South Africa: What would Chris Hani say today?

Chris Hani.

"Being a staunch believer in the dictum that the masses are the makers of history, Chris Hani would urge all of us to push the workers' wagon forward. He would warn that without mass power, we must all forget about liberating ourselves from the shackles of capitalism and apartheid. I want to be like Chris Hani! Let all of us be inspired by his examples and deeds that need to be emulated."

Chris Hani Memorial Lecture by Zwelinzima Vavi, Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) general secretary, delivered in Queenstown, October 23, 2010

I am extremely honoured by your invitation to deliver the Chris Hani memorial lecture here in Queenstown today. It was over fifteen years ago, on April 10, 1993, when "Chris" Martin Thembisile Hani was cruelly taken from us by an assassin's bullet. We remember too all the other heroes and heroines of our liberation struggle whom we lost in the month of April, including Solomon Mahlangu and Oliver Tambo.

Chris Hani's story and my own interaction with him after his return from exile have inspired me and millions of others. He remains a shining example of what we mean when we talk about an authentic, genuine, true revolutionary leader. He is the best embodiment of the finest traditions and principles of our liberation movement.

He practised selflessness until he was cruelly assassinated by the forces of reaction. To those who planned and executed this cruel did, that literally killed our future, we can only say to you -- we won't allow Chris Hani to die. We all aspire to be like him -- we will follow his teachings! He lives on within each one of us!

It is also befitting for me that I return to my home, where it all started, to speak about what I consider to be the true legacy of Chris Hani.

There are indeed many ways to remember and honour comrade Chris Hani. We could simply recount the exemplary character that he was, and urge all of us to live by his teachings, as well as his courage. We could also simply quote Chris Hani and some of the powerful words he uttered, only to forget the message contained therein the minute we walk out of this hall.

"Chris" Thembisile Martin Hani's whole history symbolises the trials and tribulations of the black majority and the working class. He was born into grinding poverty in Sabalele village in the Cofimvaba district, by a migrant labourer Gilbert and his mother Mary. His life from the beginning was to be a reminder of the battles that lay ahead. The first three children of his parents did not survive high infant mortality. He was among the last three that just survived.

Chris Hani was a natural genius! He matriculated at 16 and graduated in law from Fort Hare University at only 19. He then moved to work as an articled clerk in Cape Town. Soon, he joined umKhonto weSizwe [the military wing formed by the liberation movement] and went into exile to pursue the revolutionary program of the African National Congress (ANC).

In exile he got frustrated by a movement that was not active in the military front. He wrote, together with a group of comrades, the popular "Hani memorandum", decrying the lack of accountability of the leadership, draconian discipline, nepotism, corruption, favouritism, etc. For this he was detained by his own movement. Many older and physically stronger comrades had chosen to shrug their shoulders or worse simply joined in the activities, which, if they had been allowed to fester, would have destroyed the movement from within. Not Tshonyane!

He was the voice of ordinary people

He used his advantage of being a law graduate to represent those who shared the trenches with him -- the workers and the poor. For him, the popular saying of the South African Communist Party (SACP), "For the workers and the poor", was not just a slogan.  He was not one who was excited by, to quote Amilcar Cabral, shouting hurrahs and proclaiming solidarity with the working class and the poor. Instead, Chris Hani demonstrated, through his practical action, his class position. 

We speak here not of a troublemaker but of a brave and courageous commissar who led the joint MK-Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army group in the 1967 Wankie campaign, an incursion into northern Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). After nearly two months of skirmishes, Hani successfully led the survivors of his group into Botswana. In the 1970s and 1980s, Hani infiltrated South Africa many times. He became the first member of the ANC national executive committee to cross a border into South Africa from exile in the course of struggle. He became a key target of the apartheid security forces and survived several assassination attempts.

When he returned into South Africa following the unbanning of the ANC, the SACP and others in 1990, he literally criss-crossed the country addressing multitudes of rallies that inspired millions to continue with the finest traditions of our struggle. He was a natural orator and one of the best articulators of the aspirations of the working class. He was loved and admired by all freedom-loving South Africans, in particular the working class. He was second only to Nelson Mandela in popularity.

Proud to be a communist

At the time when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Berlin Wall was destroyed, many with whom he served in the central committee andp olitburo of the SACP argued that their names must not be mentioned in public that they were communists. He disagreed. His hatred of the exploitation of the majority by a small but powerful class of property owners was genuine and not a tactical matter to gain influence at the time when only the Soviet Union was prepared to help our people gain their freedom. He was proud to be known as a communist! He wanted the whole world to know this.

At the time when many were buying suits anticipating to be appointed as future government ministers, Chris Hani agreed to be elected general secretary of the SACP, a position that ruled him out of a cushy job. This is what we must celebrate today -- a leader who, gun in hand commanded revolutionary forces in the battlefield. Whilst others were theorising he infiltrated South Africa and led from the front, exposing himself to danger.  When he faced the prospect of luxury, which others think they are entitled to as a reward of their personal suffering, he chose to build the party. All this demonstrates the long-held political practice and principle of the ANC: selflessness. I-ANC iyasetyenzelwa akungenwa ngetender!  

For Chris Hani it was never about himself -- he was not self-centred, big headed and elitist. He was not preoccupied with material things.

Reacting to the dismay expressed by others who were shocked at his decision to accept the position of general secretary of the SACP instead of angling to be a minister, he had this to say:

The perks of a new government are not really appealing to me. Everybody would like to have a good job, a good salary... but for me that is not the all of struggle. What is important is the continuation of the struggle... the real problems of the country are not whether one is in cabinet ... but what we do for social upliftment of the working masses of our country.

How I wish that those who carry knives and guns to fight for leadership positions in all our organisations could have learnt something from Chris Hani's exemplary modesty, honesty and integrity. After reading his letter to the leadership I really wonder how he would react to the ANC infighting in Mpumalanga and elsewhere, which killed at least 10 comrades in the past two years. He would not be shocked though; this is after all what he fought against all his life in the movement. We know of some cases of disappearances where the prime suspects are not the regime but others we continue to call comrades today. 

But he will be concerned at the scale of careerism. During his lifetime he did not have to witness, as we do every day, the reality that some regard access to political office as a means to be super-rich, without making any effort to be an entrepreneur.

I suspect that Chris Hani would been worried that the party leaders have left SACP offices to be MPs, provincal MPLs and ministers. He would mobilise workers to provide resources that will ensure that the SACP has a capacity to play its vanguard role.

I doubt very much, if he were around, we would have experienced the full-scale crises we witnessed in the run up of the ANC 52th National Congress [in Polokwane, which removed President Thabo Mbeki and set in train the coming to power of current president Jacob Zuma]. I honestly believe that he would have managed to pull the plug on the "1996 class project" [as the neoliberal, pro-capitalist policies of the previous ANC government led by Thabo Mbeki has come to be known in the SACP].

The 1996 class project continues to seek to impose the Washington consensus on the democratic movement. The strategy of the counter-revolution is now to create multiple centres from which anti-working class policy positions emerge. The working class, so to speak, has to quickly awaken to the fact that it may be politically out-manoeuvred, surrounded by enemy forces and being vulnerable, to quote Mao Zedong, to the strategy of "encirclement and suppression". As we speak, no qualitative shift in policy has taken place, particularly economic policy. 

As the [ANC-SACP-COSATU] Alliance battles a state of paralysis and attempts to marginalise others from policy discourse even after Polokwane, reactionary pre-Polokwane policies continue being imposed, simply because some people occupy positions of power to do so. Even when ANC branches articulate clearly and succinctly the direction that must be taken on key policy questions, underhand sophistry takes root and resolutions are crafted in ways that make a mockery of branch interventions.

`All power to the people!'

What would Chris Hani have done in this situation?  His response would be our profound slogan: "All power to the people!" He would castigate the practice that places all power with the government bureaucrats! After saying this, Chris Hani would have criss-crossed the country, mobilising branches of the ANC, SACP and COSATU locals, alerting them to the looming strategy of "encirclement and suppression", and the cultural transformation that has solidified -- of neglect of ANC resolutions and patent resistance to account to the Alliance.

He would have resisted with all his might attempts to use the state apparatus to advance factional interests in the movement. He would have been at the forefront of the battles against those using the media to assassinate the character of other comrades. He would have not allowed corruption to run so deep that today it threatens to be the primary means of capital accumulation, threatening the very fabric of our national democratic revolution.

He would have told those running around demanding to be elected at the next congress because they are young, that Walter Sisulu became the youngest ever secretary general not because he was young but because he was the finest leader of our movement.

He would be impressed that we have a constitution that guarantees to all the right to food, water, electricity, shelter, education and health.

Being a person who was never shy to give credit where it is due, Hani would be proud of the achievements made by the state in building 1600 clinics and refurbishing 400 public hospitals. He would be humbled by the changed attitude of our government regarding the provision of HIV/AIDS treatment to the infected. As a true believer that the masses are their own liberators, Hani would attribute the government's move from denialism to pragmatism regarding HIV/AIDS to the relentless struggles conducted by those who are infected and affected by the virus.

Having grown up in the harsh conditions of Cofimvaba in the Eastern Cape, Hani would however be unimpressed by the state of education in this province and nationally. He would perhaps wonder if the matric pass rate in this province and many others would improve this year. Almost astonishingly, Hani would ask: Why is it that black children are still the victims of dysfunctional, unsafe and under-resourced schools? It would never be acceptable to Hani that 42% of our schools depend on boreholes, rainwater or have no access to water on or near site, 88% of schools have no laboratories, 21% of schools have no toilets on site, and 62% of schools have a learner/educator ratio that exceeds 30.

He would be thrilled to know that we have not wasted time in ensuring that we embark in campaigns to liberate South Africans from want and hunger. He would be happy that 74% of South African households live in brick structures, flats and townhouses. But he would be marching in the streets, as he used to do, decrying that 1.875 million households still live in shacks. He would be angry at the quality of houses we have built. He would be angry that we have entrenched the apartheid spatial development planning and that houses built are far away from places of work.

Chris Hani would celebrate with us that in such a short period of time we have improved access to water from just 66% in 1994 to 96% in 2009. He would be happy to be told that access to sanitation also improved from 50% to 77% and today 73% of our people have electricity, up from 51% in 1994. 

He would feel vindicated from his ideological standpoint to know that there is overwhelming evidence on the need to build an active developmental state that intervenes in the economy. He would be amazed at the level of intransigence of bureaucrats and their political principals, who refuse to build state capacity, and continue to make the state an issuer of tenders and an administrator of regulations -- leaving the actual delivery of basic needs to market forces, which are dominated by monopolies.

There is truth in what Karl Marx said in a letter to his father that...

At such moments of transition we feel compelled to view the past and the present with the eagle eye of thought in order to become conscious of our real position. Indeed, world history itself likes to look back in this way and take stock, which often gives it the appearance of retrogression or stagnation, whereas it is merely, as it were, sitting back in an armchair in order to understand itself and mentally grasp its own activity, that of the mind.

Chris Hani would have been in the front row of protests against the commodification of basic services. He would argue that we are allowing the markets to snatch victories from the jaws of defeat. We deliver on one hand, only to allow market rules such as cost recovery to steal these victories. In South Africa 1.3 million households, which account for almost 5 million people, are experiencing water cut-offs due to non-payment. The democratic government gives on the one hand, capital takes on the other.

Chris Hani would have been very disappointed to note that many have forgotten about the ANC 1969 Morogoro conference warnings today. We recall that, through the "Hani memorandum", he ensured that the ANC holds that conference. The Morogoro Conference said the following ever-lasting words that we must repeat over and over again.

Our nationalism must not be confused with chauvinism or narrow nationalism of a previous epoch.  It must not be confused with the classical drive by an elitist group among the oppressed people to gain ascendancy so that they can replace the oppressor in the exploitation of the mass... In our country -- more than in any other part of the oppressed world -- it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole.  It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. To allow the existing economic forces to retain their interests intact is to feed the root of racial supremacy and does not represent even the shadow of liberation...

[Our struggle] is also happening in a new kind of South Africa; a South Africa in which there is a large and well-developed working class...and in which the independent expressions of the working people -- their political organs and trade unions - are very much part of the liberation front. -- ANC Strategy and Tactics document, 1969

Tshonyane would be scathing in his criticism of us -- that we, the new rulers of South Africa, have been joining the masses in complaining "we have political freedom but must still gain our economic liberation". He would agree with what COSATU has said that we have political medals without economic jewellery. He would ask a question why when we had so many possibilities to change this situation around we join the masses who are crying out for leadership that would inspire them to liberate themselves from bondage. Chris Hani would recognise that some of the failures to deal with the legacy of colonial capitalism are as a result of our own making.

In particular he would have been very angry that instead of us uncompromisingly taking forward all the 10 demands of the Freedom Charter, we chose in the face of global pressure, to beat ourselves before the bully arrived. We simply capitulated and uncritically embraced neoliberalism through the adoption of the dictates of the Washington consensus in 1996.

We simply changed the white driver with a black driver but the train did not change the direction that was predetermined by the white driver. This route we are still travelling is going towards more inequalities, structural unemployment and poverty and is politically unsustainable.

Indeed today, after just a short period of 16 years of our political freedom, we have become number one country in the world with deepest levels of inequalities. In 1995, the Gini coefficient stood at 0.64 but it increased to 0.68 in 2008. Income inequalities in particular are much more pronounced signified by the fact that 20 top-paid directors in Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed companies earned 1728 times the average income of a South African worker in 2008, while state-owned enterprises paid 194 times average workers' income.

Economic apartheid

One of the reasons why he did not proceed to be a lawyer was his hatred of apartheid in the workplace. Regrettably this workplace and economic apartheid is worsening. Between 1963 and 1964, the manufacturing sector paid whites five times more than Africans, whites earned an average of R2169, while Africans earned R414. However, by 2007, whites were earning eight times more than Africans. These inequalities also find expression in access to quality health care, housing and education facilities. 

These patterns of income distribution determine the future evolution of chances of having better life.

He would be shocked to know that unemployment among Africans, which was estimated to be 38% in 1995, increased to 45% in 2005, and that a staggering 48% of South Africans live below R322 a month, with 25% of the population depending on state grants to survive.

He would ask us: What was the point of passing the Employment Equity Act if we cannot use it to enforce the transformation of the workplace? He would be surprised to learn that the top managers continue to be predominantly drawn from the white population and that 62% of all promotions and recruitments were drawn from 12% of the South African population. Almost all the top 20 paid directors in JSE-listed companies remain white males.

He would ask why after 16 years the country has no overarching comprehensive development strategy which is underpinned by an industrial policy that will transform our economy while meeting the basic needs of our people. Chris Hani would have found it scandalous that our country has no growth path 16 years after democracy and that it only recently produced an industrial policy.

He would have been angry that our government leaders, right from the beginning, signed our right to develop away by agreeing to reduce the tariffs, which haemorrhaged our industries, to the amusement of even the multinational corporations, who demand free movement of their goods and money. 

Today crucial sectors in the economy continue to be dominated by a few large conglomerates. Past policies have failed to break the dominance of the core minerals/energy complex sectors, and imports continue to be made up of sophisticated manufactured items such as machinery and equipment, watches, clocks and even door handles!

Chicken and pig

Faced by this unfolding disaster, our leaders are increasingly making calls on the working class to sign a social accord and enter into "a chicken and a pig partnership". In this infamous partnership the chicken and the pig agree to equally contribute so that they have a breakfast. But the chicken quickly volunteers to contribute eggs produced after some pleasurable activity, while asking the pig to donate with bacon, which can only happen after the pig has been slaughtered.

Socialism is not about big concepts and heavy theory. Socialism is about decent shelter for those who are homeless. It is about water for those who have no safe drinking water. It is about health care, it is about a life of dignity for the old. It is about overcoming the huge divide between urban and rural areas. It is about a decent education for all our people. Socialism is about rolling back the tyranny of the market. As long as the economy is dominated by an unelected, privileged few, the case for socialism will exist.

Chris Hani was a simple person, yet a sophisticated organic intellectual who could cut through the jargon and put himself in the place where ordinary people would understand Marxist/Leninist literature.

Comrades and friends, we have no doubt that Chris Hani would have been at the forefront of the campaign against corruption. He would challenge vociferously those who have grown accustomed to the notion that holding public office is about getting the "perks", driving expensive cars and stealing public resources. He would concur with COSATU that relegating the arms deal investigation to the dustbin of history is an aberration to what we stand for as a movement. Hani would share our astonishment at the fact that billions were wasted in procuring arms instead of investing in more quality houses, education and clinics for the poor, increasing the percentage of people who can access clean water as well as electricity.

COSATU knows that it would have the full support of comrades such as Chris Hani in arguing that no more should the working class give blank cheques to those in power, that no more will the poor be used as voting cattle. No more will the working class be emotionally and ideologically blackmailed into becoming voting cattle and lapdogs, while no economic benefit accrues to it. He would agree with us that we need to ensure that the most committed, honest and hard-working servants of the people are elected as ANC public representatives in the upcoming local government elections.

We are certain that Chris Hani would share our interpretation of the recent ANC NGC as a success. He would be jubilant that this gathering defended the Polokwane resolutions with vigour and made serious inroads into reversing the tendencies that he referred to in the 1969 memorandum. He would also be very happy that the ANC branches in no uncertain terms warned that ill discipline should no longer be tolerated. But this should not be interpreted to mean that the ANC has a right to discipline leaders of other organisations when they speak on mandated policy directives of the organisations they lead.

As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of COSATU this December, we need to ask what Hani would think of the workers' movement today.

We can all learn from Hani's passion to ensure the maximum unity of the progressive forces. This is the thinking that lies behind the upcoming Civil Society Conference on 27-28 October. This conference is inspired by Hani's words to civil society organisations during the CODESA negotiations, that

This is not the time to emphasise our differences. It is our job to build on the highest level of unity we can develop to take ourselves forward, not to narrow sectarian goals but the broad democratic system that is in all of our interests.[1]

The struggle against social injustice, poverty and deprivation can only be won through a united front, dedicated to putting an end to the capitalist honeymoon that we have been experiencing since 1994. 

Being a staunch believer in the dictum that the masses are the makers of history, Chris Hani would urge all of us to push the workers' wagon forward. He would warn that without mass power, we must all forget about liberating ourselves from the shackles of capitalism and apartheid.

I want to be like Chris Hani! Let all of us be inspired by his examples and deeds that need to be emulated.

Thank you!

[Issued by COSATU, October 23, 2010.]

Submitted by Terry Townsend on Mon, 11/01/2010 - 14:31


Keynote address to the Civil Society Conference by Zwelinzima Vavi, General Secretary of COSATU, 27 October 2010, Boksburg How can we build on the World Cup success and mobilise our society to build a more egalitarian nation

Comrade COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini Comrade TAC Chairperson, Nonkosi Khumalo Representatives of COSATU, NACTU, FEDUSA and CONSAWU Representatives of civil society formations Comrades and friends

Inspired by the African proverb that says ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’, we gather here - as the progressive trade unions, social movements, NGOs, progressive academics, small business and street vendor associations, taxi associations, religious bodies, youth organisations, environmental groups, indigenous peoples’ groups and other progressive formations - to say to ourselves that we have the capacity to make a decisive contribution in changing our current situation for the better.

Internationally, globalisation and neoliberal have launched assaults on the working class, which include, but are not limited to: informalisation, flexibilisation, regionalisation of states, deregulation, marketisation, financialisation, and securitisation. The global governance, commercial and trade system is supported by political and ideological institutions, rules and enforcement mechanisms that only broad civil society coalitions have historically been able to challenge successfully.

In South Africa, the GEAR strategy epitomised the dominance of the neoliberal ideology within the leading sections of the government. The neoliberal logic still continues to be dominant, in spite of some talk about a developmental state. Increasingly though it has taken a more crude political expression and there are some emerging elements that tend to perceive the working class and active elements of civil society as merely being a nuisance that must be crushed with the might of the state apparatus.

Today, as we gather here, there is panic in the ranks of the predatory elite, which is a new coalition of the tenderpreneurs. Paranoia elsewhere is deepening with the political elite, convincing itself that any gathering of independent civil society formations to confront our challenges is a threat to them.

Let us right from onset state that we are not an anti-ANC and anti-government coalition. We are not here to begin a process to form any political party, nor to advance the interest of any individual. We have only one enemy – neoliberalism, that has condemned our people to poverty and unemployment. We want to roll back neoliberal advances and struggle for the adoption and implementation of alternatives. Our struggles have to be both defensive and offensive.

We are friends to all genuinely anti-neoliberal and pro-poor and working class political parties that have an undisputable record of struggle to advance our interests as the marginalised societies.

We gather here to say another South Africa is possible! Another world is possible!

On 11 July, just four months ago, all South Africans were basking in the reflected glory of our successful hosting of the best-ever FIFA world Cup. The whole world saw our country at its best – united, efficient, friendly and enthusiastic.

The question we were all asking was – if we can organise such a brilliant event so well, how can we use the qualities that contributed to that World Cup triumph to create jobs, build houses, provide education for our children, launch a free national health service and solve all the other major problems we face.

So we urged the government and every union, civil society formation, political party, business and faith organisation to sign a new declaration in support of a programme to rebuild our country and build a lasting legacy of the 2010 World Cup.

Today’s historic conference takes this decision forward. It brings together the people who are best able to meet this challenge - South African civil society and trade unions.  The forces we represent here today can - and indeed must - have a decisive say in the future of our country. Our goal must be to forge a strong, united movement for change.

A similar united social movement - of COSATU, the UDF, civic movements and progressive NGOs - played a critical role - alongside the unbanned ANC and SACP - in bringing the racist dictatorship to its knees in those decisive years leading up to our democratic breakthrough in

The challenges we face today are different but nevertheless very major and require a similar mobilisation of the democratic forces as we saw in those years.

Comrades and friends

In our 16 years of democracy we have achieved major advances. We have a democratic Constitution and many laws, which have given South Africans basic rights, on paper at least, to freedom, dignity and equality.

There have been significant important improvements in the lives of millions of our people. As examples: In 1996, only 3 million people had access to social grants; today the figure is 14 million. In 1996,
58% of the population had access to electricity; today the figure is
80%. In 1996, 62% of the population had access to running water; today the figure is 88%. We have built 3.1 million subsidised houses, giving shelter to over 15 million people.

Despite our historic victories on the political battlefield, however, in the economic arena, many of the problems we faced in 1994 are still very much with us in 2010.

The central challenge is that our economic structure, in particular the distribution of wealth and income, remains largely unchanged, and in one crucial respect – inequality - has worsened, to become the widest in the world, and it also still reflects the racial and gender features of apartheid, with wealth and financial power still predominantly in the hands of white males.

The top 20 paid directors in JSE listed companies earned on average 1
728 times the average income of a South African worker while state-owned enterprises paid CEOs 194 times an average worker's income.

Typical of everything that is wrong with our society today, is this week’s announcement that Standard Bank, whose CEO Jacko Maree received a massive R18, 2m in 2009 alone, intends to retrench over 2000 staff, making workers pay the price for their bosses’ extravagance and incompetence.

In the 21 months from January 2009 to September 2010, we have lost 1
145 000 jobs, which, as we keep saying means that because each wage earner supports on average five dependents, more than 5.7 million people were thrown into poverty. The latest figures released yesterday reveal that the official rate of unemployment is still rising, even if more slowly, to 25.3%; a further 45 000 jobs were lost in the third quarter of 2010.

In education - although we have made progress in many areas, such as the improved access to education, in particular for girl children, reduction of the teacher to pupil ratio, the introduction of more no-fee schools, etc. - black working class students are still at the receiving end of an unequal system. We have not transformed the education system in either quality or quantity.

The drop-out rate for children who started school in 1998 was 64%. Our matric pass rate last year was 60.6%. A staggering 70% of (matric) exam passes are accounted for by just 11% of schools, where the mainly white rich can buy their children top-quality education. The culture of learning and teaching has collapsed and many of our schools, in particular in the former blacks only residential areas are dysfunctional. Many of our schools have no libraries and no laboratories.

It is the same story in our healthcare service. The apartheid fault lines persist. While the mainly white wealthy can buy world-class healthcare in the private sector, 86% of mainly black poor have to struggle to get any service at all in an under-funded, understaffed public sector where in some parts patients are told to bring their own bedding and with only Panado available, in filthy hospitals where rights of patients are hung on the wall but not their living reality.

Although we rank 79th globally in terms of GDP per capita, we rank
178th in terms of life expectancy, 130th in terms of infant mortality, and 119th in terms of doctors per 1000 people.

The HIV and AIDS epidemic has worsened our situation, with life expectancy dropping from 62 years in 1992, to 50 years in 2006. Yet we know that in terms of South African Institute of Race Relations survey in 2009, the life expectancy of a white South African now stands at 71 years and that of a black South African at 48.

Comrades and friends

The high levels of poverty and inequality aggravate many other anti-social phenomena which we see increasingly – violent community protests, xenophobia crime, corruption and the collapse of social and moral values. We face not just personal and family disasters but a national catastrophe, a ticking bomb, which has already begun to explode in our poorest communities.

This was our reasoning behind calling this summit. We can’t stand there making speeches without developing a programme that will mobilise our society to stop this ticking bomb from exploding. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Corruption in particular is a matter of life and death for our democracy. Day after day we see allegations of trusted public representatives being accused of using their position to enrich themselves and their families. Some allegations may be groundless; most public officials are honest servants of the people. But only full investigations into every allegation will clear the innocent and lead to the conviction and punishment of those who steal from the poor who put them in power. We should give our full support to the government’s efforts to bring offenders to justice.

The source of the problem has always been the capitalist system, which is run on the principle of ‘me-first’. Whilst workers’ universal slogan is “an injury to one is an injury to all” the capitalist mentality daily practises: “an injury to one is an opportunity to another”.

For every official who receives a bribe there is a businessperson who gives the bribe to ‘persuade’ the official to use his or her political power to advance private commercial interests. This is the biggest threat to our efforts to establish a transparent and corruption-free government.

It is even worse when the public representatives themselves, or family members, are getting rich from government tenders. The mere fact that they are in business to make money creates an inevitable conflict of interest when they are legislating in parliament, a provincial legislature or municipal council. The danger always exists that in formulating policy, they will be guided by the impact this will have on their businesses rather than the broader public interest.  We have called on our public representatives and union leaders to choose between being people’s representatives or being in business.

It is greed that is inspired by the conspicuous consumption of the new elite – the BEE types who blow up to R700 000 on one-night in parties that makes the public representatives not want to live within the means provided by their salaries and rather hefty perks.

The corrupting morality our public representatives is seen in these parties. where I am told in one party sushi was served from bodies of half naked ladies. It is the sight of these parties where the elite display their wealth often secured in questionable methods that turn my stomach. It is this spitting on the face of the poor and insulting their integrity that makes me sick. Next year this elite will not go out door-to-door to get our people to vote. But soon thereafter they will host victory parties to scavenge on the carcass of our people like the typical hyenas that they are.

Our belief is that if we were to confiscate all the medical aids, that most of us here have; if our cabinet Ministers and MPs were forced to take their children to the public hospitals and be subjected to the same conditions as the poor; if we were to burn their private clinics and hospitals and private schools; if the children of the bosses were to be loaded into unsafe open bakkies to the dysfunctional township schools; if the high walls and electronic wired fences were to be removed; if all were forced to live on R322 a month, as 48% of the population has to do, and if their kids were to die without access to antiretrovirals, we would have long ago seen more decisive action on many of these fronts.

Our society in many ways is a very sick society. In addition to allowing these massive inequalities and for apartheid to continue in the economy, we are now sitting indifferent when the new elite is on rampage, humiliating the very motive force of our liberation struggle.

A few kilometres from where we are today hundreds of workers have not been paid for 10 months by their black empowerment bosses in the company called Aurora. Young people in their 20s and 30s have become overnight multimillionaires. A message is being sent out to our students that says: ‘Why work so hard when few correct political-sounding speeches and demagoguery can make you a multimillionaire’. It says to the genuine entrepreneurs: ‘Why sweat when political connections and greasing the hand of those in political office can make you an instant billionaire? We are rewarding laziness, greed and corruption and discouraging hard work, honesty and integrity.

In the process we making our political organisations new battlegrounds where we have replaced the apartheid regime in killing and poisoning those identified as a threat to the march to gain these not-worked-for riches. Look at what is happening in COPE, IFP? Now even Lucas Mangophe is not safe. Look at what is happening in the ANC in some provinces. Look at the number of splits in every political party. Genuineness is fast becoming a rare commodity!

But as the poor and the black people in general, we can’t afford to sit on our laurels and do nothing about these conditions. Our dream is that of a mobilised poor that takes its destiny into its own hands. Why must we allow our schools not to function when we have numbers to flood the school governing bodies, and insist that teachers must be at school all the time, must prepare for classes and must teach for 7 and half hours for five days a week?

Why are we not mobilising to deal with the ill-discipline of our own kids? Why are we not mobilising to change the culture of mainly working class parents and taking an active interest in the education our children? Why have we not mobilised to change the work ethics of our members in the public sector so that they give the first-class treatment to the poor who have no money to go and get better services in the private sector?

Why have we allowed criminals to take our freedom away and return to our townships after 1994, only to rape and murder us daily, one by one, when we have the power of the numbers to drive them out? Why are today allowing a new class of tenderpreneurs to threaten our freedom and impose stinking morality of greed?

Yes we are angry! Yes COSATU is angry! Yes our tolerance levels are running thin! We can no longer just fold our arms and do nothing. Today we are here to say we want our freedom back from the elite and all these rogue elements of our society. Their party must come to an end. We demand a more egalitarian society today and moving forward!

Comrades and friends

The roots of nearly all these problems lie in the failed economic policies adopted in 1996, centred around the misnamed Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) strategy. It led to growth at a snail’s pace, higher unemployment and only redistributed wealth from the poor to the rich! It was a policy based on the misguided free-market, neoliberal policies of the ‘Washington consensus’, which led directly to the devastating worldwide economic crisis of 2008 and

The government yesterday announced its new growth path, which aims to create 5 million jobs by 2020, bringing the unemployment rate down to
15%. While we obviously welcome and support such a target, we shall have to study in detail how the government’s new growth plan will achieve this.

COSATU has accepted the challenge to produce its alternative strategy. In “A Growth path Towards Full Employment”, we set out a path which will transform our economy into one based on the expansion of manufacturing industry and the creation of decent and sustainable jobs. Let us hope we have persuaded government to base their new growth path strategy on the same principles.

But most important is that the strategy must be turned from words into deeds. It will be a tragedy if we miss this historic opportunity to build a developmental state and turn the economy around.

It would be a disaster if the government were to believe that we can continue with the status quo. It would mean condemning another generation of living with no jobs, no money and no hope. So I appeal to every organisation represented here today to sign the post-World Cup Declaration, which will commit us all to:

1.    Remain united behind Bafana Bafana and do everything possible to promote soccer, which remains the biggest and most popular sport, yet is seriously under-developed. We need to develop academies to hone the skills of unknown South African Peles, Drogbas and Ronaldos, who have no opportunity for their skills to be recognised.

2.    Bring down the astronomical levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, which blight our land. Even as we prepare to host the World Cup, jobs continued to disappear, inequalities continued to grow and poverty remain widespread after the World Cup. We need a new economic growth path that will help address these challenges with necessary urgency and speed.

3.    Address the challenges of our education system. The 1-Goal Campaign and the Nelson Mandela Day celebrations offer an opportunity to take our international icon’s dream to new heights. We call on government to prioritise building and refurbishing schools and to ensure that all schools receive adequate support from the education departments at all levels. We must move beyond the call for all to donate books and build school libraries on Nelson Mandela Day and run for 12 months until every school functions and is a centre of empowerment to build a new generation that can take our dreams to a new height.

4.    Unite behind a goal of transforming our health system and implementing the National Health Insurance Scheme. We have to fix our public hospitals and defeat the scourge of HIV/AIDS to build a healthy nation and improve our country’s life expectancy.

5.    Address underdevelopment and poverty in rural areas. This campaign should address food insecurity and empower our people to use land that currently lies unused, so that people can produce the food they need and escape from their deep levels of unemployment and poverty.

6.    Lead a campaign against crime and corruption. We can build on the successes of the World Cup by sending out an unequivocal message that crime does not pay. Corruption is stealing from the poor to feed into narrow elites’ selfish accumulation interests. Corruption kills the spirits of the majority, black and white, who want to work hard to build their country.

7.    Mobilise to fix the energy challenge the country is facing. We need more action and not empty words to ensure that South Africa moves out of the current crisis. Imagine a day when thousands of activists move door-to-door handing over pamphlets to our people educating them about the benefits of saving electricity.

8.    Mobilise to address the looming water shortage crises so that we do not wait for 2025 when the problem will be much more intense. Let us through our people hold the mine bosses who have been allowed after making billions to abandon their now empty mines and pollute our water.  Let us defend our environment and keep our country beautiful and natural whilst also developing.

9.    Mobilise the working class and educate them to appreciate that no matter how bad living conditions are, there can be no excuse for blaming fellow-Africans and other foreign nationals for the country’s and continent’s economic failures. Let us do everything possible to prevent a new outbreak of xenophobic attacks in some of our poorest communities. They are not the cause but the fellow victims of our unjust and unequal economic system. Workers and the poor must stand united against the common enemies of capitalist greed and corruption.

10.    Lastly and most importantly, address the massive challenges of underdevelopment in the continent. Africa cannot succeed in developing its economies and transforming the lives of our people while it is still ravaged by poverty. Let us defeat the tyrants in Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Sudan and elsewhere whose refusal to vacate their positions and allow democracy means that can be no hope of Africa ever rising to ensure a coordinated effort to defeat under development. Let us mobilise to free our people in Western Sahara from their colonial masters!

These are just some of the many challenges we face. I look forward to hearing the outcome of the commissions and hope that we shall emerge from this conference tomorrow united and determined to build a South Africa run by and for the working class and the poor. I wish you a very successful conference.