9 May 2014

South Africa: COSATU Congratulates ANC on Its Election Victory

press release

With 62.2 % of the votes nationally (after 98.5% of the results declared) and convincing victories in eight of the nine provinces, the ANC has proved again that it is still the party in which the majority of South Africans, especially the working class and the poor, put their trust.

The election has also confirmed the absence of any credible opposition party which offers an alternative which could appeal to workers. The Democratic Alliance in particular has once again revealed itself as the party of the rich and privileged, with policies solely designed to benefit big business and increase their profits.

The federation thanks all its members who helped to achieve his victory by their tireless campaigning work in the workplaces and communities. COSATU union members played a key role in achieving the high 77.3% turn-out and winning this victory for the ANC. We can repeat what we said after the 2009 ANC victory: "Our liberation movement and the National Democratic Revolution have been defended!"

We also congratulate all those union leaders who will now be taking their seats in parliament and provincial legislatures as ANC members. (The final list of MPs and MEPs is still awaited). We wish them every success in flying the workers' red flag in the chambers of power and defending and advancing workers' interests.

Challenges for new government

The new government now faces major challenges. The 2.7% drop in the ANC's percentage vote, down to 62.2% from 65.9% in 2009 is small, but significant - a warning against any complacency, and a caution that voters cannot be taken for granted.

The big majority of the working class and the poor have remained loyal to their traditional party, but, like COSATU itself, they have not given it a blank cheque. They will be looking for evidence that there is now going to be a real and substantial improvement in their lives, and that the crisis of unemployment, poverty and unemployment is going to be resolved.

The latest rise in the level of unemployment, up to 35.1%, by the more realistic expanded definition which includes people who have stopped looking for work is absolutely shocking - a wake-up call. It means that over 7.4 million people are now unemployed, and therefore living in poverty, and that this figure is on the rise again, after a small drop last year. The number of people without work is still one of the highest in the world

Meanwhile the outrageous levels of inequality in South Africa were exposed just two days before the election, when platinum mining company Amplats, one of the companies whose workers are demanding R12 500 a month, issued a statement that its top 12 managers and executives have been awarded R25.3m as part of a bonus share scheme.

Amplats CEO Chris Griffith has been awarded R4.05 million, under the company's bonus share plan, and a further R11 million if performance targets are met over three years in terms of the long-term incentive plan.

Even if they won the demand for R12 500 a month, it would take a worker 27 years to earn what Griffith has been awarded, and double that time if the calculation is made on the mine workers' current basic salary.

Despite the achievements of successive ANC government, particularly in such areas as laws to protect human rights and political freedom, the massive increase in social grant payments and the roll-out of basic services, we still have a long way to go before we can claim to have won all the demands contained in the Freedom Charter, especially the clauses declaring that:

- The people shall share in the country's wealth;

- The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;

- The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;

- All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people.

Our economy still bears the scars of the legacy of apartheid and colonialism. We have laid the foundations for a free, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist society; that is indeed a "good story to tell", but we are still far from achieving economic liberation for the working class and a society in which the wealth is equally shared.

The main economic beneficiaries of the first 20 years of democracy are still white, monopoly capitalists, many of whom use their monopoly position to fix prices, collude to manipulate tenders, force out emerging rivals and increase their profits.

The new government must therefore urgently reassess its strategy for economic reconstruction - the '2nd Phase of the Transition' - which is unfolding much too slowly to grow the economy fast enough to create the number of new jobs we need.

We need the pro-capitalist economic and labour market chapter of the National Development Plan completely redrafted to bring them into line with the ANC's Conference resolution for a radical economic transformation of our economy.

COSATU will be stepping up its campaign for the implementation of our 2012 National Congress decision to embark on a programme of action to drive the radical economic shift in line with the demands of the Freedom Charter. Key demands include:

1) Decisive state intervention in strategic sectors of the economy, including through strategic nationalisation and state ownership, and the use of a variety of macro-economic and other levers at the states disposal, which can be deployed to regulate and channel investment, production, consumption and trade to deliberately drive industrialisation, sustainable development, decent employment creation, and regional development, and to break historical patterns of colonial exploitation and dependence.

2) An urgent and radical overhaul our macroeconomic policy in line with the radical economic shift, which we all agree, needs to happen, including that the Treasury, which constitutes the biggest obstacle to the government's economic programme, needs to be urgently realigned;

3) A new mandate to be given to the Reserve Bank, which must be nationalised; and the National Planning Commission must be given a renewed mandate, to realign the national plan, in line with the proposed radical economic shift. Aspects of the New Growth Path also need to be realigned in line with the proposed new macro-economic framework.

4) All state owned enterprises and state development finance institutions to be given a new mandate.

5) Urgent steps to reverse the current investment strike and export of South African capital. There is currently R1, 2 trillion lying idle in social surplus, which employers are refusing to invest. These measures need to include capital controls and measures aimed at prescribed investment, and penalising speculation.

6) The urgent introduction of comprehensive social security.

COSATU also urges the new government to lose no time in implementing all its own ANC 2014 manifesto commitments, including:

a) Introducing a National Minimum Wage as a key mechanism to reduce income inequality

b) Strengthening the Employment Equity Act to force employers to report disproportionate income differentials at all wage levels and submit plans to progressively reduce these inequalities.

c) Ensuring that collective bargaining takes place in all sectors of the economy.

d) Strengthening the Employment Equity Act to force employers to report unequal incomes in all wage levels and submit plans to reduce inequalities.

e) Ensuring that collective bargaining is strengthened in all sectors of the economy.

f) Eliminating abusive work practises in atypical work and labour broking and improving the capacity of the Department of Labour to enforce all the labour laws.

g) Providing accessible, reliable and affordable public transport.

h) Ensuring all South Africans have adequate and quality housing.

i) Improving access to quality education, towards the goal of free education.

j) The National Health Insurance system to ensure that no-one is denied healthcare for lack of money.

We must also ban human trafficking labour brokers, speed up the National Health Insurance scheme, and scrap e-tolls.

The government must also intensify its promised campaign to rid the country of crime, corruption and the squandering of public money. They must immediately follow up on the reports on the Nkandla scandal by the Ministerial Task Team, the Public Protector and the Special Investigations Unit, and take firm action against those, in both the public and private sectors found to have been responsible for the gross over-spending on upgrades to the President's residence.

COSATU will back the government when it carries forward its policy commitments. But, as an independent, worker-controlled federation, it will not flinch from opposing any back-tracking by government under pressure from big business.

The ANC must remain biased in favour of the workers and the poor and forge ahead with the national democratic revolution. If it does we shall be celebrating an even bigger victory in 2019.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)

Congress of South African Trade Unions

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