective bargaining and to strike.

Only one party has been in the trenches with COSATU in these struggles, that is the ANC.  Only one party has put in its Manifesto, the demand for a National Health Insurance and our call to anchor the state’s economic policy on local jobs and industrialisation.

That is why we support and must go all out to campaign for a decisive victory for the ANC on election day.

We cannot support Action SA, which wants to destroy unions.  We cannot support the DA which wants to end the minimum wage and collective bargaining.

We cannot support the EFF which has brought violence to Parliament and chaos to municipalities.  We cannot support the MK Party which is inciting people to break the law and unleash violence and is led by the very people who gave us state capture and corruption.

We must ensure that on election day, our members, workers and their families vote for the ANC.  We need an outright majority nationally and provincially.  What we cannot afford is the chaos of coalitions we have seen in municipalities extend to national and provincial government. We do not have the luxury with our many challenges, to experiment with anarchy when our people need jobs, electricity, water and an economy that grows.

Lenin asked what is to be done?  What are our tasks over the next seven weeks?

We must ensure our shop stewards, leaders and organizers are trained and ready to campaign.  We must prepare them to defend the ANC and persuade voters.

We must ensure that we have a detailed day by day programme that ensures we will reach every member, every worker, every relative, every voter across the Kimberly Region of NUM.

This must include workplace meetings, shop steward councils, visits to each workplace, door to door from Kuruman to Taung, from Barkly West to Warrenton, from Galeshewe to Homestead.

We need to be fully integrated in the ANC’s Branch Election Teams and ensure our members join them in their door-to-door campaigns.

Our support can be for rallies, but most be on the ground, visiting mines, factories, power stations, shopping centres, taxi ranks and townships.

We must work flat out to ensure that the May Day rally in Kimberly in a few weeks is full.  There must not be an empty chair in sight.

We must have in place a plan for election day that will enable us to contact every member, worker and their family, to ask if they have voted, to help transport them and to ensure when stations close not one of our members has not voted.

Do not think the danger of losing here in the Northern Cape and the North West is not a possibility.   If we stay at home, complain about life and do nothing, then we may lose.  The opposition is not resting, they are campaigning.  They are telling voters to come out and defeat the ANC and the Alliance.

Comrades allow me to conclude here, by thanking for coming here today and more importantly, to urge you to work like you have never worked before in your life.  We must forget about sleeping for the next seven weeks.

Our task is to defend the ANC and the Alliance, to campaign to ensure the ANC wins an outright majority, and to hold the ANC accountable for delivering a better life for all our people.

We dare not risk the gains of 1994 to an opposition that has never supported them, we dare not risk our demands for the next administration to those who have always opposed us.

Thank you.  Matla!