COSATU President Zingiswa Losi – Workers’ Day Address 2024

Programme Director, comrade Nkosana Dolopi,

President of the African National Congress and incoming President of the Republic, comrade Cyril Ramaphosa,

General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, comrade Solly Mapaila,

President of SANCO, comrade Richard Mkhungo,

Leadership of the Federation and Alliance Partners at all levels,

Most importantly, the workers here at Athlone Stadium and across our nation,

We are gathered here today to celebrate you the workers.  It is the farm workers of Caledon who produce the food we eat, the clothing workers of Epping who keep us warm, the police officers who keep us safe.

Workers’ Day is a moment to remember those who came before us, who struggled in the darkest days of colonialism and apartheid, who fought to improve the working and living conditions of our parents, who delivered this democratic South Africa.

We will forever be indebted to the generations of Ray Alexander and Oscar Mpetha.

May Day is an opportunity to celebrate our many victories from our progressive Constitution to our laws affirming the right of all workers to be treated with dignity.

It is a chance to reflect on the many challenges we face and to say to government and employers, we must do better.

We are celebrating 30 years of democracy.  Whilst at times we are frustrated by the pace of change and our mistakes, we are proud of how far we have come.

Gone are the days when workers had no rights, were paid a slave wage and dared not raise their voice less they be arrested. 

Gone are the days when our fathers had to leave their families in Cofimvaba and Matatiele to live in hostels in Langa and Gugulethu, when our parents were removed from District Six and Claremont and dumped in Hanover Park and Kewtown.

Today we enjoy the protection of a Constitution admired the world over that compels the state to address the legacies of the past and the inequalities of today. 

We are proud sitting amongst us today, is one of the key architects of that Constitution, the founding General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers and our President, Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa.  Indeed, COSATU lives, COSATU leads!

COSATU with our allies, the ANC, the SACP and the former United Democratic Front that was launched in Rocklands in 1983, fought for this democracy we celebrate today.

Today workers are reaping the fruits of these struggles.  Our Constitution and the Labour Relations Act unashamedly protect the rights of all workers to form trade unions, to collective bargaining and when aggrieved, to strike. 

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act provides workers the rights to paid maternity, parental and adoption leave, paid time off and overtime pay.  In 2018 COSATU with the ANC extended these protections to cover mothers recovering from miscarriages and still born births, and fathers and same sex partners with new born children.

In 2023 900 000 domestic workers were included under the Compensation of Occupational Injuries and Diseases Fund, bringing protection to our mothers in Delft.

The Employment Equity Act was amended to require employers doing business with the state to comply with the National Minimum Wage and the Employment Equity Acts. 

The Employment Equity Act was broadened to recognise and to take into account the demographic diversity of our people, from the Shoprite Cashier in Eastridge to the petrol attendant in Phillipi, from the nurse from Ruyterwacht to the teacher in Rylands. 

All we ask is that all South Africans are given a fair chance to fulfill their dreams and take care of their families.  What we cannot afford to do is think it is fair that the overwhelming majority of management positions go to White men. 

Critics say these are the victories of the Mandela and Mbeki Administrations.  They are and it is President Ramaphosa who worked with COSATU to pass the National Minimum Wage Act in 2019, boosting the salaries of six million workers. 

It has raised the wages of farm workers in De Doorns and domestic workers in Paarl who recently earned as little as R6 an hour.  Today its R27.58 an hour. 

In January, the Extension of Security of Tenure Act was amended to increase protections of farm workers and their families from evictions bringing hope to many across the West Coast, Winelands and Overberg.

Government will soon table the Occupational Health and Safety Amendment Bill at Parliament to protect the rights of workers to refuse dangerous work.

On the 1st of September after tireless campaigns led by COSATU and in particular, SACTWU, our clothing and textile workers’ union, the Two Pot Pension Reforms will be implemented providing relief to millions of indebted workers across the private and public sectors.  Parliament will soon pass the remaining Bill and Mr. President, COSATU will be knocking on your door to sign the Bills before the 29th of May!

All of these victories were only possible because we have a strong COSATU and a partner in the ANC that has stood with us in the trenches.

We have left the shameful days of apartheid when the state spent a few cents on the education of the African and Coloured child for every Rand it spent on a White child.

Today, 60% of government’s budget is invested in working class communities from free schools and meals in Mfuleni to NSFAS funding students at the University of the Western Cape. 

Pregnant mothers and infants enjoy free health care and recently Parliament passed the National Health Insurance Bill laying the ground for universal healthcare.  It is no small feat that 27 million citizens now receive social grants from the state, including 8 million unemployed, giving relief to communities from Vredendal to Vhembe.

These are the foundations for a caring society and socialist state so many fought for.

Whilst we are proud of these victories, we dare not be complacent when 41% our people and 59% of our youth are unemployed.  We cannot accept the gender-based violence and sexual harassment that brings trauma to our daughters when they walk to school in Elsies River or go to work in Masiphumelele. 

We will not normalise two nations in one society, where a life of luxury exists in Constantia and a life of poverty and fear reigns in Manenberg and KTC.

COSATU is working with government at Nedlac to ensure Eskom provides reliable and affordable electricity, Transnet is able to ship our products and Metro Rail to transport our commuters, including here in Langa, Athlone, Mitchell’s Plain and Khayelitsha.

We are working with government and business in our industrial master plans to remove the obstacles to growing the economy.  We are seeing green shoots from the retail sector committing to increase locally produced clothes on their shelves from 40% to 60% helping to save thousands of clothing jobs from Salt River to Atlantis.

We have seen new investments in the motor manufacturing plants from Pretoria to Uitenhage and a surge in locally manufactured vehicles from 300 000 a few years ago to nearly 400 000 today creating thousands of jobs.

The past decade and the betrayal of the nation by some in whom we had entrusted the state was painful.  The damage to the economy and workers massive. 

Yet step by step those who steal are being made to account.  It is no small feat that a former President can be sentenced to prison for contempt of court, or the Speaker of the National Assembly can be charged and compelled to resign.  That is accountability!

SARS is tackling tax evasion, the NPA is charging those who loot the state, and the SAPS is recruiting.  These are key to winning the war against crime and corruption.

As we celebrate our victories and rededicate ourselves to tackling our challenges, we must remember those who are less fortunate than us from the children facing genocide in Gaza, Palestine, to union activists persecuted eSwatini, to those who cannot find work in Zimbabwe, to our comrades in Cuba struggling in the face of the blockade.

We are proud of how government has waived the flag of international solidarity and brought the Israeli apartheid regime to the International Court of Justice.

On May 29th we will be heading to our 7th democratic elections.  Many have declared the end of the ANC and the Alliance.  We are here to tell them to dream on. 

When days were dark and friends were few, where were they?  Where were these peacetime heroes when Imam Haron, Coline Williams, Robbie Waterwitch and Griffith Mxenge were killed?  They were sitting in Parliament with nothing to say.

Today the DA has the audacity to tell us about non-racialism, democracy and workers’ rights.  Yet when SACTU and the UDF were banned, they were silent.

The DA says the Western Cape is an island of prosperity, yet the people of Tafelsig and Nyanga cannot sleep at night without fearing a child may be hit by stray bullets.

The DA says it has delivered yet we see thousands of people living in shacks from Hout Bay to Wendy Houses in Bokmakkerie. 

The DA and its friends in Action SA tell us workers are the problem, the minimum wage must go, the salaries of nurses, teachers, cleaners and police officers must be cut. 

Let us not waste time on the scam that is the MK Party led by someone who lead the state for a decade, who betrayed the nation and today says he will deliver.

COSATU, our members and workers are clear.  It is only the ANC that has stood with workers from when SACTU was banned and COSATU formed, from when we fought for a democratic South Africa to when we drafted our progressive Constitution. 

The ANC will remain with us as we tackle unemployment, crime and corruption and continue to build a better life for all our people from the train driver in Muizenberg to the teacher in Mbombela, from traffic officer in Kleinvlei to the mine worker in Okiep.

We will stand by the ANC as we unleash our elections machinery crisscrossing workplaces from the farms of George to the shopping centres of Durban.  We will go door to door from Mangaung to Rustenburg ensuring we mobilise every worker and voter to come out on election day and deliver an overwhelming majority for the ANC.

We dare not fail nor disappoint our people, we have come too far and much to do.

Thank you. Baie dankie.  Enkosi. Shukran.  Amandla!

Issued by COSATU.

For further comment please contact:

Matthew Parks

Acting National Spokesperson & Parliamentary Coordinator

Cell: 082 785 0687


Cape Town, South Africa