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Zwelinzima Vavi: The 'root cause' of the crisis in COSATU

For more on COSATU, click HERE. For more on South Africa, click HERE.

Speech by Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), to mark the 40th anniversary of the South African Labour Bulletin

November 21, 2014 -- COSATU, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- First let me say congratulations to the South African Labour Bulletin on its remarkable achievement of 40 years of uninterrupted critical publishing. Thank you for the honour of this invitation. For 40 years you have provided a voice to the voiceless; you exposed the brutality of the capitalist system that continue to brutally exploit workers; you have created space for policy debates that shaped the policies not only of trade unions but of the liberation movement as a whole.

The question posed to me today on the face of it is very easy to answer. I could simply say yes and sit down, because of course all of us in this room know that the future of COSATU is currently on a knife edge, and that whatever happens to the federation will have a massive impact on the labour movement as a whole. So yes, labour is at a turning point.

The big question is -- which way will it turn?

But before I talk about the current crisis, and the possible scenarios going forward, I should share with you my analysis of the root cause of the current divisions in COSATU.

The root cause does not lie, as many shallow commentators would have it, in personal differences between the President of COSATU and me. Neither does it lie in the outcome of an alleged discussion between President Zuma and Irvin Jim and Cedric Gina about my future – a discussion by the way, of which I have absolutely no knowledge.

The underlying differences within the federation revolve primarily around two distinct views on the ANC government’s economic agenda and what this has meant to workers’ demands enshrined in the Freedom Charter.

The first view, as expressed through adopted resolutions in every National Congress and Central Committee since 1997, is that our government has pursued a neoliberal economic agenda at the expense of the working class, and that this should continue to be vigorously challenged by COSATU. The opposing view is that this criticism is too harsh and the federation should take a “nuanced” view. In the past two and a half years the latter view has found expression in the public arena.

What was our track record on economic policy before the current crisis? And what tensions has this generated both within the Federation and between the federation and its Alliance partners? [The Tripartite Alliance is primarily the ruling African National Congress (ANC), COSATU and the South African Communist Party (SACP).]

The early 1990s and running up to the first democratic election, COSATU advocated a Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), based on a radical transformation agenda. The idea gained wide support within the Alliance and was formally adopted as a key policy. We celebrated as our founding general secretary [Jay Naidoo] was appointed as the RDP minister. But the ministry was to be allocated almost no budget and it was to be isolated from other ministries, which were packed with World Bank advisors. And after just over a year in power, in 1995 the ANC government unilaterally announced the Growth, Employment and Reconstruction macroeconomic program (GEAR). Practically, this meant the announcement of a neoliberal program of privatisation of major state enterprises, the adoption of conservative policies on exchange control and inflation, and a rapid reduction of protective trade tariffs to below even what the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was demanding at the time.

While COSATU succeeded in stopping the privatisation of most major state owned enterprises, massive privatisation at municipal level proceeded. This was part of a project to promote the interests of both existing and emerging capital. While new small businesses were emerging, big business was restructuring and rationalising in order to maximise profits.

This led to the restructuring of the working class itself that saw a direct attack on decent jobs leading to massive casualisation and introduction of the concept of labour brokering. This, together with the rapid lowering of trade tariffs, resulted in an unbelievable loss of 1 million, largely private sector jobs in the period 1996 to 1999.

The political project underpinning this economic project was to convert the ANC from being a mass-based movement into a political party whose members had almost no access to decision making and who were to become a significant force only at election times.

The combined economic and political project was described by COSATU as “the 1996 Class Project”, with the then deputy president Thabo Mbeki personifying it.

COSATU called its first post-1994 major general strike in May 1999 in protest against these policies and their impact on workers and the working class in general. This produced tensions with the ANC, with some leaders labelling COSATU populist, economistic, ultra-left, or agents of imperialism. But a united COSATU was able to win some concessions. There was some loosening of the conservative macro-economic policies, and alleviating poverty (though not inequality) was put at the centre of the 2004 ANC Manifesto.

While COSATU’s opposition to the 1996 Class Project was consolidating, other interests in the Alliance were starting to share an opposition to the leadership of President Mbeki, albeit for very different reasons. The 52nd conference of the ANC at Polokwane in 2009 produced what I called at that time a “coalition of the walking wounded” to remove President Mbeki from the presidency of the ANC and replace him with comrade Jacob Zuma. This succeeded, but more importantly a number of resolutions were adopted which COSATU believed would chart the way forward to a new radical economic agenda.

The Polokwane resolutions were never really to see the light of day however. By 2010 the COSATU CEC observed that there was a paralysis in government caused by policy zigzags, the rise of tenderpreneurship and lack of decisive leadership. In this CEC paper we complained that the macroeconomic policies of GEAR were still in place. Concerns were raised that the progressive elements of the "National Growth Path" document were being ignored by the ANC government, and that little was being done to resource and vigorously implement the industrial policy action plan or restructure the colonial and apartheid economy. At the same time a criticism was raised against the general secretary of the SACP, Blade Nzimande, for taking up a position in cabinet, and thereby diluting the independence of the SACP.

The leaderships of the ANC and the SACP did not take kindly to the criticisms of the COSATU CEC. Nevertheless at the ANC NGC of 2010 the Polokwane resolutions were reaffirmed.

It was at this point that differences within COSATU started to emerge, initially expressed in a debate on the National Democratic Revolution in the Central Committee in 2011. Agreement was eventually reached. But differences emerged on issues such as e-tolls, the Protection of Information Bill and on the appointment of Mogoeng Mogoeng as head of the Constitutional Court. In each of these cases the differences were expressed only after the SACP had taken a contrary position to that taken by the COSATU CEC.

The political report to the 11th Congress in 2012 was consistent with COSATU’s long-standing critique of the 1996 Class Project and advanced the view that a radical break with the past was required in order to propel South Africa into a “Lula Moment” where poverty, inequality and unemployment were addressed head-on. Despite having been endorsed by the CEC, the report was brutally attacked by the leadership of some affiliates when it reached the congress floor. The report was said to be too critical of the ANC government and too candid about COSATU’s internal weaknesses. Both the ANC and the SACP waded in to support this view.

The 11th Congress ended with an uneasy truce, but in the February 2013 CEC the leadership of the three biggest public sector unions accused the general secretary of being “the elephant in the room” who was dividing the federation from the SACP and the ANC. Unfounded allegations were also made that he benefitted on the sale and purchase of the COSATU buildings. A demand was put to establish a commission of enquiry into the general secretary. This was defeated in favour of the establishment of a facilitated process to engage on the political, ideological, organisational and administrative differences within the federation.

What unfolded after this is well known: the failure of the facilitated process, the demand made by nine affiliates for a Special National Congress to resolve the areas of difference, the seven-month suspension of the general secretary, the appointment of an ANC Task Team, the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) on November 7-8, and the events of this week. Seven unions announced that they are suspending their participation in the CEC in protest to the dismissal of NUMSA. The extent to which this period has seen an organisational paralysis is also widely understood.

It is no accident that one of the central (though not exclusive) fault lines has been that of the public sector unions versus private sector unions. Workers in the manufacturing and services sectors have borne the brunt of capital’s brutality and government’s conservative economic policies. They have suffered job cuts and fragmentation through outsourcing and sub contracting. On the other hand their comrades in the public sector have seen relative employment stability.

This is not to say that life has been cushy for public sector workers –- far from it. But their slightly different perspective on the world of work has made it not that difficult for some of their leadership to be persuaded that the state is an eternal ally, and that any class-based opposition to the state's neoliberal policies is counter revolutionary. This perspective shows up one of our own internal weaknesses -– that we have paid insufficient attention to building class solidarity around concrete issues both within and beyond the federation.

So where do we go from here?

The easy option might appear to be to simply walk away from it all by announcing a split and the formation of a new federation, forged around a radical economic agenda combined with a determination to start afresh to entrench accountability and workers’ control. I know to many of you in this room this sounds like a good option. But this is not as easy or desirable as it might sound. In a context in which temperatures are running high, and fierce loyalties are felt in one direction or another, any split will produce multiple conflicts at every level.

We have 230 COSATU shop stewards locals across the country, which bring together shop stewards from all affiliates. There is likely to be a tussle in every one of those, as shop stewards argue with one another about which faction to follow. We have 18 affiliates, each of which also has multiple structures, from company shop stewards committees upwards. Workers in these structures will also argue about which direction to move. Some of their arguments will result in an escalation of the purging phenomenon we have already seen in some of our unions over the past few years.

Other arguments will spill over into violent confrontations. Rational discussion about the underlying differences might just go out the window. Questions such as: Should we re-organise ourselves along different demarcation lines? How do we advance broader trade union unity? How do we build class solidarity? Should we stay in the Alliance? are unlikely to come to the fore in these multiple conflicts. For those of us who lived through the wars on the ground in both Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal in the 1980s this is not an attractive thought.

The first prize then has got to be maintaining the unity of COSATU. At the same time we have to ensure that the space is opened to engage on the underlying differences that have emerged. That space can only exist if agreement is reached on a number of immediate and pressing issues. The first has got to be NUMSA’s reinstatement in the federation followed by the informal discussions among leaders as announced yesterday in a CEC press conference and the second is the holding of a Special National Congress sooner rather than later to honestly debate and resolve on the areas of difference. At the same time the federation and its affiliates will have to pay very special attention to work place organisation as part of reducing the distance between leadership and the rank and file that we already identified in our 2012 Congress. Such a focus will be critical in rebuilding unity from the bottom up.

There is also a need to agree on what we mean by trade union independence. Some quarters have already described the whole idea as some sort of liberal notion, which is not class based. Others believe trade union independence is a prerequisite for asserting a working-class specific agenda. There are many comrades who have noted the danger of transforming COSATU into a labour desk of the ruling party as a tendency that needs to be challenged and completely rejected. There are others who see the insistence on trade union independence as a threat that will undermine the Alliance.

Certainly in the context of the Alliance, and relations with government, there is a need to explain that worker-controlled organisations cannot be subjected to the imposition of policies from other quarters. Workers' control means that unions and federation must be given space to discuss all manner of issues, and must be able, and especially within their own democratic constitutions, make decisions and push for changes that they believe will move the working class forward.

The reactions to the NUMSA Congress decisions of December 2013 are a case in point. The amount of time and energy that has been spent attempting to prove that NUMSA is being divisive and anti-ANC and anti-Alliance shows how far we have to go to reassert the right of unions to decide their own policies. In raising this principle, I am not in any way endorsing or passing a judgment on NUMSA Special Congress resolutions. I am asserting the right of all workers to assemble, think, analyse their situation and take resolutions.

My argument is that workers' control and trade union independence are two sides of the same coin of workers’ power. One without the other means that we have no currency to negotiate or campaign.

Let us remind ourselves that workers’ power is based on the ability to forge unity around class-based demands, and then to be able to mobilise our members to take them forward. But if those demands are not forged at the base of our organisations, and reflect the real and pressing needs of the working class, borne from their own day to day experience, then it will be impossible for workers to have ownership of the demands, and a willingness to fight for them.

This then poses the absolute necessity of trade union democracy. Whatever happens over the next few months inside COSATU, the issue of reasserting trade union democracy and accountability within COSATU affiliates needs urgent and careful attention.

Comments

Nine COSATU Affiliated Unions on Special COSATU Central Executiv

The Reaction of the Nine COSATU Affiliated Unions on the Decisions of the Special COSATU Central Executive Committee held on the 20th November 2014

The recent Special CEC developments, decisions and subsequent press briefings and press statements if anything once again demonstrate the failure of the current leadership at the head of COSATU to unite and lead workers in implementing COSATU resolutions of the 11th National Congress. It is precisely for such reasons that we have suspended our participation in the CEC. What at this point is required from the leadership is to rise above factional politics and pursue a course for building workers unity based on our resolutions and campaigns. In this regard the current leadership has completely failed and instead of steering a course away from the decisive path, they have once again squarely placed themselves behind a faction in COSATU, both within COSATU structures and in their public utterances. Thus the decisions of the CEC and the subsequent press briefing, unfortunately fall far short from what this moment demand and merely deepen the crisis. For this reason our demands; for a Special National Congress, the reversal of the expulsion of NUMSA and the cessation of the ongoing witch-hunt against Comrade Vavi remain as urgent as it was on the first day we raised it. These demands is at the heart of a process that will return the Federation to her rightful owners, it's members, the workers. We insist no amount of boardroom decisions can address this crisis and paralysis. What this moment demand from leadership is clear campaigns and struggles that will unite workers and defend workers against the capitalist onslaught workers face daily. The machinations of the current leadership makes a mockery our commitment to reverse the high levels of unemployment, inequality and poverty and unfortunately the recent decisions and press briefing once again fail the workers.

The continued denialism which engulfs the current majority of collective of the National Office Bearers of COSATU, which is better explained in press conferences than the traditional organisational channels of communication of legitimate nature that are constitutionally empowered to recapture the federation from the class onslaught engineered by renewed class project ably resourced through democratic state which seeks to retain the capitalist economic policies, is to some extent worrying.

Statement issued by the COSATU National Office Bearers on the 14 November 2014

This rather wasteful manner of federation’s and state’s resources to convene meaningless press conferences within seven days to reinstate what we view somewhat, as what is not news worthy projected outcomes of endless Special CEC which is schedule for the entire season to force down the throat of ordinary members of the federation and the broader working class than to accept that under the current presidency the federation is going down the history book as a leader who donated with the sole of the working class to the democratic state and fossil capital.

The unconstitutional grip/clench of Losi to the position of presidency

The latest and sustained constitutional violations by National Office Bearers with a factional desire, about the status of the 2nd Deputy President, who must at all cost now, have to go. In order to justify the continuation of the position held by the 2nd Deputy President, Zingiswa Losi reference is made to a so-called precedent involving Comrade George Nkadimeng who remained as the Deputy President of COSATU after shifting jobs from being a shopstewards of NUM to NUMSA. However this resulted in a subsequent Congress rectifying this ambiguity to avoid future recurrences. It was for this reason that when Comrade Joyce Pekane of CEPPWAWU faced a similar situation she failed to qualify for election at a subsequent Congress.

It is in this context therefore that the Seven Unions now deem it appropriate to demand Comrade Zingiswa Losi who was once a NUMSA shop steward must immediately resign. Her continuing presence in the NOB team is in clear contradiction to the COSATU Constitution, and the fact that she continues in her position brings into disrepute the decisions of the CEC and indeed all structures where she has unconstitutionally played a role. Her continued presence and participation is an affront to workers control and accountability and she must be removed.

6th Central Committee

The much expressed view that the organisation is in paralysis is better explained in that “the CEC agreed not to proceed with the 6th Central Committee scheduled for 24-26 November, as it will be counter-productive in the current state of affairs” as but one demonstration of such a state. This is branded to be possible could be divisive unless the report and agenda is managed in a particular way and should not be called if this is not the case. To suggest otherwise as the faction of Sdumo has done is to both undermine the COSATU Constitution, and the Independence of the Federation. We respectfully suggest therefore that the Cde Sdumo must refrain from interfering in matters that are governed by the Constitution.

Calling for calm

That the COSATU National Office Bearers’ statement, 14 November 2014 The National Office Bearers of the Congress of South African Trade Unions wish to inform COSATU members, members of the Allied formations, friends in the civil society, all South Africans and indeed our sister Federations across the globe that we, the six National Office Bearers of the Federation, have been holding crucial discussions amongst ourselves since Monday 10 November 2014.

This is rather far truth and we suspect that the intention of this misleading statement is distanced to spread more lies to the mind of the unsuspecting members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, members of the Allied formations, friends in the civil society, all South Africans and indeed our sister Federations across the globe, of what we could merely reduce to mean one thing only that, of the much talked about press conference of the 14th November 2014, wherein further lies were engineered but failed to find expression in the public discourse.

The truth is how can we be told to be calm when NUMSA is unconstitutional expelled from the federation they created to serve their ideological master Blade Nzimande who referred to the NUMSA as rotting and stinking corpse. We wish to place on record our uttermost distaste at the language that was used by a prominent politician and an avowed defender of the working class at the weekend in Durban.
We may have our political differences with Comrade Blade Nzimande but his comments at the KZN Shop Stewards Council on Sunday 16th November require an immediate response.

Speaking as the General Secretary of the SACP, his contribution to the meeting on the crisis in COSATU included a description of NUMSA as a ‘rotting corpse’ that must be disposed of.

We are all in favour of a robust discussion and we must all at times plead guilty of using terms that inflame rather than explain our differences. However, the use of this particularly term at this time is especially offensive, verges on hate-speak, and cannot be allowed to pass without a public rebuke.

Not only is this a wholly inappropriate term for an avowed defender of the working class, a leading communist, a leader of the Alliance, a member of the ANC leadership and a Cabinet Minister of Higher Education to use to describe a democratic and peaceful Union of more than 350,000 workers, it is also extremely offensive.

• Has Comrade Nzimande forgotten that the SACP has until recently received millions from NUMSA over the years to keep it afloat?

• Does he regard those loyal members of the SACP he leads who are still members of NUMSA as also part of a rotting corpse?

• Is he not aware that his comrades in the ANC and in the Alliance (which he purports to wholeheartedly support) are trying to build not burn bridges within COSATU at this time?

• Is he not aware how particularly insensitive his remarks are when the nation is still in official mourning, in solidarity with those who are at long last receiving the corpses of their loved ones from Lagos?

• We believe that Comrade Nzimande must apologise for using this remark.


Firstly to the families of those lost in Lagos. Secondly to those thousands of workers who have built NUMSA and COSATU as a bastion of the working class. Thirdly to those in the Alliance who are trying to build unity. Fourthly to the South African public who deserve more than this from elected representatives those who are supposed to protect their interests. Finally, to those comrades he addressed in Durban last week-end, in the hope that his example will not be emulated.

We expect in return a pattern of insults and accusations that has sadly become a norm, and that has thwarted and replaced genuine attempts at a clarifying engagement. So be it. Our main audience for this statement is actually not those who are named, important though they are, but the hundreds of thousands of workers who are trying to make sense out of the current crisis. In reaching out from the Boardrooms to them we pledge ourselves wholeheartedly to the following actions:
• We will continue to campaign against the expulsion of NUMSA and for a reversal of the injustices they have suffered.

• We will continue the defend Zwelinzima Vavi, and all those who are victimised, marginalised, suspended and expelled from their unions for demanding workers control and adherence to principles, and the implementation of COSATU’s radical policies.

• We will continue to demand our constitutional right to a Special National Conference and for the Workers Parliament to decide where we are going, and who shall lead us.

• We will refuse to be part of the palace/board room politics that typify the behaviour of the current leadership of COSATU, the ANC and the SACP at the expense of workers control.

• We will urge all progressive forces, through meetings, mass mobilisations, extensive propaganda and educational materials to become involved in the campaign to establish a truly representative COSATU that is supported wholeheartedly by its democratic and militant affiliates.

This is the least we can do at this time, if we are to break the stranglehold of class collaboration and oppression.

Legitimacy of today’s CEC which is dominated faction

It is apparent that, despite the historical political role championed by this body, but, with the current composition which proved to be infiltrated by forces who are enemies of the working class who are creature from outer space class formations. It (CEC) has degenerated to a point where we and the working class formation at large now are convinced that, this body must be overhauled to matching set the purpose and find relevance in the unfolding political and ideological moment. This could only be achieved if we reconnect with the founding principles of the federation to strengthen trade unions towards being decisively strong, worker controlled, democratic and independent transformatory organs of worker power into the future. The balance of class forces in our country and continent demand nothing less, as the workers movement continues to be treated as little more than a rubber stamp for austerity policies that undermine further the living standards of the working class and the poor.

Therefore, the state of paralysis at the level of the Federation’s CEC still needs to be addressed, despite the interventions of a range of external and internal players. In our view, the basis of the divisions, which is manifested in a destructive factionalism, is rooted in an unwillingness to accept and address the reality of the failure of transformation, and especially at the level of the economy, and the current formation and composition of the CEC can not mitigate politically and ideologically. At no stage in history wherein the democratic organisation, where you will find minority is place to the same artificial parity with the majority, as it is the case of the current formulae of representation. This is couple with some affiliates within that CEC of COSATU speaking without mandate on core constitutional limitations, yet participate and take far reaching decisions.

It is in this context, we painfully with determination will campaign for a rather new structural outlook, with composition that become conscious and appreciate the centrality of majority rule in its true classical form.

For more details of the programme of action of the Unions signing this Press Statement, please contact the General Secretary of the Union Concerned, or Comrade Katishe Masemola, the General Secretary of FAWU on 0824672509

Issued by the Nine COSATU Affiliated Unions

Mike Abrahams
media@saccawu.org.za

Defend the Independence of COSATU: Defend NUMSA: Defend Vavi

Defending the Independence of COSATU: Defending NUMSA: Defending Zwelinzima Vavi

A response of the Seven Unions to the COSATU NOBs Press Conference, the Statement with comments by Comrade Gwede Mantashe on behalf of the ANC, and the Statement by the SACP.

1 Unpacking the Truth at the COSATU NOBs Press Conference
The seven unions (FAWU, SACCAWU, PAWUSA, SASAWU, CWU, DENOSA and SAFPU) and superior widely held section of SAMWU membership feel compelled to respond to the COSATU NOBs, the ANC and the SACP statements in relation to the expulsion of NUMSA from within the ranks of COSATU. Our intention is to alert all workers and the public at large of the truth of the situation, and to join with us in rectifying what we consider to be a gross injustice, and an attack on the entire trade union movement.
In so doing, we publicly align ourselves with the sentiments expressed by Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi in his letter to the rest of COSATU National Office Bearers that expresses in a clear working class tradition his break with factional agenda that had since occupied the NOBs in the recent past.

In respect of SADTU Statement of the 14th November 2014, Hands off VavI!!!
We note the timing of the so called statement which is issued just at the end of the engagement with ANC. Well , it is very clear here that SADTU knows nothing about the evolution of COSATU, hence as  they claim application for membership and related conditions they seem to be  unaware that NUMSA never made such an application but one of COSATU founder members whilst SADTU only applied and joined in 1990, after resistance even on its formation claiming to be not workers but professionals to the extent of  irritating Comrade James Motlasi,  the then Coordinator on deployment towards ANC list to Government from COSATU , as they vigorously demanded; new as they were; the inclusion of their then President and General Secretary respectively, Mdladlana and Howard to the first 20 deployment list late in 1993. As for their charge that our General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi should be their Clique Puppet; again same shows their limited memory as we told them during the Madisha's Booysens Hotel Clique that;  cliques are about imposing  outside taken factional views as  decisions to the organisation and claim  convenient  and selective Democratic  centralism; a tendency we remained and still opposed to.
Of course COSATU is no conveyor belt and springboard towards parliament luxuries and confirm but the advanced detachment of the working class, supposedly within folds of the Vanguard of the working class towards socialism and/or classless society; understanding fully that the withering away of the state can only happen when such a state is under the proletariat control and not bourgeoisie, as today is the case, with supposedly Vanguard leadership at its helm. 

On the COSATU Press Conference and the Expulsion of NUMSA
Firstly, we take issue with the untruths that were stated during the COSATU National Office Bearers press conference after the expulsion of NUMSA when it was claimed that there were Unions who were expelled from COSATU other than NUMSA, to justify the class suicide committed by expelling 350,000 metal workers.
The fact is, no single Union except NUMSA has ever been expelled from COSATU. Measures such as the lapsing of membership due to long periods of arrears, or not being in good standing coupled with efforts to assist through NOB interventions and then writing off arrears cannot be equated with an expulsion. The four Unions referred to in the COSATU Press Conference were not expelled. The truth is that those unions who were lapsed or encouraged to merge with others in order to survive had been consistently in arrears, or their membership had declined making them unsustainable. At the insistence by various CEC meetings NOBs intervened many times, including with financial assistance and writing off of their debt/arrears but some simply collapsed. Whilst the suspensions and expulsion are dealt with in accordance with Clause 14.2 and all its subsections, the status of membership is handled in accordance with clause 18.1 read with 2.2.8. There is no correlation between these sections of the Constitution whatsoever.
Expulsion is a very grave matter indeed, and cannot be diminished by implying it is a normal everyday occurrence. Expulsion is nothing less than a conscious division of working class forces!

Engaging with NUMSA’s presentation to CEC
It is not true that the Special CEC of the 7th November 2014 engaged the NUMSA presentation that took almost 3 hours, to show cause on why it must not be suspended or expelled. Instead a vote was hurriedly imposed through numerical strength to formalise a clearly premeditated expulsion. The DGS at the CEC, and repeated at the press conference, could not contain himself from saying that NUMSA was effectively expelled in the February CEC. This was repeated by the former 2nd Deputy President, Zingiswa Losi, through her own distorted reading of the Constitution.

Affiliates who requested to be given the NUMSA document, and have time to read it and take it for mandate taking, and then to subject it to a fair and transparent process were refused. They were deprived of a right to a fair, and informed determination on NUMSA’s fate.

None of the five areas that NUMSA were supposed to be questioned on were properly considered at all. NUMSA made their presentation, and then there was a call for a vote. What sort of engagement is this? Instead a move to vote for expulsion was based on the spurious grounds of NUMSA not showing remorse, or being prepared to undermine their own Congress resolutions. This is reinforced by the letter of expulsion not carrying a single reason for expulsion as provided for by the Constitution. In the absence of an engagement, we hold the view that it is clear that a faction came into the CEC with a predetermined agenda which they pursued without any semblance of fairness or respect for COSATU’s constitution or its future.

Status of the 2nd Deputy President who must now go
In order to justify the continuation of the position held by the 2nd Deputy President, reference is made to a so-called precedent involving Comrade George Nkadimeng who remained as the Deputy President of COSATU after shifting jobs from being a shopstewards of NUM to NUMSA. However this resulted in a subsequent Congress rectifying this ambiguity to avoid future recurrences. It was for this reason that when Comrade Joyce Pekane of CEPPWAWU faced a similar situation she failed to qualify for election at a subsequent Congress.

It is in this context therefore that the Seven Unions now deem it appropriate to demand Comrade Zingiswa Losi who was once a NUMSA shop steward must immediately resign. Her continuing presence in the NOB team is in clear contradiction to the COSATU Constitution, and the fact that she continues in her position brings into disrepute the decisions of the CEC and indeed all structures where she has unconstitutionally played a role. Her continued presence and participation is an affront to workers control and accountability and she must be removed.

2 The Statement and Comments of Comrade Gwede Mantashe

We have also noted with keen interest the interviews and statements by the SG of the ANC, Comrade Gwede Mantashe, and the statement that was issued by the ANC. We are of course duty bound to respond in order to ensure that an accurate account is made available to the public and especially trade union members.

Unfinished Task Team Report
The Secretary-General of the ANC, Comrade Gwede Mantashe, has reissued the Task Team Report to journalists, but failed to clarify that this report is not a final product. In fact it was described confusingly as a “First Final Report”, presumably because there are other final reports to follow. Is Comrade Gwede saying that the Task Teams work is finalised? If so he must make this clear, because the COSATU CEC does not share this view. In other words, an interim report should have no official standing, especially when a process has not been completed. It certainly should not be used as propaganda to justify the attitude of the SG, and by association the ANC as a whole, and not least because it does not include what we consider to be the compelling views presented to the CEC of November 7th. It is hard not to conclude that the Secretary General use of an incomplete, unprocessed report is intended to justify a pre-determined mind-set that contradicts and undermines the whole stated purpose of the Task Team.
The intervention of the ANC, which ‘coincidentally’ came into being immediately after the reinstatement of Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi, was supposed to be of assistance, and a ceasefire was agreed on that basis. To try and now use its unfinished deliberations for factional advantage is not helpful at all.

Understanding the Scope Question
Both Comrade Gwede in his capacity of the SG of the ANC, and the SACP have accentuated the question of scope as being among the main reasons why NUMSA must be dismissed from COSATU. Comrade Gwede goes as far as saying that one of the suggestions in the Task Team report is that NUMSA must withdraw its resolution on scope in the interests of Unity, but this is in effect a refusal to accept reality.
Both Comrade Gwede and the SACP make a serious error in believing that even a founding principle of the Federation must never be reviewed, challenged or updated. In the NUMSA case, the demand was for a rational discussion on scope in the light of the changes in the economy. It is such debates that make a Federation dynamic and relevant.
Comrade Gwede in particular must be informed that the NUMSA Special Congress Resolutions to extend scope to organize in value-chain and cluster-related functions or in ‘non-traditional’ sectors/industries is not a position restricted to NUMSA. NUMSA have simply stated what has become a reality in almost all COSATU affiliates. The accusation of transgressing sectors could be levelled at almost all affiliates as has been recorded. FAWU for example confirmed an amendment to their constitution in their 2011 National Congress with this intention and they received no reprimand or caution from COSATU.
Comrade Gwede’s own union, the NUM under his stewardship as the then General Secretary and even now organises a wide range of workers outside of the traditional scope, and this has happened organically as new value chains have had to be responded to. For the Secretary General to say that NUM has never moved past its scope except in terms of the instances when they applied to COSATU and when they ‘adopted’ construction workers (CAWU) are economical with the truth, and he knows this!
The fact of the matter is that NUMSA have been expelled not because of crossing sectoral boundaries, but because they challenged the politics of the Alliance, and the failure of the ANC Government to deliver for the working class.

The Special National Conference
Comrade Gwede has now publicly stated that the Special National Conference could be divisive unless the agenda is managed in a particular way and should not be called if this is not the case. The convening of the COSATU Special National Congress (SNC) does not require permission or approval of the ANC or even its SG. The Constitution of the Federation clearly states how a Special National Congress can be called, and unambiguously states what the role and responsibilities of the President should be, and what must happen if he fails to comply with the Constitution. To suggest otherwise as the SG has done is to both undermine the COSATU Constitution, and the Independence of the Federation. We respectfully suggest therefore that the SG must refrain from interfering in matters that are governed by the Constitution.

COSATU Representatives on the ANC National Executive
We were surprised to hear Comrade Gwede state that there are no COSATU representatives on the ANC NEC. This is a very puzzling statement. The SG knows fully well that the President of COSATU, Comrade Sdumo Dlamini, is a member and there were several other comrades including Comrades Slovo Majola and Senzeni Zokwana. It is simply not true that no one from COSATU had served in the leadership of the ANC.
Many of us were extremely worried about this development when it was agreed because we saw it as potentially serving to undermine the independence of the Federation, and to also create situations where COSATU policy was compromised. Recent developments have confirmed this view in our opinion.
There has been an extensive discussion in the past characterised by the ‘two hats’ debate, and frankly we have witnessed situations recently where comrades agree in a COSATU forum certain positions, who then attend an ANC or SACP leadership meeting, and then return to COSATU to try and change the policy they agreed a short time earlier. This begs the question, from where do these comrades derive their mandate, from their members, or from the ANC and Party or not at all?
In our view we believe that there is a persistent danger of diluting COSATU’s more radical policies and therefore undermining trade union independence if there is any confusion about where mandates are derived.
We are concerned that the SG seems unaware of the comrades from COSATU who sit on his NEC. Is this because they do not make a distinctive contribution based on Federation and Union mandates to the ANC NEC deliberations? If so then our fears are confirmed.

Saying One Thing, Doing Another
Finally the ANC statement lays bare the mixed messages arising from both the ANC and the SACP. Along with pleadings for Unity are veiled attacks on those who are not prepared to be silent about the failures of either the Alliance, or indeed the Government. For example:
We reaffirm our position that the expulsion of NUMSA from the Federation is bad for the COSATU itself, it is bad for the ANC, bad for the Alliance, the progressive forces as well as for society in general.
We don`t believe that the challenges facing the Federation are insurmountable nor the differences irreconcilable. Allowing a split in the Federation can only help the historic enemies of the Alliance from both the left and right of the political spectrum. This development can never be celebrated; it in fact calls upon all of us to work hard to find each other
And then comes the sting in the tail………
Constructive contestations are healthy and must always be appreciated within the context of the democratic character of the movement; equally we must protect the movement against any attack to its profound principles. As we work hard to find solutions we must be vigilant of any strategies and plans to destroy the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Alliance at all costs.
We have explained that founding principles have not just been contested by NUMSA, and furthermore, that NUMSA and others have never stated or implied that they want to destroy the Federation. This then begs us to demand of the SG an honest and straight forward answer. Why has the ANC and its partner the SACP been so hell bent on justifying the expulsion of NUMSA and its 350,000 members from the Federation if not to turn COSATU into a passive lap dog?

3 Response to SACP Press Statement
Despite its statement to the contrary, the SACP as a self proclaimed vanguard of the working class, has been conspicuously missing in action during the period when COSATU was experiencing its recent state of paralysis emanating from the last COSATU Congress in 2012. It is well known that the leaders of the SACP were increasingly unhappy with the direction of COSATU, and especially its readiness to raise serious concerns on the rightward drift of ANC Government and Alliance policy. Despite the fact that it is the absolute duty of COSATU to raise the plight of the working class and poor, and the leaders of the SACP have become the Governments greatest praise singers, and equate criticism with counter-revolutionary activity.
The continuing willingness of the SACP to justify every duck and turn of the Government and of the President, and to accept its economic policy as enshrined in the NDP, has laid bare its inability to critically engage with the depth of the crisis facing our country.
If it emerges that the SACP is implicated in the current divisions in COSATU then both its most recent statement and its credibility in the eyes of the working class will be severely compromised, and perhaps beyond any repair.
If indeed the SACP, as stated in its press release, is concerned with unity why has it sunk to a tit-for-tat trading of insults with the NUMSA leadership? Why has it involved itself in factional activity in the structures of NUMSA by attempting to drive a wedge between the NUMSA leadership and its membership? The SACP statement goes so far as to encourage NUMSA members to break with their elected leadership. One can only imagine the reaction of the SACP leadership if SACP rank and file members were asked to do the same by an external force.

Confusion of what constitutes Business Unionism
Towards the end of the SACP statement, the author(s) cannot help from having a last swipe at what it considers to be the business unionism of NUMSA. This illustrates a profound absence of any trade union understanding, and confirms that the author has never been a trade unionist. The term Business Unionism is used to describe what happens when Unions forsake their primary purposes of representing and mobilising members in favour of providing them with services, such as loans or discounts from certain stores.
Business Unionism is very much associated with the depoliticised practices of American and some European Trade Union models where the provision of services to members becomes the main reason for existence, and the union becomes a conduit for doing business. To use this term against NUMSA is completely inappropriate. Are NUMSA members depoliticised? Are they regaled with the need to buy services via the Union as opposed to playing an active part in determining its policies? Are NUMSA members in a democratic worker controlled organisation or a business venture? Have business ventures overtaken collective bargaining and campaigning? How could NUMSA have organised a successful metal workers strike recently if this is not the case?
If establishing an investment arm, and trading on the stock market through investment and acquisitions is an element of business unionism, why has not the SACP singled out those unions who have gone down this route more than any other? NUMSA is not leading this development. Is it because these are the Unions that are closest to the SACP, and the SACP benefits substantially from their largesse? Are we not then looking at Business Communism?
Finally, can the SACP itself claim to be independent and free of the structures of those with resources?
Is its agenda arrived at freely and democratically? For decades the SACP has been dependent on finances from COSATU Unions. It currently owes a small fortune in rent to COSATU. Over the years, NUMSA has paid the SACP millions through the political levy and through donations to events and campaigns. More recently the SACP has been courting the likes of Patrice Motsepe and others, and no doubt has been happy to receive donations from them. Those members of the SACP who have achieved high office, it is assumed, are also providing the Party with a substantial income.
Does this mean in effect that the SACP is now dependent financially on forces that are in complete class contradiction, or at best part of a capitalist state? We believe that Party members must be told where the Party will now replenish its accounts after dislocating itself from a large section of the organised working class, and what this will mean for its class allegiances and future direction.

SACP Really for the Unity of the Working Class?
When the General Secretary of SACP was jubilant at the suspension of Zwelinzima Vavi, and urged workers to be ready for a COSATU without their General Secretary he illustrated exactly where he stood. In the middle of a deep crisis, the GS of the SACP saw fit to exacerbate further the division, completely contradicting the written statements of his Party. When the suspension was proven to be unconstitutional and the COSATU GS was returned, the GS of the Party was silent.
These are not the actions of those who claim to genuinely care for the unity of the working class, and for a trade union movement that is prepared to raise and fight for demands that take us forward on a socialist pathway.

4 The Current Situation and the Phenomenon of Denial
Given the statements of the ANC and the SACP, it is incumbent upon us to comment further on what we consider to be a case of economic and social denialism. The ANC and SACP statements suggest that they are in terminal denial about the real situation which the working class and the poor confront today, and the impact of the continued dominance of anti-worker macro economic policies.
We are astounded by what we see as history repeating itself. After the 1996 class project rammed the GEAR policy down the throats of the country as a whole and the working class in particular, its leaders claimed that GEAR was an economic programme of the Reconstruction and Development Programme and the Freedom Charter. The 2007 ANC Conference in Polokwane rejected this approach, and promised a new approach to economic policy, placing the creation of decent work at the centre.
Winding the clock forward, 18 years down the line from GEAR, the Secretary General of the ANC who was mandated to pursue a decent work programme by delegates in the 52nd ANC Conference is now telling the working class that a naked neo liberal anti working class programme, the National Development Plan, is essentially about taking forward the demands of the Freedom Charter. The Freedom Charter’s economic demands, in particular the demand that “the wealth of the country shall be shared” is not even remotely taken forward by the pro business NDP. The claim is therefore intellectually dishonest in the extreme.
Both the ANC Secretary General and the SACP Politbureau statement make another surprising ideological u-turn. They cite of all things a World Bank report as the main source of their claim that, despite everything said previously, our economic policies have in fact been redistributive and progressive! In other words, they now claim that there has been success in creating a more equal society.
The World Bank claims that South Africa has witnessed a ‘massive redistribution programme’ in the past twenty years, and the ANC and SACP selectively use some of the advances made in the past twenty years to back this claim. These include the fact that 16 million people are recipients of the social grants, 3 million homes have been built, and 7 million houses have been connected to the electricity grid.
Yes these advances are important and must be celebrated. But to suggest that these advances represent a massive redistribution programme is devoid of reality. This is like declaring that an operation has been successful when in fact the patient is dead. It is particularly astonishing that organisations which declare themselves as a disciplined force of the left, or a vanguard for the struggle for socialism, are so ill informed about the material conditions of the working class.
The following highlights paint a very different picture of rising inequality (and we attach a more detailed analysis of the failed redistribution project as an appendix):- The share of wages to GDP was around 57% in 1991. Twenty five years later it has fallen to below 50%. Whilst this is happening, profits of private firms have been at record levels. This in practice means we have been distributing wealth from the poor to the rich. Income inequalities have worsened in South Africa in the past 20 years. The Gini Coefficient was 0.64 in 1994 and over the past twenty years it has worsened to 0.68, according to the NDP (although some put it higher).
Unemployment was around 21% in 1994 using the narrow definition but now sits at a record breaking level of 25,2%. Using the real definition of unemployed which counts all workers unemployed including those that are no longer actively searching for job opportunities, the unemployment rate is a catastrophic 35,8%. As a result of this is it is estimated that workers support around 12 unemployed dependents, a large increase on the figure in 1994.
Asset poverty of those that were deprived by apartheid remains our reality. White monopoly capital remains the ruling elite reflected by the fact that over 90% of all companies owned by the JSE listed companies remain in white hands. A liberation that does not address the property question is not worth celebrating.
How could this remotely represent a massive redistribution programme? Where do these comrades live? When they declare that the operation has been successful, whose interests are they representing? How could the fact that 14 million people spend every night without food represent progress? How could the fact that 26 million people live below the poverty line represent a massive redistribution programme?
The SACP takes this bourgeois propaganda to new levels. The SACP now says the country’s macro economy is essentially progressive and redistributive! But the SACP together with COSATU was part of the campaign against the 1996 class project based mainly on the rejection of GEAR macro-economic policies. The 2013 Alliance Summit adopted an agreement which suggests that in essence existing economic policies have failed and need to be reconfigured.
The reality we face is that our country’s macroeconomic policies continue to devastate the working class- we attach an edited extract from the Secretariat Report to the Central Committee which paints a clear picture of this situation. This report completely discredits the World Bank, SACP, and ANC notion that we have succeeded more than Latin American countries in driving a redistributive programme. The opposite is true!
The SACP campaigned against what it called inappropriate macro-economic policies for years, but because the leadership of the SACP is now operating from inside the belly of a capitalist state they are hypocritically turning against this position. They are now calling on worker to celebrate the ‘progressive macroeconomic policies’ which have caused such misery – what a shame!

5 The Fight for an Independent COSATU Continues!
The signatories to this statement are aware of what the likely response will be from those who are discussed in this statement. We expect in return a pattern of insults and accusations that has sadly become a norm, and that has thwarted and replaced genuine attempts at a clarifying engagement. So be it. Our main audience for this statement is actually not those who are named, important though they are, but the hundreds of thousands of workers who are trying to make sense out of the current crisis. In reaching out from the Boardrooms to them we pledge ourselves wholeheartedly to the following actions:
• We will continue to campaign against the expulsion of NUMSA and for a reversal of the injustices they have suffered.
• We will continue the defend Zwelinzima Vavi, and all those who are victimised, marginalised, suspended and expelled from their unions for demanding workers control and adherence to principles, and the implementation of COSATU’s radical policies.
• We will continue to demand our constitutional right to a Special National Conference and for the Workers Parliament to decide where we are going, and who shall lead us.
• We will refuse to be part of the palace/board room politics that typify the behaviour of the current leadership of COSATU, the ANC and the SACP at the expense of workers control.
• We will urge all progressive forces, through meetings, mass mobilisations, extensive propaganda and educational materials to become involved in the campaign to establish a truly representative COSATU that is supported wholeheartedly by its democratic and militant affiliates.
This is the least we can do at this time, if we are to break the stranglehold of class collaboration and oppression.
For more details of the programme of action of the Unions signing this Press Statement, please contact the General Secretary of the Union Concerned, or Comrade Katishe Masemola, the General Secretary of FAWU on 0824672509

Appendix :Appendix: 

The deepening crisis in South AfricaThe extreme concentration of wealth and economic power, the high levels of inequality, and the ability of capital to move - all allow capital and the wealthy to shield themselves from an economic crisis, unless the state intervenes to regulate conditions under which they operate.
 
The working class relies on the state, and their own organisation, to impose measures, which ensure that workers don’t bear the brunt of the crisis. In the light of this test, the picture, which has emerged in South Africa since the global crisis in 2008 is a very gloomy one, and suggests that big capital continues to have virtually free reign in running the economy.

Growing inequality and concentration of wealth
There is a debate amongst academics about the exact level of inequality in our country, but all agree on one thing: the level of income inequality in South Africa is the highest of any major economy in the world. Even the NDP accepts that measured in terms of the Gini coefficient, our levels of inequality are astronomical, and puts it at 0,68 (0 being perfect equality and 1 being total inequality). This is compared to the OECD average of between 0,25 and 0,35 after taxes and transfers.

When we compare our inequality to even the most unequal societies in South America, we see that while their Gini coefficients have mostly decreased, ours remains the same or continues to grow1.



Looking at various indicators of inequality in society, it is clear that the gap between the owners of capital and ordinary workers is increasing on a massive scale. While figures from the last two years are not readily available, the Presidency conservatively estimates that the share of wages in national income declined from 55% in 1994 to 51% in 2012, a drop of 4%2. Other estimates suggest that this decline in the wage share is greater - for example the ILO et al.3 estimate that the wage share in South Africa dropped by 10% between 1995 and 2011. But all agree that the wage share has dropped significantly. This also means that the ratio of profits to GDP increased proportionately.

Despite the complaints from big business about the lack of favourable conditions for doing business, international surveys show that profits in South Africa are high by global standards. The NDP concedes this citing a study by economists that “profit margins are already very high in South Africa, even in the manufacturing sector. The high profits have not generated higher investment levels because many of these markets are highly concentrated with low levels of competition.” (P476)

The economic crisis hasn’t led to CEO’s tightening their belts, or those of management. On the contrary their packages have massively increased over this time, while hundreds of thousands of workers were retrenched. This graph4 shows how the gap between CEOs and the average worker has grown during this crisis period (2010-2013). Note: the graph shows the ratio of CEO pay to average wages, not the lowest wage. The ratio to the lowest paid would be many times higher. While the gap between average wages and CEO pay is similar to the US and some European countries, it is much higher than countries like Japan where the gap is about 4.8:1, and China, where it is around 20:15.

Media reports often focus on the basic package paid to CEO’s. However the table6 below shows that the main element of CEO packages is not their ‘basic salary’, which averaged 13.1 million per annum in 2012 for the top 50 CEOs. The ‘other’ elements of their package actually constitute more than three times this amount- bringing their total remuneration package to an average of R49 million a year:

The growth of the working poor
Contrary to the propaganda in the media that workers constitute some sort of elite, the rise in unemployment continues to undermine the bargaining power of low paid workers, who continue to be ‘pauperised’, or thrown into poverty, despite being employed full time, and often having to work overtime. If we use a conservatively estimated Minimum Living Level of around R4500 for a family of four, it is possible to estimate that at least 60% of South African workers are part of the working poor. Well over half of South African workers earn below this amount, and studies reveal that the numbers earning poverty wages are increasing, as the real value of wages in the bottom half of the wage structure continue to stagnate, or even decline.

Recent statistics have exposed the fact that working poverty in South Africa is on the rise: According to Stats SA the median wage was R3033 in 2013- i.e. 50% of all workers earned below R3033 per month. The median wage in 2013 actually declined from R3115 in 2012, which was a real decrease of over 10% for those workers, after taking into account inflation. A shocking 50% of ‘African’ workers earned below R2600 in 2013. In 2013 35% of all workers earned below two thirds of the median wage- i.e. earned less than R2020.

The post apartheid labour market statistics series (PALMS) which tracks labour market developments since 1994, has found that the median wage since 1994 has stagnated at below R2000 per month in 2000 prices. It also found that the top 25 percentile of wage earners have roughly doubled their wages in real terms since 1995 from an average R4000 in 2000 prices to around R8000 in 2011 (also in 2000 prices). The growing gap between the median wage (which has either stagnated or increased below the level of inflation) and average wages (which have grown more rapidly), is explained by the fact that wages of high income earners, which have grown consistently above the level of inflation, distort the average figure upwards.

The abnormally large gap between median wages and average wages in South Africa therefore reflects the high level of inequality in our wage structure. The average wage figure in November 2013 was R14 937. This is nearly five times the median wage of R3033 in 2013. Or put another way, the median wage is just over 20% of the average wage. The extent of our challenge is illustrated by the fact that the international benchmark for the national minimum wage is 40-50% of the average wage. Given that the average minimum wage in South Africa is below the median wage, the gap is even greater than described above. The minimum wage in SA as a proportion of the average wage continue to decline, and is far lower than nearly all comparable countries, 
including our peers in the G20 countries:


Deindustrialisation and shrinking manufacturing
It is worrying that, despite the efforts under the IPAP Plan and the official commitment to industrialisation, the structure of the economy is not being transformed. It is clear that the financially driven, services dominated character of our economy is if anything, more entrenched than before. Manufacturing continues to decline in terms of its contribution to the economy, as well as employment. According to Stats SA, we have lost close to 300 000 jobs in the formal manufacturing sector, between 2008 and 2014 - from 1.843 million to 1.545 million- a drop of 16%7. At a time when we are trying to build the manufacturing sector as the engine of the economy, this is a disastrous performance. This table below shows the declining contribution of manufacturing to total employment:







This loss of manufacturing jobs is not just a function of the global crisis. If we look at our peers in the G20, we can see that South African manufacturing is the worst performing sector in this regard: Figure: Sectoral employment variation, 2008-20138 Annual average percentage change

The continued deindustrialisation of the South African economy not only has implications for our development strategy, but also weakens the position of the industrial proletariat as an organised force in society.

Rising Unemployment
At the time of the global economic crisis, unemployment levels in South Africa had already hit crisis proportions, and were higher than any other middle-income country. The narrow unemployment rate in 2008 was around 22% and the broad rate (including discouraged workers) was around 30%. By 2013, the narrow rate was 24,7% and the broad rate 35,5%. The graph below gives a broad indication of the trends. In real terms, this means that nearly 2 million additional people were thrown into the pool of the unemployed between 2008-2013. In 2008 6 150 000 South Africans were unemployed. By 2013 the average number for the four quarters was 8 101 0009. The QLFS in the 2nd quarter of 2014 put the figure at a frightening 8,332 million or 35.6%! Between March and June 2014, employment increased by 39 000 but overall unemployment increased by 87 000! The number of unemployed is therefore only 2 million less than the total number employed in the formal sector, excluding agriculture.
Unemployment rate in South Africa 2008-1013



Despite the global economic crisis, this massive increase in unemployment was not inevitable. Countries in Latin America, as well as countries like China, and even the USA, successfully used massive stimulus measures, industrial policy, and social protection interventions to protect their people against the worst impacts of the crisis. The unemployment rate in many progressive Latin American states remains at historic lows, despite the fact that their economies were badly hit by the crisis. The table below reflects an average unemployment rate of 6,2% for Latin America in 2013. We highlight countries currently governed by left parties10.



Widespread Poverty and Hunger
There has been a claim in some quarters that poverty in South Africa has been massively reduced, and that a relatively small minority of South Africans still live in poverty, while others argue that at least half the population continue to live in poverty. This debate hinges on which definition of poverty is used, and whether it includes all those experiencing poverty, or only those living in so-called ‘extreme poverty’ or destitution. However anyone in touch with South African reality would concede that poverty and hunger is widespread throughout the country.

It is true that the extension of social grants in particular (which the labour movement and our allies campaigned for over many years), has been effective in reducing the most extreme forms of destitution. But an understanding of poverty, which recognises it in all its forms, will grasp the fact that poverty continues to afflict communities, which rely on these grants to survive. The growing pressure on working class communities arise from a range of factors, including increasing unemployment, stagnating wages paid to the working poor, as discussed above, rising food and transport prices etc.

Even the World Bank has now recognised that an approach which only focuses on ‘extreme poverty’ (i.e. those living on less than $1.25 per day) masks many other forms of poverty, and has recently extended their focus to the poorest 40% of society. This of necessity includes the working poor, and rejects a definition, which seeks to suggest that only those who are unemployed are living in poverty.

Therefore it is necessary to open up a debate in society about what constitutes poverty, and to challenge those definitions, which imply that anyone who is not literally starving is not living in poverty. This leads to the discussion, which COSATU has initiated about the need to define a minimum living level, which would provide a reference point for a national minimum wage. Once the basic needs of working families is defined, it is then possible to have a realistic definition of what constitutes poverty, as opposed to arbitrary poverty lines, which have no bearing on reality.

At the time of the farm workers strikes in the Western Cape, government responding to workers demand for R150 per day, commissioned a study. The BFAP study found that even if this demand were met, farm workers would not be able to provide adequate nutrition to their families with that amount (about R3000 per month). Yet (if we assume that this salary would have to support a family of four) poverty lines are being bandied about, the first of which is less than half the amount considered by the BFAP study - the so called ‘food poverty line’ of R370 per person per month, in 2013 prices; or the ‘lower bound poverty line’, at R506 per person per month in 2013 prices!

It is hoped that government will move away from the arbitrary poverty lines historically used by Treasury (which they continue to use in the NDP, which uses the hopelessly inadequate ‘lower bound poverty line’). Although still inadequate, the Presidency appeared to move away from previous approaches in the 2012 Development Indicators, and rather used the ‘Upper Bound Poverty Line’ as a reference. Their analysis conceded that based on this measure, over 52% of South Africans still lived in poverty, a far more realistic analysis than many of their previous assessments.

POVERTY HEADCOUNT INDEX11
Unfortunately this more realistic approach was reversed in Presidency’s 20 year review, which not only reverts to these problematic measures, but also uses the so-called ‘multidimensional poverty index’ developed by UCT, which takes into account provision of the social wage. This comes up with the ludicrous conclusion that the ‘poverty headcount’ had been reduced from 37% in 1993 to 8% by 2010!

Hunger and food insecurity
An Oxfam study, released on 14 October 2014, argues that hunger and food insecurity is widespread in South Africa, despite the fact that we produce more than enough food to feed the whole population. They found that, while one in four people suffer hunger currently, more than half of the population live in such precarious circumstances that they are at risk of going hungry. With high unemployment levels, and over 15 million people receiving social grants, “people do not have enough money to buy food. People in employment or who have casual jobs indicated that they are food secure in the first week after their wages are paid but are often food-insecure for the remaining three weeks in the month. Low-paid and irregular work reduces stability of access to food.”

Significantly, hunger and food insecurity are rife throughout the country, in both rural and urban areas, although hunger is more prevalent in the former Bantustan areas. Certainly these findings that one in four people are suffering hunger, and that more than half of the population live in such precarious circumstances that they are at risk of going hungry, makes nonsense of the claim that only 8% of the population experience ‘multidimensional poverty’. Hunger and food insecurity must be a key element of any definition of poverty. The figure below illustrates the extent of this phenomenon12:

These findings underline the importance of addressing the land question, as well as the issue of transformation of agriculture, agro processing, and the retail and distribution chains. Popular forces have lacked the strategic focus or political will to take on the powerful vested interests in these sectors. Clear commitments, which have been made since 2009 to drive a Food for All programme, through public procurement and distribution of essential foods have not been taken forward. Also little action has been taken to act against monopoly power in the retail sector, which leads to excessive pricing, while denying farmers fair prices for their produce. Similarly, we have not been sufficiently decisive in using trade measures to protect our agriculture, or to look at reintroduction of agricultural subsidies, or to take decisive action to bring down the costs of agricultural inputs, such as fertilisers. It is of concern that an industrial policy for the sector- the Agricultural Policy Action Plan - has been drafted with organised agriculture, but without the involvement of labour or other stakeholders.

1  Chart from Euromonitor June 13, 2012 South Africa – The Most Unequal Income Distribution in the World

2  Presidency Twenty Year Review.

3  ILO, OECD & World Bank Report prepared for the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting
Melbourne, Australia, 10-11 September 2014

4  Source: Mergence Investment Managers Cited in Moneyweb Thursday, 29 May 2014

5  Debbie Collier presentation on executive salaries to Annual Labour Law Conference 5 August 2014.

6  Debbie Collier. She calculates that our CEO’s are the second highest paid in the world, after the USA

7  These figures are taken from two Stats SA publications: Labour Market Dynamics, 2013 and the 2014 second quarter QLFS. If you include the informal manufacturing sector the picture is even worse, with the combined manufacturing sectors losing 346 000 jobs over this period.

8  Source, ILO, OECD & World Bank 2014 p22

9  Labour market Dynamics in South Africa, 2013. Stats SA. Table 2.9

10  ECLAC/ ILO The Employment Situation in Latin America and the Caribbean, May 2014

11  Development Indicators 2012, Presidency p 30

12  Oxfam, Hidden hunger in South Africa

South African nurses union backs NUMSA

DENOSA statement post-NEC meeting

Simon Hlungwani, DENOSA president, 25 Nov 2014

The Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) held a successful two-day National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting from Thursday 20 November until late on Friday 21 November at DENOSA head office in Pretoria ...

... DENOSA position on the latest developments in the federation

The NEC reflected frankly on the latest developments within COSATU in relation to the call for a Special National Congress (SNC) as called for by a third of COSATU affiliates, and the expulsion of National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) from the federation on the morning of the 8th of November. The NEC resolved on the following:

The SNC is long-overdue, and as DENOSA we call upon the federation to finalise the date of the SNC as a matter of urgency. DENOSA reaffirms its position that its call for a SNC is the only democratic avenue to not only unite the federation, but also revive and implement its 11th Congress resolutions on behalf of workers than the current situation where it is besieged by unending internal fracas.

In light of recent expulsion of NUMSA, DENOSA strongly believes this decision is going against the spirit of achieving unity which we believe the SNC must achieve. For this, DENOSA calls for the reinstatement of NUMSA back to the federation as a matter of urgency and before the SNC because it is important that the SNC is inclusive of all affiliates of the federation including NUMSA. DENOSA strongly believes talking unity when NUMSA is out of the federation will be tantamount to cosmetic unity, and not real unity, as COSATU voice will be without metalworkers of this country.

DENOSA puts it categorically clear that its call for NUMSA reinstatement is based on the principle of unity in COSATU.

DENOSA reaffirms its position that there is only one federation that can unite workers, which is COSATU and that its existence must be for real unity of workers and their interests on the shop floor. To this end, the NEC resolved to continue to engage inside and outside COSATU to find a speedy resolve to the challenges...

 

Communications Workers Union backs NUMSA

The National Executive Committee meeting of CWU held on the 21st
November 2014 has been able to reflect on recent developments in COSATU
and resolved that CWU should withdraw from participating in COSATU CEC
meetings until the federation commit convincingly to the following:
 
* The holding of a Special National Congress before the end of
January 2015;
 
* Reinstatement of NUMSA as an affiliate of COSATU without any
conditions attached;
 
* The Special National Congress must be inclusive of all
affiliates including NUMSA.
 
The new intervention attempts of the ANC Task Team must not compromise
our call for the Special National Congress. We believe that workers' are
better placed to deal with the current paralysis in the federation. We
believe that the status of the current 2nd Deputy President puts the
leadership of the federation in a quagmire in as far as constitutional
provisions of the federation are concerned.
 
Issued by CWU Head Office.

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