South Africa: 'We are not prepared to remain paralysed', eight militant COSATU unions declare
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Group of eight COSATU unions statement
March 1, 2015 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- South Africa continues to be ravaged by the crisis of poverty, unemployment and inequality and the black and African working class are its worst victims. Black working class women and youth are in a state of hopelessness, desperation and despondency. Increasing numbers of school leavers are swelling the accumulating pool of the unemployed.
We are fighting for a militant, independent trade union movement
The congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) is in a state of paralysis and that has given our government an opportunity to pursue its neoliberal policy direction, as articulated in the National Development Plan. This was not going to be easier for the state if the federation remained the militant defender of the working class that it has been throughout its history.
The leaderships of the eight unions have consistently refused attempts to turn COSATU into a passive and non-campaigning federation. We have rejected all attempts to get COSATU becoming a conveyor belt and an apologist of neoliberal policies.
The eight unions have simply resolved to say to all workers of our country, both those in COSATU and those outside the federation, to the unemployed, to the youth, and to the progressive intellectuals, that unless the working class pursues militant campaigns the triplechallenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment will persist.
We will continue to carry the campaigns and the militant tradition of COSATU
COSATU made this declaration at its 11th Congress:
We are not prepared to tolerate massive levels of unemployment! We want labour brokers banned! We will not accept widespread poverty! We cannot live with grotesque levels of inequality which have made us the most unequal society on the planet!
We, the eight unions, continue to support that position. We continue to support the demands of the COSATU 11th Congress. We are announcing here that we are mounting a campaign of mass action in pursuit of exactly those demands.
From this press conference, we will be going out to the workplaces, to the local shop steward councils and to the provincial shop stewards councils to mobilise rolling mass action in pursuit of these demands
At the centre of our platform are the resolutions and declarations of the COSATU 11th Congress, summed up in this brief paragraph:
Our members are telling us that they have had enough of the unfulfilled promise to implement the Freedom Charter. They demand a radical change in their socio-economic conditions, and the creation of a powerful developmental state, which intervenes decisively in strategic sectors of the economy. This requires a radical shift in economic policy, and a full implementation of the Freedom Charter! They are communicating a strong message that political freedom may soon be meaningless without economic freedom.
We demand the full implementation of the Freedom Charter and the radical change in our socio-economic conditions for the better
We demand a socialist South Africa as the only viable alternative to the current savagery of the South African racist colonial capitalist system. This has been COSATU's demand all along. That is why COSATU is in an alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP)!
We are calling for rolling mass action
We are therefore calling for rolling mass action campaign, to secure the following key demands:
- On the state and institutions, we demand a democratic and interventionist state which represents the interests of the working class, including workers and the poor.
- On the economy, we demand the transformation of the economy to benefit the working class, including workers and the poor, not global capital and its local parasites.
- On social services, we demand quality, free services for all who live in South Africa.
- On land, we demand the redistribution of land ownership for all to benefit
- On local government, we demand viable, sustainable, honest local government
- And on poverty, unemployment and inequality, we demand decisive policy intervention package that meaningfully addresses this treble crisis.
Under each of these key demands we have a series of detailed demands. Each of these represents a step which must be taken so that the demand can become a reality.
These are our detailed demands on the state and its institutions
- Nationalise mines, banks and the Reserve Bank, major construction, and all minerals to be placed under working class control.
- Stop privatisation, unbundling, PPPs [public-private partnerships], concessioning or whatever words are used to take public assets and put them in the hands of private capital for profit.
- Stop using the state as a tool of individual enrichment and private accumulation.
- Build the capacity of the state and stop sub-contracting the work of the state
- Scrap the user pay principle on public goods and services such as e-tolls
- Stop police brutality, victimisation and harassment against both South Africans and foreign nationals.
- An end to corruption and pursue clean government
- Transformation of the judiciary and equal access to justice for the working class
On the economy
- We say No to the National Development Plan, the latest version of GEAR [Growth, Employment and Redistribution macro-economic program]!
- We say no to [power] load-shedding and call for Eskom to be capacitated with resources and remain in state ownership
- Abandon the current neoliberal macroeconomic strategy in favour of a poverty eliminating, job growing and inequality abolishing macroeconomic regime.
- Manage interest rates in order to boost a job-led socialist growth path.
- Impose exchange controls to stem the legal and illegal export of capital.
- Promote local content
- Fill all public sector vacancies and redefine ratios:
- Nurses to patients;
- Teachers to learners.
- Ban labour brokers and atypical forms of employment practices.
- Implement the National Minimum Wage Policy immediately.
- End the apartheid wage structure and abolish the apartheid wage gap
- Eliminate the income inequalities in the workplace and society, and cap on executive pay
- Move immediately from a high carbon economy to an economy powered by a socially owned renewable energy sector.
On social services
- The state to guarantee all people quality medical services at the point of delivery.
- Quality housing for all!
- Quality education for all!
- Safety and security in all communities for men, women and children
- Reliable, affordable, safe and integrated public transport
On the land
- End the injustices of the 1913 Land Act by restoring the land to all the people of South Africa.
- Restore justice by expropriating land and redistribute it equitably.
- Provide tools, inputs and support to make redistributed agricultural land productive.
- Abolish the enduring apartheid geography and special development!
- Stop evictions of farm workers and their families.
On local government
- Transform and empower local government to meet basic needs and used by the Demarcation Board to address the legacy of apartheid special development and human settlement.
- Enforce redistribution of revenues from metro councils to small towns and rural areas.
- Make provision for the recalling of corrupt and non-performing local councillors.
On poverty, unemployment and inequality
- The state to guarantee work for all as both a right and a duty.
- We demand full state support for the unemployed, the sick, the elderly and orphans.
- To ensure that there is food for all -- no person in South Africa must starve!
- To ensure clean and running water, modern sanitation and electricity in every home.
We call on the COSATU leadership to support this campaign
These demands, which are the basis of our rolling mass action campaign, are COSATU's demands. They are the demands of COSATU's 11th Congress. We therefore expect that the national office bearers of COSATU, including its president, Sdumo Dlamini, and its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, will publicly support the campaign.
We will not participate in COSATU without NUMSA
The Group of Eight has also resolved to write a letter to the ANC Task Team, which is still seeking to mediate in COSATU, to explain very clearly that the eight unions will not participate in COSATU meetings until the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) is back. We also wish to register our view that any attempt to continue with the COSATU CEC tomorrow, as scheduled, in the absence of progress on unity issues, constitutes a destructive step which can only further deepen divisions.
We congratulate our comrades from Gauteng
The leadership of the eight unions congratulated our comrades from Gauteng in the picket they mounted on February 27 in opposition to NUMSA's expulsion from COSATU. This protest action is the beginning of what will become the rolling mass action in support of our program of demands.
We condemn xenophobia!
The failure to destroy the legacy apartheid economy and society has left millions of wallowing in excruciating poverty, with this becoming a permanent source of violent xenophobia against fellow Africans and others. We call on all South Africans to condemn violence against those from other countries, as they are not responsible for our poverty.
South Africa cannot continue on the current road.
The road of the current development trajectory thrives on the super-exploitation the working class which keeps them in perpetual poverty and enriches the few at the expense of the many.
We are saying this must stop and we believe that the majority of South Africans will not allow this dire situation to continue. The violent service delivery protests mushrooming in one community after another sends out a clear message that people will not accept to continue to live without houses, water and sanitation, and electricity.
Most of all, we will not accept to continue to live without decent work.
Our campaign is a campaign for that change of direction. It is a campaign for a new civilisation based on true equality, justice and freedom, and it is a campaign for social justice.
Forward with a program of mass mobilisation
We are in the process of finalising a comprehensive programme of mass mobilisations, against load shedding, corruption, labour brokers, unemployment, water shortages and poverty pay. Over the next few days we will be releasing details of mobilisations that will be taking place all over the country. We are not prepared to remain paralysed.
Communication Workers Union
Democratic Nurses Union of South Africa
Food and Allied Workers Union
National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa
Public and Allied Workers Union of South Africa
South African Commercial and Catering Workers Union
South African Football Players Union
South African State and Allied Workers Union