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Unrest: Govt’s austerity framework needs to be reviewed – COSATU

All the architects of recent chaos and anarchy in Gauteng and KZN must also be arrested and prosecuted

COSATU Special Central Executive Committee meeting statement

3 August 2021

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a successful Special Central Executive Committee meeting from 02-03 August 2021 to amongst other things prepare for the upcoming Central Committee {CC} meeting that is entrusted with the responsibility to assess the implementation of our 13th National Congress resolutions and campaigns.

The SCEC took time to reflect on the current political developments and the massive social challenges facing the workers and the country in general.

KZN and Gauteng riots

The SCEC denounced the looting and the destruction of vital economic and community infrastructure both in KwaZulu- Natal and Gauteng. The meeting expressed concern about the sloppy response and the overall poor political leadership by the security cluster during these riots and demands political accountability.

We commend all law enforcement agencies that are poorly funded for working hard to wrestle control back from looters and criminal elements, who were hellbent on unleashing more destruction. All the architects of this chaos and anarchy need to be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

The government’s austerity framework needs to be reviewed if the nation is to diffuse this ticking timebomb of unemployment and ensure that our law enforcement agencies deliver on their mandate without fail.

The Federation salutes all community activists across the country who pushed back against lawlessness and prevented it from spreading across the country. We reiterate our unwavering support for the country’s democratic institutions, including the Constitutional Court.

COSATU reiterates its position that as country we need to reflect on the dangers that come with ignoring or postponing the important task of transforming the Judiciary so that it has the confidence of all citizens.

These recent riots in KZN and Gauteng, while triggered by political opportunism, are a reminder of what the Reconstruction and Development Programme said that: “no political democracy can survive and flourish if the mass of our people remain in poverty, without land, without tangible prospects for a better life. Attacking poverty and deprivation must be the priority of a democratic government”.

Vaccination

The meeting noted and welcomed the progress being made on rolling out the vaccines. The significant improvement over the past few months gives the nation a chance to survive this deadly pandemic. What is needed now is for all social partners to work with government to encourage more people to register and take their vaccines. Government needs to address the overtime pay and personnel shortages that have hindered weekend vaccinations.  South Africans owe a debt of gratitude to the health workers, who continue to carry this nation on their shoulders.

On Disaster Relief Package

The meeting commended the government for putting together a comprehensive package to help businesses and workers affected by COVID-19 restrictions and the riots in KZN and Gauteng. The reinstatement of UIF COVID TERS and the reintroduction of an unemployment grant of R350 will go a long way to assist vulnerable workers and indigent communities.

The Federation is concerned that applications for relief from the UIF are low.  This is a matter that the Federation and its Affiliates are working to rectify, in partnership with big business and the UIF, to ensure that applications are submitted and processed timeously.

We note the recent position of government regarding our proposal that we submitted in May 2020, for workers to be given access to their retirement savings to cope with the ravages of COVID-19. We are disappointed by the slow pace of the implementation of this intervention and call on the National Treasury to accelerate its execution. This should be accompanied by financial education for workers and should be done in a way that does not distabilise the retirement funds.

What is now critical is the immediate roll out of these relief measures. The announcement of loan repayment holidays for affected consumers, by some banks, is a welcome development, and we hope that the remaining banks will also do likewise.

Phoenix Murders

The federation denounces the vigilantism and criminality that led to the massacre of innocent people in Phoenix and other surrounding areas in Durban. The criminals involved in the maiming and killing of innocent people need to be arrested and prosecuted without mercy. Political and community leaders in KZN and around the country need to continue to work together to snuff out the lurking demon of racism that continues to haunt our country.

Collective Bargaining

The Federation reaffirmed its commitment to fight against the attacks on collective bargaining and the ongoing job losses. We still demand a moratorium on retrenchments across the board. A new trend of employers reneging on signed wage agreements is emerging both in the public and the private sector. We stand opposed to the attempts to moderate and freeze wages across the sectors of the economy. The SCEC has resolved to adopt a combative stance of mass mobilisation to respond to this offensive. Our national campaigns committee will continue to process our Section 77 Notice in defense of Collective Bargaining. This will culminate in a national action on the 07th of October during the International Day for Decent Work.

Towards the 7th Central Committee

The meeting received a report that shows that the preparations for the Central Committee meeting next month are progressing well. The Federation shall be convening the 7th Central Committee meeting next month (20-23 September 2021) to take stock of the work we have done since our successful 13th National Congress. In the CC, we plan to answer the question whether we are succeeding in servicing our members better, and in improving their lives and working conditions.

The reality is that an enormous amount of work has been put into improving our levels of service and membership representation since the 13th National Congress. We can say without any fear of contradiction that most of our structures have done and continue to do their best to ensure that we succeed in doing things differently for our members.

Despite our best efforts, we go to the CC with workers facing a precarious situation. The persisting global COVID-19 pandemic is having a devastating impact, particularly on jobs. South Africa is presently one of the most unequal countries in the world. Black Africans still earn less when compared to their white counterparts. Female workers earn approximately 30% less, on average, than their male colleagues.

According to Statistics South Africa the bottom 60% of households depend more on social grants and less on income from the labour market The unemployment amongst young people is currently sitting at 63,3%. Statistics also show that extreme poverty will increase in South Africa by 9% because of COVID-19.

We are now in the 2nd year of the 6th administration and seven years after the ANC government adopted the National Development Plan (NDP), 2030. Many of itsnoble objectives, including eliminating poverty, reducing inequality and unemployment have not been achieved.

The Federation has repeatedly warned that it is wishful thinking to pursue such transformatory objectives whilst persisting with the NDP’s Neoliberal macroeconomic restrictions and with no clear interventions to structurally transform the economic base.

The ANC must begin to develop a genuinely radical economic transformation programme, which must include a shift in the macroeconomic framework, to actualise a radical second phase of our revolution.

The Federation plans to use the CC to discuss the whole question of the public ownership of the key sectors of the economy in line with our minimum programme, the Freedom Charter. There is also a need to deal with the problem of inefficient public ownership and corruption. We stand opposed to the wage moderation in the public service and we will continue to confront the National Treasury which remains the key stumbling block in the struggle to pursue the progressive policy mandates of Nasrec. We further call for and campaign for the reversal of the relaxation of exchange controls as they expose our currency to international capital flows and speculators.

Organisationally, the upcoming CC will assess the work we have done to implement the unequivocal and unanimous message of delegates of the 13th national congress in their call for going back to basics, as part of the drive to improve service to members.

This is more critical following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastation it has brought on workers and their jobs.

In this regard, the federation has adopted a comprehensive framework encapsulating an implementation strategy which amongst other things, seeks to transform how we conduct collective bargaining, and improve the performance, and efficiency of our structures in coordinating and driving the federation’s campaigns and programmes.

This organisational transformation is geared to make a positive and sustained impact throughout the federation, as it seeks to recast the focus of all structures starting with our locals towards organising and servicing of members.

The CC will also assess the work done to deal with the arrival of the 4th Industrial revolution that has been accelerated by the outbreak of COVID-19. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the new technological developments are being introduced into the market at a faster rate displacing current jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector. The CC will have to reflect on the work done to amend legislation to manage this transition. We remain adamant that technology should work for people and not work against them. It cannot be acceptable for these technological ‘solutions’ to be unilaterally imposed with no regard for local economies for those who are pushed aside by such developments.

The Special central executive committee is convinced that this process of renewal and going back to basics at all levels of the federation, reaffirms our political and ideological orientation. It remains our understanding that only a politically and ideologically conscious cadreship of shop-stewards, organisers, office bearers, staff members can carry out and sustain the organisational transformation

Politics

We go to the CC still echoing our previous political position informed by our assessment that the NDR is sliding sideways and backwards, and the overall balance of class forces remains overwhelmingly in favour of the broad bourgeois-led class forces. It is noticeable that amongst those controlling and influencing the agenda of the 6th administration, there are elements that are strategic adversaries of working-class hegemony in the ANC.

This has clearly been demonstrated and illustrated by the fact that despite some of the progressive economic resolutions of NASREC, the ANC government appears to be unable to implement some such key resolutions, which is in part influenced by the regrouping of the Neoliberal bureaucracy in the state, especially in the Treasury. 

We are now nearly three decades with the ANC in power since the demise of the Apartheid regime. The socioeconomic conditions of the people in terms of unemployment, inequalities and poverty have worsened rather than improved despite some fractional gains.

The current implementation of a Neoliberal programme, with its features of the hollowing out of the state through outsourcing, privatization and budget cuts not only threatens to derail the NDR, but also impact negatively on the revolutionary tradition and culture of ANC itself.

The CC will have to confront the reality that the chronic organisational and strategic disarray of the ANC, its leagues, and the Alliance, which in part has been caused by factionalism is reinforcing and giving confidence to the class and political adversaries of our revolution. It is also generating a sense of demoralisation and disillusionment amongst the general constituency and activists of the ANC-led Alliance.

The challenge is to turn this around and help the ANC to reclaim its historical militant and revolutionary traditions and genuinely adopt a working-class oriented programme.

The Federation hopes that the recent assertive posture by the ANC NEC that reaffirmed the step-aside rule for criminally charged leaders marks a decisive turning point in tackling and reversing the negative tendencies that have eroded the political integrity and moral standing of the ANC in the eyes of the public.

The disciplinary processes undertaken in the ANC, clearly underscore that we are indeed beginning to see signs of the discipline and decisiveness that the last ANC National Conference in NASREC called for. We hope that these individual disciplinary steps will translate into a real tide of renewal, which will includes defeating the demon of tribalism which is rearing its ugly head in the movement.

SACP

Over the weekend, we celebrated 100 years of the SACP in the struggle for national liberation and socialism. The meeting congratulated the vanguard of the working-class for this impressive milestone. As we have said before, our strategic line of march going forward is to defend and consolidate the Left axis between the SACP and COSATU, so we remain unwavering in our task of defending the unity of the two left organisations.

In the upcoming Central Committee, the Federation will extensively debate the role efficiency of the SACP in building working class hegemony in all sites of power as a basis to advance the course of socialism. This includes confronting the real or perceived diminishing vanguard role of the SACP in working class struggles in communities and workplaces. As we move towards the year 2022, which is a year of congresses for both the Federation and the SACP, we have a responsibility to discuss and clarify ourselves on these matters including the related question of the SACP and state power. We remain unequivocal that the SACP remains the only vanguard of the South African working class.

On Parliamentary work

The meeting welcomed the progress made at Parliament with regards to key legislation.  This includes the:

Expropriation Bill which will play a critical role with regards to accelerating land reform and empowering the state.

Employment Equity Amendment Bill which will empower the Minister for Employment and Labour to set targets for sectors and regions falling behind their employment equity goals.

Compensation of Injury on Duty Amendment Bill which will give domestic workers financial relief when injured at work and recognise diseases arising from occupational hazards.

ILO Convention 190 which seeks to tackle sexual harassment at the workplace

The 3 Gender Based Violence Bills which will significantly increase sanctions, expand protection for survivors of GBV, empower the police to act and establish a sexual offenders registry and prohibit them from working with women and children in future.

International

Swaziland– The SCEC observed with alarm the fact that the living conditions for the people of Swaziland under the Tinkundla rule have worsened and the political oppression has deepened. We condemn the violence by the regime directed at political activists, and demand that the SADC countries abandon their unhelpful position and provide leadership by supporting the democratization of Swaziland.

AU-Israel- The Federation is appalled by the politically insensitive decision taken by the African Union to grant Israel Observer Status at the AU. The people of Palestine continue to be subjected to terrible conditions by the Israel –apartheid brutality. This wrongheaded and politically backward decision is a betrayal of the struggle for a Free Palestine. It is insulting that this comes from people who have firsthand experience of the consequences of colonial exploitation and oppression. We call on the AU to reassess and change this reckless and irresponsible decision.

Cuba-The economy of CUBA continues to be strangled by economic sanctions imposed by the US government. The Cuban regime is still subjected to political machinations and interference by United States. The federation denounces the American interference in Cuba and offers its full support to the people of Cuba.

Venezuela-The advances achieved by the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela have been greatly reversed by the USA led political and economic offensive. We offer our support to the people of Venezuela, as they navigate this imperial offensive against their government and country.

 In this context, the upcoming Central Committee will have to grapple with this and work to ensure that more is done to heighten practical and visible solidarity campaigns with the fighting people of Swaziland, Palestine, CUBA, and Venezuela.

Issued by Sizwe Pamla, National Spokesperson, COSATU, 3 August 2021

Source: DreamAfrica LIVE (A DreamGalaxy Trusted Brand)