29 May 2014

South Africa: COSATU CEC Media Statement

press release

The Congress of South African Trade Unions held a scheduled meeting of its Central Executive Committee from 26-28 May 2014, at COSATU House, Braamfontein, attended by the National Office Bearers, leaders of affiliated unions and provincial structures. The meeting was focussed on the need for unity within the federation, and building a strong workers' movement. Among the topics discussed were:

Unity and cohesion of COSATU

The meeting spend an extraordinary amount of time discussing the unity and cohesion of the federation and agreed unanimously to adopt the following resolution:

“The CEC recalled that in its special session held on 8 April 2014, it unanimously agreed to give the ANC a chance to intervene in the current difficulties facing the Federation, based on the four principles outlined below:

1. The strategic objective is to preserve the integrity of the unity of workers under COSATU.

2. To postpone the Special CEC and to put in abeyance all the issues in the agenda

3. Embark on the process in which the ANC will help to facilitate the process towards achieving the strategic objective of preserving the unity of workers under COSATU. This process will take up to a month

4. There is a need for a “cessation” of hostilities and this means all affiliates and all leaders of the federation and members should stop all activities which will militate against the achievement of this strategic objective of preserving the integrity of the unity of workers under COSATU.

“The CEC received a report from the ANC Task Team and unanimously agreed that:

1. There should be an adherence to COSATU's founding principles - that have provided the glue that has kept COSATU together for the past 29 years of her existence. These principles remain valid today and into the future.

2. The package to be developed by the ANC should address the leadership question, including choosing of leaders, deployment of leaders, personalities in leadership that could compromise unity

3. The package should include addressing governance issues such as disciplinary processes underway or in the future as well as the call for a Special National Congress

4. The CEC recognises that the divisions in COSATU have evolved and have created an atmosphere of factionalism

5. The CEC recognises that at the centre of the divisions are political and ideological differences including on managing of differences in relation to tactical and strategic issues, which require continuous engagements.

“The CEC discussed this at length and took the following decisions:

1. To allow the ANC task team to continue its work including meeting the seven remaining unions that it has not yet met in the period of the coming four weeks. This work to include holding a two-days discussion with the NOBs to discuss various issues including what emerged in the engagement with affiliated unions

2. To reaffirm our decision of 8 April CEC that there should be cessation of hostilities until the final report is presented. In addition, and in order to help create the best possible climate for unity and cohesion, we call for a similar undertaking from other formations of the Alliance.

3. We agreed that the ANC task team should finalise its work within the next four weeks.

4. The package to be developed by the ANC Task Team should include taking a collective view on the call for a Special National Congress.

5. To recognise that progress has been registered notwithstanding the breaches on the call for a ceasefire.

6. The call to ceasefire will include the court challenge for a Special National Congress by the eight of COSATU affiliates. As a practical step to avoid unnecessary waste of resources the eight unions involved agree that the proceedings in the High Court application (case number 162323/14) will be held in abeyance pending the ANC process agreed in this resolution. That process will continue for a maximum period of six weeks from the date of this resolution, unless otherwise extended and agreed between the parties in writing. If, at the end of that period, the applicants (in the high court case) are not satisfied with the outcome of the ANC process and want to proceed with the application, they will give written notice to COSATU of their intention to proceed, whether on the same or supplemented papers, and COSATU will then have the time periods provided by the court rules to answer the application and the applicants will have an opportunity to reply thereto in the ordinary course.

7. The NOBs will work with SATAWU and NUMSA in relation to the poaching activities in the port of Ngqura. This will include managing the current strike by NUMSA members with a view of ensuring an environment is created to improve relations at all levels. Managing this process should lead to us finding a lasting solution which includes a process of membership hand over in line with our principle of one union one industry. The same approach will be adopted in relation to poaching activities between the NUM and NUMSA. The CEC calls on NUMSA not to implement its resolution to encroach on the scope of SATAWU or NUM. In addition to this all unions across the Federation are called upon not to embark on activities that will undermine the spirit of this resolution relation to poaching. A failure to get this commitment by the 02 June 2014 should lead to the calling of the Special CEC to discuss the way forward.

8. The CEC agreed that whilst this process is unfolding no union should be allowed to speak about these matters in the media including as unnamed sources. It agreed to observe protocols that respect internal organisational processes of each union.

9. The CEC fully supports the sub-committee of the ANC Task Team constituted by the Deputy Secretary General of the ANC and the COSATU Deputy General Secretary to intervene on all alleged violations to this agreement. In addition the NOBs will, in managing this ceasefire, in line with the provision of the constitution, convene a Special CEC whenever they feel any union is not fully cooperating with the intervention.

10. Finally it was agreed that as part of a political engagement we must have a series of discussions at leadership level, which may include CEC political schools. The final report will be presented at a three days CEC to allow exhausting of all issues.”

Killings of members and the continuing mine strike

The CEC deplored the dire situation in the platinum mines and surrounding areas - the long strike, the employers' arrogance and the escalating violence which has continued unabated.

Even while the CEC was in session, COSATU was informed that two houses belonging to NUM members were hit by petrol bombs, another worker was attacked while going to work and a striking worker hanged himself.

COSATU calls for a speedy resolution of the strike, in the interests of the workers, communities and the country, and for the workers' frustration and anger to be turned against the employers, not against other workers. It is possible for workers to lead a peaceful, bloodless and effective legal strike, as the NUM did at Northam Platinum.

The CEC agreed with the NUM that workers are being used as “pawns in a game of greedy capitalists and their henchmen when they kill each other... Stop killing one another but build unity in order to fight for improved wages and better working conditions! They must not allow mine bosses to divide and weaken them. Workers will gain nothing from fighting and killing one another.”

Turkish mine disaster

The CEC expressed its anger at the tragic deaths of over 300 mine workers in Turkey on 12 May 2014, which is a grim reminder of the dangers mine workers around the world face on a daily basis.

An explosion and fire in the mine, possibly caused by coal in the mine overheating, sent thick smoke and gases into tunnels. Most of the victims are thought to be have been killed by carbon monoxide poisoning.

COSATU and the National Union of Mineworkers fully support the statement by IndustriALL Global Union that this tragedy must rank as the worst mining tragedy in recent memory: “The number of mineworkers involved in the fatal accident is mind-boggling and staggering, and is made all the more tragic by the seemingly uncaring attitude of the government and mining companies.

Turkey has possibly the third worst safety record in mining accidents and explosions in the world. In 73 years more than 3000 miners have been killed.

IndustriALL labels the deaths of mineworkers as carnage, and says: “Every death in a mine is avoidable and IndustriALL's campaign for ratification of the ILO Convention 176 will continue in Turkey and elsewhere. Pressure is already building on Turkey's government, criticized for ignoring safety warnings while workers pay with their lives."

The CEC welcomes the NUM's decision to send a delegation, consisting of their Health and Safety Secretary and Legal Officer dealing with safety issues, to Turkey, where they will investigate the accident and give moral support to the mine workers' union and families of those who died. They will also be continuing to campaign for the ratification of the ILO Convention 176.

Bring Back our Girls

The CEC passed the following resolution:

COSATU is appalled by the abduction of 223 girls, aged between 16 and 18, from the Government Secondary School in the Nigerian town of Chibok on 14 April 2014. This is a despicable crime against humanity, which must be condemned by the whole world.

Girls around the world have the inalienable right to be free and to receive education. There must be no place anywhere in the world for human trafficking, abductions and forced marriages, which condemn girls and women to slavery.

The CEC denounces the patriarchal nature of this act whereby children, more especially girls, are used as battlefields to further political agendas. Boko Haram's agenda is undoubtedly to perpetuate gender disparities in education, which are a gross violation of human rights and a contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which prohibits trafficking and commodification of children.

COSATU would like to render our utmost support and solidarity to the people of Nigeria, in particular those families who are directly affected by this act of terror. We call on the African Union (AU) to assist the Nigerian government in any way in its quest to recover the girls and restore peace to Nigeria's North East.

The CEC further urge our members in all sectors, all workers organised and unorganised, government departments, gender and human rights activists to join hands and to continue waging the fight by putting pressure on the Federal Government of Nigeria, the AU, Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) and whoever has a role to play in peace-keeping and conflict resolution to swiftly act to bring our girls home safely.

COSATU has already invited all its affiliates, other trade union federations, and civil society and student organisations to a meeting to discuss protest action, and a march to the Nigerian High Commission in Pretoria is now being scheduled for 7 June 2014.

COSATU condemns the slow progress made so far by the Nigerian government to rescue the girls. We call on them to spare no effort to achieve their unconditional release, reunite them with their families and bring the perpetrators of this outrage to justice.

Election campaign and congratulations to new ministers and MPs

The CEC met for the first time since the election and paid tribute to the work done by members and staff of the federation and its affiliates in the election campaign for our alliance partner, the African National Congress. The campaign, mandated by Congress resolutions, helped to achieve a fifth overwhelming victory, and led to crushing defeats for those parties which sought to unseat the ANC.

The CEC congratulated the trade union leaders from our affiliates and provinces who won election to National Parliament or Provincial Legislatures. We wish them well in their new deployment and hope they will keep the workers' red flag flying high in the palaces of power.

National Assembly:

- Senzeni Zokwana, President of the National Union of Mineworkers

- Filkile (Slovo) Majola, General Secretary of the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union

- Zet Luzipho, COSATU KZN Provincial Secretary

- Pulani Mogotsi, NEHAWU National Treasurer and COSATU Gauteng Provincial Treasurer

- Fezeka Loliwe, Vice-President for Sports, Arts and Culture at SADTU

- Priscilla Thozama Mantashe, NEHAWU 2nd Deputy President

National Council of Provinces

- Mase Manopole, COSATU Northern Cape Provincial Chairperson

- Mandla Rayi, COSATU Eastern Cape Provincial Secretary

Gauteng Provincial Assembly:

- Phutas Tseki, COSATU Provincial Chairperson

- Joe Mpisi, 1st Deputy President of NEHAWU

Free State Provincial Assembly

- Sam Mashinini, COSATU Provincial Secretary

Limpopo Provincial Assembly:

- Dan Sebabi, COSATU Provincial Secretary

Eastern Cape Provincial Assembly:

- Mpumelelo Saziwa, COSATU Eastern Cape Provincial Chairperson

§ Nonceba Kontsiwe, COSATU Eastern Cape Provincial Treasurer

The CEC further congratulates all the ministers and deputy ministers appointed to serve in the national government, especially those taking office for the first time, including especially the former Comrade Senzeni Zokwana, the new Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

We wish them well as they face many difficult challenges to implement the government's commitment to carry through the fundamental transformation of our economy, create jobs, cut poverty and redistribute the country's wealth in favour of the working class and the poor.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)

Congress of South African Trade Unions

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