Press Statement of Four Unions: Defend Cosatu, Defend Numsa, S’dumo must go!
13 November 2014
On Tuesday 11th November 2014, the leadership of four major unions in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu); Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa); Public and Allied Workers Union (Pawusa) and National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), held an urgent meeting to reflect on the latest developments in the progressive trade union movement. We specifically considered the outcomes of the Special Central Executive Committee (CEC) of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) held last Friday 07 November 2014.
Firstly, the four unions reaffirmed our shared political, ideological and organisational commitment to fight for a unified, militant and campaigning working class under the leadership of Cosatu. The Cosatu we built should once again be at the centre of popular struggles for the exploited workers and the poor in South Africa, notwithstanding the limits posed by the 1994 neoliberal negotiated settlement. The unions also appreciated the immense contribution played by individual affiliates during the formative years of Cosatu, and their role in building a democratic and worker-controlled federation over the past 29 years of Cosatu’s existence., the South African economy became more vulnerable to the whims of global capital over this period, since ruling party leaders succumbed to neoliberal pressures and began to start cashing in with crony-capitalist BEE deals. Several major crises have broken out in the world economy since our democracy was founded: in the middle income countries from 1995-2002, in the dot.com bust of 2000, in the global real estate bubble and financial meltdowns of 2007-10, in the Euro crises of 2008-13 and in the so-called Quantitative Easing ‘solution’ which throws money at the problems instead of solving them.
The impact of these crises is not felt only in boardrooms and stock markets, but in our working-class lives. Our workers have been forced to take on massive debt loads as the share of the surplus going to big business rose by more than 5 percent, and as unemployment soared from 16 to more than 25 percent (indeed, closer to 40 percent if we take into account those who have given up looking). With this came worse inequality after apartheid than during it and a rise in the rate of poverty (at US$1.50/day) from 45 to 47 percent between 1994-2012, according to UCT economists.
We are, as a result, a furious nation. Our protest rate is probably the world’s highest per person, with the police last recording 1882 violent protests – in which most often, it seems, the police are first to spill our workers’ blood. Our workers are rated the world’s most angry by the World Economic Forum, in the last three annual surveys. PricewaterhouseCoopers rated our business elites as the world’s most corrupt this year.
Where is Cosatu? As is pointed out by Zwelinzima Vavi, too many of its affiliates’ leaders are themselves beneficiaries of this new economic apartheid. They do not have the guts to change the power relations.
We recalled in our joint meeting the painful and bitter years leading towards the formation of Cosatu, where blood was spilt and many of our shopstewards and activists were killed and slaughtered by the apartheid regime for organising workers in factories and industries. We remembered the state sponsored vigilante Inkatha union – United Workers Union of South Africa – which was formed to ferment divisions, organise workers along tribal lines, and weaken Cosatu.
It was here, in our province that this giant was founded through the blood of workers and militants, many of whom had to pay the supreme price for workers to belong and be represented by trade unions. It was Cosatu, which had to occupy the space left by the liberation movement, when its leaders were in Robben Island; operating underground and in exile. It was through Cosatu’s contribution that we successfully dismantled the apartheid regime; bringing it to its knees, and delivering the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
This history of struggle of workers under the Cosatu banner continues to inspire many generations of members and young workers of Cosatu’s affiliated unions and beyond. It is this history and our collective commitment to both cherish those struggles and the critical importance of building a voice for workers and the poor that compels us to fight for a united, militant and campaigning Cosatu. It is this history that has made us reject any manipulation of Cosatu to serve as a conveyer-belt of the political elites in South Africa. It this history that demands that we reclaim Cosatu from those who want to reduce and turn Cosatu into a “sweetheart” union or a labour desk that simply endorses neoliberal embedded policies being pursued by the ruling African National Congress (ANC).
We jointly share the view that the ANC’s intervention led by its multi-billionaire Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, was not only a farce, but it was deliberately intended to pour dust and grass in the eyes of the organised workers. They objective was simple; have South African workers blindly support the ANC’s electoral campaign.
The ANC was never a neutral mediator in the ongoing paralysis faced by Cosatu. It was a key ring leader in the Cosatu crises, given the public utterances of its leaders, notably Secretary General Gwede Mantashe and Deputy General Secretary Jessie Duarte. The two leaders openly aligned themselves to a faction led by Cosatu’s President S’dumo Dlamini, and they used every opportunity provided to them to foment divisions. They regularly lashed out against those they disagreed with inside Cosatu, particularly Numsa and Cosatu’s General Secretary comrade Zwelinzima Vavi. These leaders of the ANC joined certain leaders of Cosatu, the SACP and some affiliates to defy the agreement on cessation of hostilities. They attacked Numsa on every platform.
We remain firm that the only way to unify Cosatu is through the convening of the Special National Congress (SNC), which will allow the owners of the federation to take decisions on leadership and policies through a democratic and unifying process.
As a leadership we are not in denial that there are serious ideological and political differences that have led to the current paralysis in Cosatu. These are centred around two voices at the highest level of the federation; those who want to uncritically thumb-suck and mimic everything the ANC says and does, and those who are interested in advancing a radical agenda to restructure the economy and change our society for the better.
This has directly led to Cosatu’s inability to take forward its groundbreaking 10th National Congress resolutions. If truth be told, this paralysis led to Cosatu’s irrelevance in the eyes of workers; when workers were massacred in Marikana or out on a five-month platinum strike, when wildcat strikes broke out repeatedly across the country; when workers were fighting for a living wage in De Doorns, and more recently in the ongoing strike of postal workers.
This paralysis has further led to the entrenchment and implementation of anti-working class programmes such as; e-tolls, the youth wage subsidy, labour brokering and the roll out of the neoliberal embedded National Development Plan (NDP).
We have called this Media Briefing, in order to publicly reaffirm the decision by our individual affiliate’s national structures; to debunk and reject the illegal “expulsion” of Numsa from Cosatu by a leadership faction that is hell-bent on destroying the country’s main federation of workers – Cosatu.
We are adamant that the misguided “expulsion” of Numsa by this faction is politically motivated and not class neutral, and that it was orchestrated by powerful leaders of the ANC and SACP. A powerful faction in the ANC and SACP wants to liquidate working class formations, in order to capture them, and then to use them at the elective 44th National Conference of the ANC in 2017.
This faction is even prepared to militate and silence the key leadership voice of the working class in order to achieve their political ambitions. They fear any critical, independent voice, especially one that challenges the neoliberal agenda of the ANC. Their hostility holds no principle, they speak working class unity, yet work tirelessly to liquidate Numsa and its leadership.
This is clearly witnessed by the SACP’s PolitBuro (PB) public statement in relation to the expulsion of Numsa. It is indicative of their factionalised and deep involvement, especially in influencing the outcomes of Cosatu’s CEC of 7 November 2014.
This latest act exposes the political and ideological bankruptcy of the SACP leadership and its unrepentant inclination to destroy Cosatu, so that the Party leadership’s self-centered and greedy ambitions of serving in a bourgeois parliament are fulfilled, in the face of a muted Cosatu. The SACP openly called “on the great majority of Numsa rank-and-file members [sic] not to follow the divisive path of their leadership.” But only a fool can fail to see that this is a call for metalworkers to join a rival union, contrary to their false unity calls.
We call on Numsa members and workers in general to reject this divisive call by the SACP and rally behind the Numsa Special National Congress resolutions; Numsa should continue to be an independent and militant voice of workers and the poor, and to defend the unity and militancy of Cosatu.
We reiterate our firm view that the SACP has lost its political relevance since Blade Nzimande assumed the position of General Secretary. It is no longer the Party of Chris Hani but a Party that has become a pied piper leading workers to the slaughterhouse of the class it claims to represent. The SACP is being used to play factional battles in the working class leading organisastions, and to dispense patronage to those party loyalists who are hungry for power and monetary privileges. We call on Cosatu’s affiliates to withdraw their financial and monetary support to the SACP, since it is liquidating Cosatu. Lastly, we call on genuine, democratic Communists across affiliates to reclaim their Party from Blade and his kindergarten.
As the four unions, we firmly believe that the CEC of Cosatu had no mandate from the owners of the federation, the workers, to expel Numsa from Cosatu. In fact a huge proportion of the 33 leaders who sat in the CEC and voted for Numsa’s expulsion voted contrary to their worker mandated positions. Lastly, some of them attended the CEC with questionable credentials, in violation of Cosatu and their own affiliate constitutions. Most notably we object to the roles played by Zingiswa Losi - who is no longer a shop steward and Ceppwawu, a union whose leaders have not met since their last National Congress and which is on the brink of being deregistered by the Department of Labour.
All of this is happening under the watchful eye of S’dumo Dlamini, who falsely claims to be the custodian of Cosatu’s constitution, whereas he is repeatedly violating the constitution to appease his political handlers. We have lost confidence in Cosatu’s President and call on him to vacate his position with immediate effect!
We reiterate our call for the convening of a Special National Congress (SNC) to deal with the paralysis in Cosatu and elect new and fresh leadership that is committed to serve the workers through the implementation of the Cosatu 11th National Congress resolutions.
As these four unions represented at this Media Briefing, we call on our members, and those belonging to other Affiliates to unite beyond the logos and colours of their unions, around a programme to advance Cosatu’s 11th National Congress resolutions. Furthermore, we will jointly embark on the following activities as part of reclaiming Cosatu;
§ We shall participate in Cosatu’s activities; campaigns and programmes as part of rescinding Numsa’s expulsion;
§ Hold joint Shopstewards Council across the province to brief workers on the latest developments in Cosatu;
§ Support mass programmes across the province to mobilise workers in pursuit of our call for a Special National Congress;
Press Statement issued by the four union, for interviews and comments, contact Numsa KwaZulu-Natal Regional Secretary Mbuso Ngubane, 0795023242 / email: email@example.com