South Africa: Strike ends, workers' anger remains

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On September 6, the major trade unions representing South Africa's 1.3 million public servants and teachers announced that the 20-day strike for higher wages and allowances had been "suspended". See union statements below. Union leaders said the move would allow members to consider the latest government offer. Public servants went on strike demanding an 8.6% pay rise, while the government has offered 7.5%. According to the BBC, workers who came to hear union officials shouted in protest when they announced that the strike was being suspended. Meanwhile, workers in many other industries are taking or threatening industrial action.

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By Terry Bell, Cape Town

September 3, 2010 -- Business Report via Amandla! -- Whatever the outcome of the public sector dispute, it is perfectly clear that the overwhelming majority of public sector workers are bitter about the government; about the arrogance and incompetence displayed in the negotiations this year. But many are feeling the pinch after being on strike for more than two weeks and may -- very reluctantly -- feel they have to accept this latest offer.

After all, as Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has stressed, workers in jobs are having to support more and more dependants as the unemployment rate continues to rise. But the anger is palpable and the decision to accept or reject is difficult and requires debate.

This was why the combined unions initially scheduled either September 2 or 3 as the time to make a statement on the majority attitude to the latest offer, tabled on August 31 by Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi.

As it is, the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) -- representing 46 per cent of the unionised workforce -- maintains that the full results of its ballot on Baloyi's latest offer will only be known today.

Given these facts, it was surprising how quickly the combined COSATU unions rejected the new offer.

Originally, representatives of all the unions were scheduled to meet late September 2 to discuss the feedback from union members. Early indications from the 210,000-strong Public Servants Association were that the union's members were almost equally divided on the way forward. "It is too close to call", said PSA deputy general manager Manie de Clerq.

But the leadership of National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (NEHAWU) jumped the gun and announced on September 1 that its 212,000 members had rejected the offer. The South African Democratic Teachers' Union, with 224,000 members, followed suit, with its Western Cape region proclaiming that the rejection of the offer was unanimous.

Vavi then announced that all public sector unions affiliated to the federation had turned down the deal, which both COSATU and the ILC describe as "lousy".

But what is now on the table is not just an increase in basic pay and in the housing allowance; there are quite a few other undertakings. These were the focus when the unions and the government returned to the bargaining table on September 2 in a last-ditch attempt to stave off a potential nationwide general strike.

As part of the latest settlement offer, Baloyi has agreed that "outstanding matters that emanate from the 2007 and 2009 agreements" will be investigated for possible implementation. The proposed crunch date is April 1 next year.


Given the delays so far, many trade union members are understandably sceptical about such promises. After all, little or nothing has been done about about the agreement three years ago to fill the substantial number of vacant posts, especially in the health sector. As many health sector workers point out, one consequence of staff shortages and the lack of other essential resources is that there were many unnecessary deaths in hospitals and clinics.

These unionists also complain that it took often lurid newspaper headlines about potential and actual deaths, blamed on the strike, to highlight what was, already, an established and tragic problem.

While not condoning violence or the wilful neglect of patients, they also maintain that the government's insistence that no worker in a designated essential service could strike meant that they were forced into a position of "all in or all out".

But, as part of the new deal, the government has agreed to "investigate and implement" a minimum service agreement within the next seven months. This would place the onus on the unions to ensure that essential emergency services would be maintained during times of industrial unrest.

It would also mean that a range of workers within services such as the police, prisons, hospitals and clinics would be free to exercise their constitutional right to withhold their labour. Only emergency -- life or death -- matters would be dealt with.

On this basis, the ground may have been laid for a more stable relationship between the public sector unions and the government as employer.

But there can be no denying that tension between the COSATU unions and the African National Congress has grown.

In the process, old arguments, dating from the effective imposition of the [neoliberal] Growth Employment and Redistribution [economic] policy in 1996 and the roles played by Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, the then-finance minister, and subsequently by President Jacob Zuma, are being re-assessed. This has resulted in questions again being raised about not only whether, but when, COSATU will break ranks and -- possibly in alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP) -- establish a "left" political alternative.

Battle for the ANC's `soul'

It is, however, the wrong question, because a crucial point is missed: the COSATU leadership is still committed to the idea of winning the ANC over to become a party supporting "worker's interests". The long "battle for the soul of the ANC" is, in other words, ongoing.

This was made clear earlier in this week at a seminar in Cape Town hosted by the Centre for Conflict Resolution, at which COSATU's Western Cape provincial secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, was a speaker.

Responding to a question from the floor, Ehrenreich agreed that it was essential that a "labour party" be established. But he quickly qualified this by stating that the ANC was that putative organisation; that it was a matter of changing the current political orientation of the ruling party.

Union hopes had been pinned on the new ANC leadership that emerged at the ANC's national conference in Polokwane in 2007. These had been dashed, but the fight was far from over, he said.

In a telling response, former trade union activist and now professor of sociology at the University of Johannesburg, Sakhela Buhlungu, noted that COSATU had handed the ANC's "soul" to the new, post-Polokwane ANC leadership. But that leadership had run off in the opposite direction, with COSATU in hot pursuit, trying again to regain the soul.

The only problem was that the union federation did not seem to know to whom it should next be handed.

[Terry Bell is a revolutionary socialist who writes a column on the South African labour movement in the Business Report.]

Strike suspended, anger ensues

By Thando Tshangela

September 6, 2010 -- City Press, Soweto -- National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) leaders in Johannesburg were chased out of a meeting by angry civil servants when they announced a decision to suspend the strike, a union member has claimed.

A Nehawu member, Ndiitwani Ramarumo, said union leaders were chased out of the meeting in Johannesburg this afternoon.

“Members are angry and they want to protest by going to the national office to burn their membership cards”, said Ramarumo.

Public service unions were expected to announce the suspension of the strike this afternoon in Centurion.

The Gauteng Central branch of the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) general secretary Ronald Nyathi confirmed that teachers were expected to report back to work tomorrow.

“Teachers are not happy but after we learnt that some unions belonging to COSATU and the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) accepted the government’s offer, we realised we can’t carry on with the strike alone,” he said.

A Sadtu site steward, Tiego Tawana, said SADTU members were angry and viewed unions who have accepted government's pay offer as having sold out the workers.

Nehawu’s spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said leaders of COSATU-affiliated unions and the ILC were locked in a meeting and would thereafter make an announcement on whether they have accepted government’s offer.

Pamla, however, denied that NEHAWU had signed the agreement and said he could only wait for the expected announcement. He said he had not received reports of the alleged incident in Johannesburg as he was at the Public Service Co-ordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC).

SADTU’s national deputy secretary, Nkosana Dolopi, also said the decision would be announced at the press briefing and refused to speculate on it.

[Posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with Thando Tshangela's permission.]

Joint media statement: Strike is suspended

September 6, 2010 -- The COSATU public service unions and the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) that represent more than 1.3 million workers have been on strike for three weeks fighting for a living wage and improvement of the conditions of employment. Labour has decided to suspend the strike and this does not mean that we have accepted the state offer.

The reasons for suspending the strikes are:

  • The employer has failed to crush the strike and finally succumbed to the demand by labour to withdraw the signed agreement. This is a victory in the history of the public service negotiations where the employer was forced to reopen negotiations.
  • Our action was about the plight of our people to receive quality service by motivated public servants. The strike was about placing the needs of the poor and social issues such as health, education and a social safety net at the top of the national agenda by paying a living wage to the workers by the government.

We acknowledge our people who supported our action and our legitimate demands without wavering. In particular we must salute our heroic workers who sacrificed days’ wages and remained united in order to push the employer to move from their original position as follows:

  • The employer budgeted for 5.2% in the current financial year for salary adjustment. Workers and the people of South Africa pushed the employer to revise the offer by 44% to 7.5%. Workers forced the following concessions: 5.3%, 5.7%, 6%, 6.2%, 6.5% and 7%. The final concession was from 7% to 7.5% and the reopening of negotiations.
  • The employer had initially refused to negotiate housing allowance for the current financial year but workers have forced government to concede and increased the current housing allowance by 60% to R800 and agreeing to conclude all matters related to universal home ownership by 31st March 2011 for implementation 1st April 2011.
  • The employer had refused to open negotiations on medical aid equalisation at the beginning of negotiations but as pressure mounted from the workers and the people of our country they conceded and agreed to put a definite process to resolve the matter by 31st December 2010.
  • The employer has finally succumbed to pressure by reintroducing the 1st April as an implementation date to be phased in from 1st May 2011, and thereby to realign the bargaining processes with Government’s budgetary processes.
  • We finally forced the state to appoint the Essential Service Committee to finalise a minimum service agreement for essential services.

The co-operation between the two caucuses has been exemplary and proves that workers are able to unite forces to serve the interests of all workers, the citizens of South Africa and the country in general. This method of co-operation serves as an excellent basis for future negotiations and the level of mutual trust will enhance the efforts of unions and workers.

The general public, parents, learners, organs of civil society, in particular the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and the National Association of People Living with HIV/AIDS (NAPWA) who have been inconvenienced by the strike are thanked for their support and patience. The hope is now expressed that workers will be able to return to their work stations, and that service delivery will resume. Labour recommits the respective unions and their members to quality service delivery in the interest of South Africa and its citizens.

Labour has decided to suspend the strike in the public service and all unions have 21 days to finalise consultations on the draft agreement.

SADTU: Strike is suspended

September 6, 2010 -- The South African Democratic Teachers Union has called on its members to report to work as from September 7 and we hope that by September 8 there will be normality. This call has come after the COSATU-aligned public sector unions and the Independent Labour Caucus (ILC) issued a joint statement announcing the suspension of the strike.

We would like to commend our members for their resolve, commitment and sacrifice which forced the employer to shift from their original offer. The employer’s change of heart didn’t come through its goodwill but as a result of the gallant fight of workers. It should be clear that SADTU still has the power and strength to fight on.

Whereas we suspended the strike, we would like to record the following improvements as a result of the strike: 

  • That the employer was forced to reopen negotiations after having signed and wanted to declare policy. The employer eventually succumbed to pressure and restored the negotiations. This is historic in the public service collective bargaining.
  • The employer budgeted for 5.2% in the current financial year for salary adjustment. Workers and the people of South Africa pushed the employer to revise the offer by 44% to 7.5%. Workers forced the following concessions: 5.3%, 5.7%, 6%, 6.2%, 6.5% and 7%. The final concession was from 7% to 7.5% and the reopening of negotiations.
  • The employer had initially refused to negotiate housing allowance for the current financial year but workers have forced government to concede and increased the current housing allowance by 60% to R800 and agreeing to conclude all matters related to universal home ownership by 31st March 2011 for implementation 1st April 2011.
  • The employer had refused to open negotiations on medical aid equalisation at the beginning of negotiations but as pressure mounted from the workers and the people of our country they conceded and agreed to put a definite process to resolve the matter by 31st December 2010.
  • The employer has finally succumbed to pressure by reintroducing the 1st April as an implementation date to be phased in from 1st May 2011, and thereby to realign the bargaining processes with Government’s budgetary processes.
  • We finally forced the state to appoint the Essential Service Committee to finalise a minimum service agreement for essential services.

We also would like to express our sincere gratitude to the learners in particular Congress of South African Students (COSAS), parents, religious leaders and communities for appreciating the plight of teachers and all public servants and providing support during these trying times.

The immediate task at hand would be to assist all our learners from Grade R to Grade 12 to prepare for the examinations. We further encourage the learners to continue with the study groups they established during the strike while accessing optimal support from the teachers.

The suspension of the strike does not mean we have accepted or signed the offer. We are going to continue pursuing the demands as mandated by our members. 
ISSUED BY: SADTU Secretariat


Dear comrades,
The "suspension" of the militant strike was against the mood of many, if not most, workers who believed much more could be won. Please read the article below:

Worker anger sinks offer
Mail & Guardian 3 September 2010

The 1,3-million striking public service workers who rejected the government's revised wage offer this week appear to have sent a loud "no!" not just to the state but also to their own trade union leaders.

This emerged after Themba Maseko, the government spokesperson, told the Mail & Guardian that the state's latest offer -- which included a 7,5% salary increase (up from 7%) and an R800 housing allowance (up from R700) -- had been hammered out by a task team consisting of negotiators from both the unions and the government last week.

Yet union leaders, several of whom were making positive noises about the offer this week, were unable to convince their members, who, on Wednesday, rejected it.

At the time of going to press, workers were still holding out for an 8.6% wage increase and R1 000 housing allowance; and Cosatu and the Independent Labour Caucus (comprising unions not aligned with Cosatu) were still locked in talks.

The workers' intransigence left unions such as the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), which has about 245 000 members, backtracking on Thursday.

Sizwe Pamla, the Nehawu spokesperson, said on Thursday that the union's consultation with members earlier this week was "flawed" and it would be taking the offer back to its members over the next two days for a "more thorough engagement with it".

Pamla said its members were not adequately briefed about the finer details of the new offer. These included "the government's commitment to develop and implement a sustainable housing scheme" within specific time frames, the conclusion of a minimum service agreement for essential service staff by December 31 this year, and future bargaining processes to be realigned with the government's budget processes.

"Our members just balloted on the basic wage and housing allowance offer, not the whole package, which we hope to do, with the responses consolidated by the weekend," said Pamla.

Earlier in the week Fikile Majola, the Nehawu general secretary, had indicated his leadership's willingness to advise members to accept the offer.

According to sources present at the Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council meeting between Cosatu-affiliated trade unions such as Nehawu and unions belonging to the Independent Labour Caucus on Wednesday, Majola had wanted to return to Nehawu structures to convince members to accept the offer but had been dissuaded from doing so by negotiators from the South African Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu).

Sadtu members in all nine provinces rejected the new offer outright, said Nomusa Cembi, the Sadtu spokesperson. She said its members were angry about the government's lethargy in resolving the strike and were wary about selling out to the government.

Steven Friedman, a political analyst and the director of the University of Johannesburg's Centre for the Study of Democracy, said the "anger displayed by union members" in rejecting the offer was reflective of a theme running through broader society.

"There is a lot of anger, prompted primarily by the perception that politicians are living the high life while the rest suffer," he said, citing extravagant spending by the government on ministerial cars and World Cup ticket binges.

This had fed the public's sense of "disenchantment and distrust" of a "government that doesn't care about us and doesn't listen to us", he said.

According to several union leaders, the workers' anger had also been fuelled by the bullying tactics of Richard Baloyi, the public service and administration minister, early on in the strike.

"He's out of his depth in this job -- that much has become obvious to us. He has nothing so he has tried to bully us with R10 offers and threats. This has only served to make them more determined to hold out," said Pamla.

Friedman said that union leaders were also reaping the fruit of their "assiduous promotion" of President Jacob Zuma when they supported him during his drive for the ANC presidency in 2007.

"[Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima] Vavi had done the hard sell on Zuma ... but one has to question how deep through the unions this support actually runs … There remains heightened expectation of this government because of that sell," Friedman said.

Thobile Ntola, the Sadtu president, said his members' determination "not to compromise at all" was based on a "deep mistrust of government ... and the sense that government doesn't respect us". He said that the levers of power were being used to create a "dynasty government where the president [Zuma] and his friends and family are enriching themselves at the expense of workers and the poor. This is creating anger among workers."

In a statement released after Wednesday's Cabinet meeting Themba Maseko, the government spokesperson, said: "Simply put, there is no money available. The resources to cover the draft agreement proposal will have to come from reducing expenditure in other areas in the budget."

Workers balk at leaders' deal with govt
Peroshni Govender, Reuters, 7 September 2010

Leaders of South Africa's labour federation COSATU have agreed with the government on a 7.5 percent wage rise but have so far failed to sell the draft deal to rank-and-file workers, union officials said on Tuesday.

They told Reuters that COSATU leaders had approved the rise last week and understood there was no way to attain the 8.6 percent the workers demanded during a strike of nearly three weeks that was suspended on Monday for more talks.

But union leaders were struggling to win over workers who stand to lose most of a month's salary due to the walkout and had already rejected the 7.5 percent offer last week.

"Unions were shocked by the manner of the rejections, the mandate was unambiguous, it was a no," said the COSATU official.

While union leaders might understand the government is in no position to increase its offer, workers have disagreed.

"Our leaders are sellouts, we don't want to accept the agreement," said a teacher from Mpumalanga province who did not want to be named.

The government has said it will not pay strikers for days not worked and rejects any suggestion it could renegotiate.

The offered rise is already more than double the inflation rate and the government argues it cannot find more money despite what looks set to be the worst year for strikes since 1995 in Africa's biggest economy -- in terms of work days lost.

"The draft document on the table is a COSATU draft document. The proposal was a compromise document that was compiled by COSATU," said a COSATU source who declined to be named.

"They took it to the employer (government) and said: 'Here is what we propose, 8 percent and 800 rand'. The employer said: 'The proposal is fine but I can't give you 8 percent, I can give you 7.5 percent'," he said.


Unions representing 1.3 million workers suspended their strike to allow for further talks on the government's wage offer plus a housing subsidy of 800 rand ($110) a month, less than the 1,000 rand a month they demand.

But while the unions have said in public that negotiations with the government will continue for 21 days, union officials said 19 unions affiliated to COSATU and the separate Independent Labour Congress had accepted the draft proposal.

"The 21 days is for unions to consult their members and explain the offer. We want to resolve this matter as soon as possible and hope to hear from the unions before the 21 days," said government's negotiator Themba Maseko."

One union official said the draft proposal to end the strike had been presented to the government by COSATU Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi. He quoted Vavi as saying, "This is the best deal we can get."

Relations between labour and the government are complicated in a country where COSATU both represents workers and makes up part of the ruling alliance led by President Jacob Zuma's African National Congress.

Economists believe the labour action has so far cost the economy about 1 billion rand a day and a prolonged strike could harm growth prospects for an economy already lagging other emerging markets.

Any agreement to end the dispute is likely to swell state spending by at least 1 to 2 percent, forcing the government to find new funds just as it tries to bring down a deficit totalling 6.7 percent of gross domestic product.

The public sector strike cost an estimated 12 million man days, bringing the total days lost to strikes this year to 13.25 million -- more than four times the number in 2009, said analyst Jackie Kelly at labour consultancy Andrew Levy and Associates.…



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Some 1.3 million South African public-sector workers have suspended their strike after nearly three weeks in a battle that saw the some of the largest police attacks on labor since the fall of apartheid.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) backed the strike, while the country's president, Jacob Zuma of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), abandoned his populist posture and took a hard line against the unions. Zuma, who came to power in 2008 in large part because of union support, went on the offensive against organized labor.

But despite the anti-union barrage from politicians and the media--and rubber bullets from police--workers held on until Zuma's government agreed to reopen bargaining over what it claimed was its final offer. Union leaders, who had failed in an earlier attempt to sell a compromise to rank-and-file workers, used Zuma's retreat as justification for sending strikers back to work while talks continue. The unions want a wage increase of 8.6 percent plus a housing allowance of $139; the government insists on a 7.5 percent raise and $111 housing allowance.

Brian Ashley, a member of the editorial collective for Amandla magazine in South Africa, talked to Lee Sustar about the background to the strike and its political implications.

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THERE HAVE been isolated strikes and struggles in the public sector in the past. Why did things boil over now?

WE NEED to go back to the 2007 public-sector strike. There are a number of outstanding issues from that, and also the way in which the government undermined the agreement that had been made and resisted coming to a resolution around the difficult questions of essential services.

The blanket categorization of most public workers as essential meant that the government could intimidate them against taking strike action. The public unions have been arguing for a long time that the government should make an agreement about a minimum level of services that are required, so that in the event of a strike, key workers would remain in place to ensure that life-and-death situations would be addressed. That's one issue.

The second issue was that a number of workers in the public sector demanded greater recognition of the level of status, education and professional qualifications that they hold. Therefore, they required a higher level of remuneration--for example, doctors, teachers and school principals. Eventually, an agreement was made to provide specific remuneration for these personnel.

But this was done in a very tardy way. So although an agreement had been made at the end of the 2007 strike, it was implemented only after further strikes--in particular, by doctors in 2008 and 2009.

The point I'm making is that there was a lot of anger flowing from the previous strike. Of course, a further issue has been the general decline in living standards as a result of the recession and the global crisis, and I think a very important factor in the militancy of the strike has been the way in which the new administration--this is the Zuma administration--has rewarded themselves with luxury motor vehicles, etc.

So you would often see the refrain from strikers: "They want to buy expensive and ministerial Mercedes Benzes and BMWs at taxpayers' expense for over a million rand, live in five-star hotels, and offer us peanuts."

Those were some of the immediate factors that drove the strike. There had been long negotiations in the public-sector bargaining chamber. The public-sector workers initially asked for pay increase of just over 11 percent, and the government came in with just over 5 percent, which is well below the inflation rate.

Another issue was the way in which the negotiations were conducted. The government acted in an extremely high-ended and arrogant manner. It wasn't willing to get into substantial negotiations. As wage talks became bogged down, the government stonewalled.

WHEN ZUMA was running his campaign to oust and succeed former President Thabo Mbeki, he tried to position himself as more responsive to the people, compared to Mbeki's openly neoliberal, technocratic style. There was talk of the revival under Zuma of the Triple Alliance of COSATU, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the ANC. What has been the shift in view of Zuma as the result of the strike?

THIS PUBLIC-sector strike will go down as the moment in which the consensus in the Triple Alliance around Zuma and the new administration was broken. Of course while there's a lot of discussion and debate and speculation as to whether tensions that have been created inside the alliance will break it. And what are we going to see when we look back? This is the time in which the de facto alliance that put Zuma in power and got ride of Mbeki has collapsed.

That situation has unfolding for some time inside what we call the "coalition of the wounded"-- all those forces that came up together to gang up against Mbeki and rally around Zuma. That success started a backlash against the influence of the so-called left in COSATU and inside the ANC itself as well as in policymaking circles.

This backlash steadily increased after the 2009 May elections. As you may know, the ANC Youth League has been at the vanguard of attacking the so-called left in the alliance, backed up by nationalists, populists and members of the new Black economic elite, which is enriching itself through access to state contracts.

So this tension has been growing toward the end of 2009 and really exploded in 2010. Zuma has been unable to address these tensions because he tries to be everything to everybody and makes promises that he can't deliver on.

A range of tensions have arisen between COSATU and the Zuma administration, starting with the state-of-the-nation address that is traditionally given in the beginning of February each year, followed by the budget speech. In these two major policy speeches, it was clear that there was a continuity with the technocratic Mbeki--a continuation of neoliberal policies such as GEAR [Growth, Employment and Redistribution].

So, for example, what angered COSATU was the introduction of a special youth employment scheme, which would facilitate, or call into government, the employment of young people below the bargained minimum standards. COSATU correctly saw this as another means of introducing labor flexibility, or a two-tier labor system. There was also inaction by the government in dealing with the problem of labor brokers, which are very prevalent and influence the casualization of much of the workforce.

This is big departure from the decisions of the 2007 ANC conference in the town of Polokwane. Then, the ANC passed a series of resolutions that prioritized decent work, and called for the introduction of national health insurance, rural development and a whole range of major priorities. But in the budget speech, there was no provision for implementation of national health insurance.

So from February, the policy issues have become more apparent. And as COSATU identified, there has been the advance of the predatory elite taking place through the use of political office to access business interests. The latest such example has been a massive deal in which Zuma's son, along with an Indian family that finances Zuma, acquired a stake in the ArcelorMittal steel company's South African operation.

WHAT WAS the popular reaction to the strike?

THE STRIKE was under massive public attack from the government, the mass media and the middle classes. Workers are accused of causing death and intimidating people from accessing public hospitals, schools, etc.

But if you listen to the grassroots, and the phone-in shows on radio and TV, it's absolutely clear that there was massive support for the strike. And the strike was extremely militant. In spite of the efforts of the trade union leadership to try and settle it, recent government offers were rejected by members until the strike was suspended.

These are very clear indications of the real level of anger on the ground. Some of the anger has to do with the previous loss of legitimacy of the Zuma administration. But the social movements and the left rallied to the strike. It is a strike that involved many unions inside and outside of COSATU. Even the more conservative public-sector unions have been in support of the strike.

WHAT IMPACT has the strike had on the left?

THE STRIKE took place in a period in which there has been a weakening of the social movements that the independent left has been involved in. So what has been very crucial in this strike is that it reminded the social movements and the left of the power of the labor movement, and in particular, of COSATU. Many people joined marches and pickets in defense of the strikers.

The strike raises important issues about the labor movement and the Triple Alliance left. COASTU is increasingly clear that the country faces a predatory elite in the ANC and the state. And it is increasingly worried about the role of the Communist Party, whose general secretary and deputy secretary are government ministers. They are therefore increasingly invisible when they should be taking up these kinds of issues.

There was an important document to emerge from the COSATU Central Executive Committee in August. The implications are that COSTU rejects any bargaining agreement that would lead to wage restraint, and that it plans to unleash next year the mother of all living-wage campaigns.

In other words, COSATU is saying that it will not be constrained by the politics of social consensus. If that takes place, it means we are entering a completely changed situation.

The question is whether this is just militant talk, or the beginning of a break toward a different kind of politics of the left in South Africa. The document speaks to the importance of finding partners outside the Alliance with other progressive forces--that's very, very interesting. Many of us on the left can see how the public-sector strike has radicalized a certain layer of leadership of COSATU.

What we are beginning to say is that something has to give. There were a lot of hopes that Zuma would break with neoliberalism, and not be just a technocrat like Mbeki. Of course, that's not happening. And the SACP has liquidated itself further into the ANC/Zuma project. The SACP is increasingly working to make sure that it doesn't rock the boat.

It seems to me that things are building to a head. There is a recognition that the Alliance is not working, that the ANC is being lost to predatory forces intent on using the state to accumulate--and that if COSATU does not change strategy, the possibility of a split in the union and the formation of a new federation will be a reality within five years.

Now that the strike has been suspended, negotiations will continue with the government. But it is unlikely that workers will be called on to the streets again.

This was a major missed opportunity to shift things. It was possible to bring out private-sector unions and link up with strikes in the metal and mining sectors. It would have changed the situation and made capital visible as the enemy. There is a lot of anger with the calling off of the strike, and we will have to see how we can respond and draw some of these forces into a left political alternative.

Transcription assistance from Matt Beamesderfer


MANDY ROSSOUW, M&G, 10 September 2010

The fraught two-week public-service strike was suspended for 21 days this week because it was losing public support and members could not afford to forfeit further pay, senior unionists have told the Mail & Guardian.

The sources said that union leaders will use the three-week cooling-off period to convince their members to accept the pay offer, arguing that government's move from a 5.2% to 7.5% increase is a major victory. Labour's official demand is for 8.6%.

The plan is, however, to tweak the non-wage components of the government's proposed package.

KwaZulu-Natal Cosatu leader Zet Luzipho told the M&G: "Workers were beginning to betray one another. Towards the end, some of the public schools were running as normal," Luzipho said. "At the end the strike [turnout] was very low."

Another provincial leader confirmed this. "The strike was petering out and anyway, only Sadtu [Cosatu's teachers' affiliate] and Nehawu [its health affiliate] were on strike. Other unions didn't join us. That is why people were getting desperate to get more workers on to the streets and started to intimidate members," said the Cosatu leader, who asked to remain anonymous.

He said that the four-week strike in 2007 had driven home to workers the fact that extended industrial action was counterproductive as lost wages would not be covered by the increase demanded.

"People are still unhappy. But this year they're living so close to the breadline, they can't afford to go on striking," the leader said.

A gulf had opened up between union leaders and their members, union leaders said.

"Cosatu may have misread the anger of the people on the ground," Luzipho said.

In Pretoria Nehawu had serious difficulty in pulling its members on to the street, though that was attributed to a lack of leadership in the region rather than members' reluctance to strike.

"In Tshwane we assumed the leadership was ready for the strike, but it failed," Nehawu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla told the M&G.

"Our members came out for only about three days and then went back to work."

Union leaders were also noticing an increasing loss of public support because of strike-related violence and were concerned about losing control of their membership.

Said Pamla: "We have to explain to our members that this is a strike, not a revolution."

New housing scheme
During the next 21 days a task team comprising labour and government will adjust the government's offer, though not its wage component, which the government regards as final. The offer was originally crafted by a union-state task team that failed to bring militant members on board.

Public Services Minister Richard Baloyi said the talks would focus on a new housing scheme for public servants, the equalisation of medical aid and a minimum services-level agreement, which will clearly define essential services in the state sector.

"We're not looking at rands and cents and we're not talking about a new offer," Baloyi said.

Union leaders will tell their members that the state's housing offer was a victory because the higher allowance -- from R500 to R800 -- represented a 75% increase.

Workers will be told that the new housing scheme will give public servants access to houses "of better quality than RDP houses".

One veteran union leader who works closely with Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi singled out Vavi's role in role in resolving the strike, saying he had facilitated meetings that pushed overnment to improve its offer without labour having to revise its demands.

"He played a large role in affecting the last two moves and this will be good for his future," the unionist said.

"If you're in Cosatu, what do you do after that? You can't stay in Cosatu forever. You can go into business or the ANC. He will easily get elected as an NEC member. Even at Polokwane he would have walked into a top ANC position."

Vavi has made it clear that he is serving his last term in Cosatu and is looking towards working inside the ANC after his long service to Cosatu.

Cosatu and ANC finally bury hatchet

Sowetan, 14 September 2010

COSATU and the ANC have smoked the peace pipe, only days before the ruling party's much-awaited national general council.

Tensions arose between the two parties during the public sector strike with Cosatu leaders and protesters launching scathing attacks on President Jacob Zuma and Public Administration Minister Richard Baloyi.

The attacks on Zuma were seen by many observers as a foretaste of how his leadership would be challenged at the NGC.

But following a meeting on Monday Cosatu yesterday apologised to the ANC for the conduct of its members during the strike.

The ANC said it accepted the apology.

The two parties have also agreed that the focus of the NGC should be on policy issues, and not on the leadership squabbles.

"Both formations are committed to ensure that the NGC, as a policy forum, retains its intended focus, which is to review progress in taking forward the movement's policies, and does not get diverted by divisive issues such as the untimely 2012 leadership question," the organisations said.

The move appeared to be an attempt to avoid a repeat of the 2007 Polokwane conference, which was dominated by a leadership tussle between former president Thabo Mbeki and present ANC president Zuma, which overshadowed the policy issues delegates had to tackle then.

"In this regard we agreed that both organisations must create an atmosphere where such discussions will be conducted in a positive environment," ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said yesterday.…


Cosatu says it did not apologise to Zuma
Sibongakonke Shoba, Business Day, 16 September 2010

Cosatu rejected Business Day’s interpretation of its apology to the ANC as clearing the air with the ruling party.

THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) yesterday denied that it had apologised to President Jacob Zuma and ministers for harsh criticism, saying it only apologised for insults made by public service strikers last month.

It rejected Business Day’s interpretation of its apology to the African National Congress (ANC) as clearing the air with the ruling party, saying it stood by its criticism that SA is slowly becoming a predatory state.

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the apology was for personalised insults articulated by protesters through placards and songs, but not for its harsh criticism of the ANC government.

Cosatu’s refusal to back down means that although it wants to be heard at the ANC national general council this week, it does not want to be seen as apologetic .

Mr Craven said the federation stands by the statement it issued last month that said: “We are heading rapidly in the direction of a full- blown predator state, in which a powerful, corrupt and demagogic elite of political hyenas increasingly controls the state as a vehicle for accumulation.”

Mr Craven said Cosatu was not referring to the situation, but was saying if nothing is done to fight corruption, SA is heading towards becoming a predatory state.

“It does not mention individuals. It is not talking about the situation now, but we are saying this is what will happen if we don’t act now”

Mr Craven said the federation would not apologise for comments made by general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi .

Cosatu has drafted a list of radical policy proposal that it wants discussed at the ANC council starting next Monday . Mr Craven said Cosatu would never apologise for making “harsh criticism”.

17 September 2010

To: Buyiselo Zoko
Branch Chairperson
23 Nelson Mandela Drive

Dear comrade Branch Chairperson


We refer to your letter dated 06 September 2010 entitled “SADTU leadership has sold out”, wherein you concluded that the national office bearers, in particular SADTU President Thobile Ntola, must “come to explain to the membership the current confusion made around the suspension of the strike, and that Zwelinzima Vavi explains his unwarranted media utterances on the strike offer”.

We are taking this extraordinary step to respond to the branch chairperson against all protocols because we feel we owe you, and all other members of the COSATU unions who may share your sentiment about a ‘selling out leadership’, an explanation when that is demanded.

As you are aware, SADTU, together with all other public sector unions’ majority of who, in terms of membership, are affiliated to COSATU, started negotiations with the state in October 2009. You will also be aware that government’s opening offer was a 5.2% wage increase, with no improvement on the housing allowance. The unions’ opening demands was for an 11% increase and a R2500 housing allowance, amongst others.

In May 2010, after six months of negotiations, the unions declared a dispute. Government, over six months, improved its offer to from 5,2% to 6.2% and the housing allowance from R500 to R620. The unions had in the course of negotiations also dropped its demands to 8.6% and R1000 for housing allowance.

COSATU leadership were not involved in these negotiations. The leaders of all the public sector unions also do not sit in the Public Sector Central Bargaining Chamber (PSCBC). They are represented in the talks by their union officials.

At this stage of the negotiations, the leadership called on the President of the Federation, comrade Sidumo Dlamini, to intervene to try and unlock an impasse. The President of the Federation proceeded to arrange a meeting with the Minister, Richard Baloyi, which took place on 4 August 2010. The President invited the COSATU General Secretary, who insisted that the Minister of Finance be part of the meeting, since it is he who holds the government purse.

Before the two COSATU leaders engaged with the two government Ministers (of Public Administration and of Finance) the COSATU General Secretary asked a question to the President who had interacted with the COSATU public sector unions and asked: what is the settlement demand of the unions?

The response was that the unions are willing to settle at 7% and R750 for housing. For many hours we pushed the two government leaders towards this “settlement demand”. Eventually the government relented and agreed in principle, subject to further calculation on their part to ascertain that this would be within their affordability range.

From the meeting we went to report to the leaders of the COSATU unions who confirmed that indeed in their previous discussions they did raise 7% and R750 as one of the scenarios for a possible settlement.

We participated in the protest marches held on 10 August 2010. The plan in terms of our discussion was that the government would convene the PSCBC on the evening of the 10 August 2010 to table the 7% and R700 formally. This did not happen because the government was still calculating the affordability of the compromise emerging from the meeting with the COSATU leadership, as explained above. You will recall that the COSATU unions had given government up to Thursday 12 August 2010 to improve the offer or face a protracted strike.

Indeed the government presented the revised offer to the PSCBC on 11th October 2010. It was at this time that the COSATU General Secretary, informed by the processes outlined above, participated in the SABC Morning Live programme and recommended that the unions consider the offer favourably. Again it is important to state that he had done so not because he was eager to sell out or to act as a government spin-doctor as the letter alleges. The processes outlined above informed this call.

Nevertheless as we said to the unions at the time, we had a responsibility to recommend the offer, as it was we who had induced the government to make a move on the basis that this was to settle the dispute and avoid a protracted strike action. It would be absolutely be hypocritical for us to turn around and be the ones who reject the offer first considering the effort we put to secure the 7% and R700.

Indeed all union leaders would have spoken in the media and their structures recommending the government revised offer. We did make it clear however to government and to one another as leaders that whilst we must protect our integrity with the government we must be loyal to members if they decide to reject the 7% and R700 housing allowance.

Indeed all unions later reported that the 7% and R700 were roundly rejected by members. This meant all attempts to avoid a protracted strike had failed. The strike started on 12 August 2010.

The COSATU CEC met on 23-25 August 2010, which was the 12th day of the strike. The CEC decided not to allow a defeat of the strike. All unions of COSATU issued secondary notices, which in terms of the LRA, should be 7 days. This was a historic decision! Never in the 25 years history of COSATU did the unions pull a sympathy strike on the scale envisaged. What many don’t know is that this was not an easy decision. Some unions asked questions – “what is so special with the public sector workers?” They were referring to many occasions when other workers in the private sectors earning far less pay than the public servants had embarked on strikes lasting up to 6 months without any form of support from the rest of the COSATU-affiliated unions. The argument however won a day that COSATU can’t afford to have over a third of its members defeated by a single employer as that would create a precedent and set the tone for all other negotiations in the private sector.

Bearing in mind all the above, the COSATU leaders were crossing fingers that this resolve for a sympathy strike would not be tested, in case our threats became a damp squib due to lack of enthusiastic support across all COSATU unions.

Going back to the CEC, we must state that the Secretary General of the ANC, comrade Gwede Mantashe came to the CEC and held a meeting with some of the leaders of the public sector (NEHAWU and SADTU), together with the President of the COSATU.

The Secretary General wanted to know what offer could settle the strike. He was told that a 7,5% increase and an R800 housing allowance would settle the strike. We want to emphasize again that the comrades who answered the question were not motivated by eagerness to sell out. This was the 12th day of the strike. They were acutely aware of how difficult it was for government to move from 6,5% to 7% and from R630 to R700 for the housing allowance in the earlier political intervention led by the COSATU President and the General Secretary. They put figures across that they thought would be a good area for a settlement.

The Secretary General went away to work for this. In the meantime COSATU unions’ negotiators drafted a draft agreement of what came to be known as the COSATU draft agreement for settlement of the strike. The COSATU President and General Secretary complimented the Secretary General’s intervention. In a combined but parallel process they knocked at every door of the highest offices.

Eventually government agreed to revise its offer and was ready to present it on 1 September 2010. This means government was prepared to sign on the COSATU union’s drafted settlement, which was for 7, 5% and R800.

Even before the government could present this, the COSATU General Secretary, after realising that chances were high that this would be rejected by members, opened a parallel discussion with the Minister of Finance urging him to move further to 8% and R850, 00 for housing. The push for this continued in the marathon discussion between the COSATU President and General Secretary with no less than 6 government ministers on the evening of 2 September 2010.

It was in the early hours of 3 September that the Ministers received a call from someone more senior than them. At that moment negotiations stopped, never to be continued again. Government ministers, in the face of the call they received, simply folded their files and declared there was nothing more they could do. The government was accusing unions of tricking them into believing that the strike would end after they improved the offer from 6,5% to 7% and R630 to R700 and later to 7,5% and R800. Now the unions were saying that is also not good enough and were asking for 8% and R850. Our integrity was in their eyes was in tartars. They were ordered to stop engaging with us, as it was a waste of time. We were seen as not being honest and or even informed by other political objectives.

Faced with this situation the all unions, including those not affiliated to COSATU, decided to allow government to formally present the improved offer of 7,5% and R800. Aware of all of this COSATU General Secretary again participated in the SABC’s Morning Live and made the statement that the unions have pushed as far as they could AND that there is no possibility of government improving its offer unless members push them in a strike of the same scale for another 2 to 3 weeks. It is this statement that makes Mthatha SADTU branch to accuse the General Secretary of speaking like a government spokesperson.

At this moment and a few days later, unions were facing two big problems. On one side there were no more negotiations taking place. This meant from the morning when Ministers were ordered to stop engaging, every hour and every day workers’ sacrifice were in vain. On the other hand the days were accumulating, meaning with members losing days of wages through the application of the no-work no-pay principle. Around that time the unions started to calculate that workers were now losing so much that even if government were to concede and provide the 1% now separating the parties, the losses incurred by workers in meant they would still be the bigger losers financially.

The strike itself was no longer as effective as it was in the first two weeks. Most of the government departmental workers had gone to back to work and were only coming out to participate in the marches. The numbers of workers in the picket lines were dwindling. Some nurses started to moonlight in the private hospitals and only joined the picket lines during the day. Only SADTU and NEHAWU were effectively out on strike across all nine provinces. The pressure was mounting, with media growing hostile after government claimed a number of deaths in public hospitals.

A danger was looming that if the unions did not make a strategic retreat and sign the agreement in terms that they could still dictate, the strike might fizzle out in the fourth and fifth week. Government would then punish the nurses and all other workers it sought to declare as essential service workers. From this point NEHAWU, DENOSA and SADNU were carrying a bigger risk for possible mass dismissals if this scenario unfolded into a reality.

It was at this point that all unions convened their National Executive Committees, which eventually decided to suspend the strike.

In short it is not the SADTU President, the NEHAWU General Secretary or the COSATU General Secretary or anyone else who sold out!

The only mistake the leaders committed was to twice propose a settlement area without canvassing this properly with their provincial structures. Secondly the provincial leaders were not in our view properly briefed all the time about the political interventions taking place. The public criticism of the ANC Secretary General has an element of truth even though it was unfortunate because it was made in public and was seen to be reinforcing a rightwing element in society. In future consideration must be given to the provincial leaders sitting directly in the negotiations.

We however insist that the leaders of the public sector unions were not necessarily wrong to try finding a solution informed by the reality they were facing as leaders sitting across a fire.

You will probably say that is what they were elected for – to face difficult moments and provide leadership. To us the fundamental question is whether the union leaders acted in the best interest of members under the circumstances or not? Or did they simply collapse because they were motivated by reasons of pursuing their narrow careers in government as alleged in the letter of Mthatha SADTU branch. In our view they held out for their members’ right through under very difficult conditions.

We hope this letter will clarify the matter

Yours comradely

Zwelinzima Vavi
General Secretary



SOUTH African Communist Party (SACP) leaders who hold full-time positions in the party while serving in Parliament or provincial legislatures came under fire at the weekend.

This emerged at the Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) shop stewards’ council in East London when Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi fielded questions from shop stewards.

Shop stewards who attended the council told the Daily Dispatch that South African Municipal Workers’ Union provincial secretary Siphiwo Ndunyana called for the strengthening of the SACP and that its full- time office-bearers be recalled from government.

The SACP has taken flack over its full-time secretary-general Blade Nzimande and his deputy, Jeremy Cronin, taking up ministerial positions while some provincial secretaries, including the Eastern Cape’s Xolile Nqatha , were deployed to legislatures.

Approached for comment, Ndunyana said: “It is right to recommend that key leaders of the party must remain in office so that they can focus on the party work.”

Ndunyana also said that an amendment to the party’s constitution to allow Nzimande to keep his party position should not have taken place.

However, Ndunyana said that Cosatu-aligned workers should continue to be SACP members so that its resources could be maintained through membership subscriptions.

Cosatu provincial secretary Mandla Rayi agreed that full-time SACP office-bearers did not focus much on SACP work, but the Legislature.

Rayi said a discussion was under way that provincially-based unions “adopt” full-time SACP office-bearers and pay their salaries.

“It is an arrangement taking place at national. Some staff of the SACP are paid for by the affiliates until their coffers are sustainable.”

Nqatha said alliance components, including affiliates of Cosatu, were free to raise their concerns.

“But they should equally appreciate that the deployment of SACP leaders to government was after a long discussion in the party, as part of the objectives of our mid-term vision to ensure the presence and influence of the party and the working class in all key sites of power.”

Nqatha said the SACP was conscious of the challenges posed to the party by its decision.

Meanwhile, the provincial SACP branch called for a stronger provincial ANC. Speaking at the shop stewards’ council, SACP deputy secretary Phumzile Mnguni said : “It has been a long time that we told the provincial executive committee that it must assert authority and leadership.”

Mnguni said the alliance held a summit and resolved that the provincial government be reconfigured.

“We continue to be convinced that nothing will help the Eastern Cape other than a speedy reconfiguration of that provincial government.”

He decried the fact that a report from one of the commissions dealing with the government reconfiguration was shelved at a recent ANC provincial lekgotla. — By MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA

Senior Political Correspondent

Eusebius McKaiser, Mail & Guardian, 24 September 2010

Labour federation won't go it alone even though its economic policies contradict those of the ANC.

Cosatu is suffering from battered spouse syndrome -- the more it is maltreated by its partner, the ANC, the more it believes it is best to stay within the union. Sadly, like many victims who suffer from that kind of false consciousness, the imprudent decision to stick it out is supported by coherent but ultimately misguided reasoning.

The essence of the justification to stick it out is that it is in the best interest of Cosatu's children -- the poor workers -- to fight for reform from within the union. Yet, 16 years after democracy's advent, the policy landscape remains stuck in the logic of neoliberal economic thought. That might not be a bad thing, of course. After all, communism is long dead and would be even less sympathetic to the interests of the proletariat than a form of capitalism that is softened by whiffs of welfare and strategic state regulation.

But what is undeniable is that Cosatu's own vision of how the economy should be structured -- setting aside the question of whether that vision is sensible -- finds little expression in current ANC and government economic policy. Therefore it is mind boggling that Cosatu should speak of a "contestation of ideas" when clearly it has not won any fundamental debate battles since apartheid's demise.

All of this struck me as I mulled over Cosatu's recently released document outlining its distinctive and alternative path to economic growth. They argue in favour of a job-centred, redistributive growth path. It has, of course, become fashionable to predict the imminent collapse of the ruling alliance. That prediction remains a mere commentarial trope. Cosatu simply lacks the political courage to try its electoral luck. It will not serve divorce papers in our lifetime.

But an important, different question is seldom posed: Should Cosatu go it alone?

The answer is yes. The document it released last week is a critique of ANC economic policy more devastating than any even the Democratic Alliance could whip up in a "fight-back" campaign. It correctly points to the immoral reality of a society that continues to experience gigantic unemployment levels, not to mention a society that is the most unequal in the Milky Way. Add to that gratuitously high levels of poverty and you have a spectacular failure to deliver on the ANC's much-promised "better life for all".

These uncomfortable truths, however, are well known and acknowledged even by the ANC -- sometimes. So a rehearsal of these facts in the Cosatu document is not in itself newsworthy. Rather, it is the diagnosis Cosatu provides for why this state of affairs exists that is important.

Going back to the 1990s, the document posits the beginning of the end as the moment when the Reconstruction and Development Plan (RDP) was replaced by the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear) blueprint. It describes this shift as founded on a lie -- the promise that if one focuses on economic growth first and foremost then somehow employment levels will magically increase and along the way inequities will vanish. This thinking, so the diagnosis ends, is proof that the neoliberalism of the "1996 class project" is not pro-poor. It simply facilitated the creation of a narrow class of black elites instead.
And, make no mistake, Thabo Mbeki and his followers are not the sole targets of criticism. The document points out that this misguided economic project continues even after Polokwane. This is an unsubtle message to the Zuma government that it has betrayed the leftist consensus that underpinned the ousting of Mbeki at Polokwane in 2007.

Without even assessing Cosatu's recommendations on how to (re)structure the economy, one wonders how such a brutal attack on both ANC policies and their ineffective implementation could be squared with a decision to stick it out in the alliance forever and ever. The only winner here is the ANC. It can continue to claim to be a broad church, belying the fact that it preaches a gospel that resonates only with the material interests of those sitting in the front row -- tenderpreneurs, capitalists and rent-seekers. The rest of the churchgoers remain poor but are calmed by the opiate of ANC religiosity.

If Cosatu's unhappiness was restricted to how the state is doing practically, one might make a case for sticking it out on the grounds that there are no fundamental philosophical tensions. But this document renders that defence unsustainable. Why? Because the package of alternative economic moves that Cosatu advocates is inimical to the centrist thinking of ANC policy gurus. For example, Cosatu wants to introduce a new tax that redistributes even more money from wealthy South Africans to state coffers -- this despite the fact that the top 8% of income earners already account for 51% of personal income tax. The ANC has little appetite for further disincentivising investment and entrepreneurship.

Furthermore, Cosatu hopes that the relaxation of exchange controls might be reversed. Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would no doubt fight such a move because it would drive up the cost of doing business in South Africa. That would damage job creation.

Cosatu wants interest rates kept low, but the Reserve Bank would not do so without keeping an eye on inflation. After all, low interest rates coupled with a high rate of increase in the cost of living would be bad not just for the rich but even more so for the poor.

Cosatu also wants the state to stop caring about "fiscal austerity", which is its way of encouraging the government to go further into debt. The idea is to throw money at the axis of evil -- poverty, inequality and unemployment. Again, government spending on social services is already very high and one cannot imagine the ANC risking the medium- and long-term consequences of a giant fiscal deficit, which the next generation of voters would be angry about having to service.

Cosatu's key recommendations are both ill considered and, more to the point, diametrically opposed to the economic consensus that is emerging in the ANC about important elements of the macro-economy (barring the issue of nationalisation).

The ultimate failure in Cosatu's analysis is that it assumes a lack of resources to be the greatest problem the state faces. That is not true. It is the lack of state capacity, the failure to implement policy effectively and a lack of political will to give the fatal blow to cronyism, corruption, underperformance and tenderpreneurship that explain why the majority still does not experience economic uhuru.

This is not to deny that inequality is unjust, or that the state needs to be caring in responding to structural obstacles that prevent the very poor from being entrepreneurs and self-sufficient, autonomous citizens. But the truth is that existing policies speak to these realities. They are simply not effectively implemented.

Nevertheless, if Cosatu truly believes its economic ideas should replace existing ones then it should form a political outfit that argues that case outside the alliance. Only then will a more honest "contestation of ideas" happen. But don't hold your breath -- few battered spouses achieve self-actualisation.

Eusebius McKaiser is a political analyst and an associate at the Wits Centre for Ethics. He hosts a weekly political show on Talk Radio 702

TimesLive, 6 October 2010

The current government were "nationalists" and concerned only with classifying and declassifying information, South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) president Thobile Ntola said.

"Its [government's] priority is the classification and declassification of information," he told the SA Democratic Teachers Union in Bokburg.

"They are not worried about poverty...they are worried about hiding information about tenders...they are worried about the fact that the media will expose all these things so they must be gagged."

Ntola also took a hard line on calls in the ANC for disciplinary action to be taken against alliance leaders.

"We must vow that no leader of the communist party or no leader of Cosatu speaking on behalf of their organisations will then be taken to the disciplinary committee of the ANC. Over our dead bodies," he said.

This followed calls by ANC Youth League president Julius Malema for disciplinary action to be taken against Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi over the danger of "political hyenas".

Vavi was expected to address the congress later on Wednesday afternoon.

Ntola declared that the alliance would be the strategic centre of power despite the ANC repeatedly saying that it was the centre of power in the ruling alliance with Cosatu and the SACP.

"They can make noise in public and in the media, we will get what we want," he said, adding that this fight would be fought in the streets and not in the board room.

"We are not expecting to be election fodder for a few individuals."

Ntola urged delegates at the congress to swell the ranks of the SACP because it was clear that this government "is not desperate for socialism".

The SACP must be strengthened so that socialism could be realised in this lifetime, he said.

Ntola told delegates they should be the "change agents" and not become corrupt themselves when they joined the ANC.

He criticised government's stance on education, saying: "Education was declared a priority by the current administration... this is just a public relations stunt."

The largest teachers union had to prioritise the resourcing of schools in the next year and had to ensure that all schools - public and model C schools - were resourced equally.

He further chastised teachers saying their main priority had to be to teach and to teach well.

"We can't be champions of only strikes for salaries and not for teaching and learning.

"All is not well if you don't teach."

Ntola said teachers must master the art of teaching effectively and fighting for socialism at the same time in the next five years.

He said the working class would take the ANC to 2012.

"The ANC must become the ANC of the working class, not the ANC with the working class buyers.

"The ANC is our weapon. If it does not want to do it, it will do it screaming... we can't allow the ANC to be used as a spoon to feed individuals and leaders."

On the recent public sector strike Ntola said government did not give union demands the urgency it deserved because their children were in private schools and they used private hospitals and were protected by private security companies.

Earlier Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga was heckled by some delegates at the Sadtu congress.

She sat with her arms folded and a stony expression on her face as Ntola delivered his political report.…


SACP head heckled at Sadtu conference
SAM MKOKELI, Business Day, 12 October 2010

South African Communist Party head Gwede Mantashe has been hackled while addressing the Sadtu elective conference in Boksburg.

He began telling teachers that their strikes were detrimental to the future of the african child.

The delegtates started singing; disrupting his speech.

At the same time, the ANC has been crtiticised by Sadtu leader Thobile Ntola for not taking teachers remuneration seriously, but was rather busy muzzling the media in order to conceal government embarrassments.

Ntola then begged delegates to stop heckling and let Gwede continue talking.

Earlier in the day SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande chastised unions for supporting the ANC Youth League’s call for nationalisation of the mines.

“[We]... in the working class, when calls for nationalisation of the mines were made, we jumped onto it,” he told the SA Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) Congress in Boksburg.

“Some calls for nationalisation were not genuine and were aimed at rescuing BEE [Black Economic Empowerment] that was in debt.

“Nationalisation for what and for whom?... you will actually be nationalising debt, not mines,” he said.

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) came out in support of the nationalisation of the mines, punted ardently by the ANCYL.

Teachers declare 'war' over wage offer
By CHARLES MOLELE, The Times. 12 October 2010

The SA Democratic Teachers' Union national congress yesterday rejected the government's wage offer.

However, although delegates have refused to sign the offer of 7.5% and an R800 housing allowance, the union won't embark on industrial action.

Addressing delegates at the end of the four-day congress in Johannesburg, re-elected Sadtu president Thobile Ntola said: "We still feel strongly that what government is putting on the table is immoral. Quality public service cannot be delivered by computers, but by workers, human beings, and for them to be passionate and focused to deliver quality service, they must be paid very well. What we are declaring from this congress is war with the government."

But Ntola lambasted delegates for ill-discipline and rowdy behaviour.

He said members should put the unity and cohesion of the union above everything else.

Angry teachers booed ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and told him to get off the stage at the opening of the congress after he had told them their children were unaffected by the recent strike because they attended model C schools.

ANC Women's League president and minister of basic education Angie Motshekga was also not spared.

"We need our unity ... we need our revolutionary discipline," said Ntola.

"We must respect time as teachers, we must respect tasks given to us, the movement and the profession. We need to stop camps, divisions and petty squabbles in order for us to move forward and build a strong organisation."

SACP are Communist in name alone. The actions of the Sacp are those of reactionary reformists in support of the ANC and their capitalist handlers.The neo-liberal policies of the ANC and their attack on workers is answered with choruses of support from the "comrades" of the SACP.Of course they will caution against the nationalisation of mines when the president's family owns them.More and more South Africans are becoming aware of the class nature of this new struggle we face and there is genuine and justified anger at the betrayal of the ideals fought for during the struggle against Apartheid.