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COSATU Input to SACCAWU 9th Natinal Congress

Speech by Sidumo Dlamini COSATU President (extract)

SACCAWU today is 33 years old and was initially founded as CCAWUSA (Commercial Catering &Allied Workers Union of South Africa) in 1975.  This union was born out a response by COSATU for One Union One Industry through mergers.

Comrades you must be commended for your resilience. You operate in a very unpredictable environment. Your industry is predominantly infested with atypical jobs or jobs of a less quality and sustainability, largely in the form of non full-time, casuals, part-time, flexi-time and variable time, year you are still alive and can still give a fatal blow to the employers. I came here today inspired by the fact that I will speak to people who are in the fighting mode. The history of SACCCAWU is the history of battles battles that have been fought and won and the Woolworths battle is no exception. There is no doubt that it will be won.

On among other battles that you have fought and won was in 1999, when you compelled Woolworths to accede to improving the guaranteed working hours from flexi-8 to flexi-28 per week, reinstating the bonus, which was unilaterally, which was unilaterally withdrawn and to give retirement benefits for flexi-timers.

Once again this year Woolworths  will get a surprise of its life. SACCAWU cannot surrender now! Organisational rights is one of the sacred rights for the workers, without organisational rights the union movement is doomed because it will be expected to operate clandestinely as if there was never a 1994 breakthrough, as if there was never a Freedom Charter. Comrades must win this battle losing has serious implications both in the labor law jurisprudence and for our revolution.

I am sure that the Congress will reflect on the extent to which you have implemented and realised the commitments you made in your 8th National Congress. Any union that take decisions and not develop an implementation strategy is not growth its name because that means it does not live but survive by chance.

On among other in your 8th National Congress you committed:

to develop a strategy to deal with the implication of property clause which limit effective picketing in Shopping Malls.
To put centralised bargaining high on the agenda in the retail, wholesale and hospitality sectors, with a view of engaging in strike action, should employers be intransigent.
You will take forward the Mothapo Review on OD.
The Union shall further systematically strengthen the close cooperation with progressive youth and student formations and extend political education from the Union.
You will consolidate Working Class Power to Advance the Vision of the Freedom Charter!, the Union shall aggressively intensify the Recruitment Campaign with more focus on casuals and any other forms of atypical labour , as well as young workers/youth.
The executive  structures to work out a detailed programme in this regard. In this context, SACCAWU shall alsoThe Union shall mount appropriate campaigns to realise the vision of the Freedom Charter with regards to the Right to Work, a consequence of which should result in a campaign or the amendment of the Constitution of the Republic to accommodate this basic right. be at the forefront of the the COSATU, Jobs & Poverty Campaign pursuance of quality jobs as well as anti-poverty amongst amongst the poor.
Our commitment to the National Democratic Revolution should be reflected and demonstrated by our struggles to ensure the realisation of the vision of  the Freedom Charter, by striving for the undiluted implementation of its various provisions.
SACCAWU will be central to the struggles for free quality health care for the needy, compulsory and free education for all children of school giving age as well as the nationalisation of initially state owned service enterprises (e.g. water, electricity etc.) and counter the continuing privatisation of state-owned enterprises.

I am sure these commitments were not made the influence of the mood to celebrate your 30 year existence, a celebration which was well deserved.

Karl Marx must have see it coming when he observed that we wage our struggle under the conditions which were not of our won choosing. No one knew that in the course of struggling to create conducive conditions for the implementation of these commitments we will have to deal with a phenomenon of a possibility of a new party, breaking away from the ANC and predicated on lies and deliberate distortions that the ANC was no longer the real ANC that was following the Freedom Charter.

Comrades I will not have done justice to this Congress and your 2005 declaration if I do not clarify this matter.

It is not the first time that the ANC had to deal with breakaways. In its preparation towards and beyond he 1969 Morogoro Conference it was confronted with the same tendencies we see in Lekota and at the time it was represented by the “Gang of 8”.

The South african media gave huge publicity to the gang of 8 on their anti-communist and anti-ANC propaganda because the strategy fitted in very well with the Apartheid government whose strategic pre-occupation was to weaken and destroy the ANC by all means and at all costs.

The issues on which the they were attacking the ANC included the slander that the ANC was run by Communists. This is the same slander that was used by Ballinger leading the to the destruction of the ICU. It is the same Communist Gevaar that was used by the breakaway PAC group in the 50s. They said the Communists were running the ANC in order to destroy it.

The gang of 8 distorted facts about the Morogoro Conference saying it was unduly influenced and dominated by non-Africans. They also said the change of leadership in Morogoro was a sinister manoeuvre resulting from the pressure by the Communists and non-African groups who were there.

Most of these were serious leaders of our movement who were taken very seriously. For an example Kgokong and Makiwane were members of the SACP during the 50s. Both of them were subsequently dismissed for using the Party as a base for their tribalist and factionalist tendencies against the ANC.

Most of them were not new in factional activities within the ANC, and they have in their time attempted to use the Communist Party attitudes and the anti-Communist Party to advance their personal careers.

Like the gang of 8 of our time represented by Lekota and his ilk the reason this group was attacking the ANC more openly was not because the ANC had changed since the new leadership but because they sensed the prospects of new advances of the liberation struggle, new breakthroughs in the new favourable conditions created by the people’s victories. And they wanted desperately to be at the top once again.

Like Lekota in our time they distorted the truth about the history of the ANC and exploited the problems which have faced it during the difficult period after 1963.

We are not surprised. The history of what happens against the liberation movements in particularly in Africa reveals the same patterns. In Angola it was Savimbi, and in Mozambique it was Simango. All of the parades as anti-communist.

If you ask me where is the Gang of 8 today – I will tell you the ANC taught them a lesson. Today they are disciplined and experienced members of the ANC and some are politically useless marching on the margins of history.

If you ask where the PAC – it is towards the end of its obliteration.

Where is the UDM – it is on the periphery.

Where would be the Lekota Party in the future – my honest view is that even though the context may have changed but the greed a suer personal egos that underlined the other breakaways and runaways will take Lekota and his ilk where all others ended – in the periphery. We must consciously work to achieve that because the objective balance of forces always require a decisive and consistent subjective intervention.

In terms of the traditions of the ANC, the Congress Movement and the ANC constitution Lekota and his ilk are no longer members! They must undergo a strict disciplinary process whose logical conclusion made decide about their future.

When I read your declaration I realised how far we were coming with the struggle to have the Freedom Charter translated into government policy.

1955 was a culmination point, which started in the 1940s with the formation of the ANC Youth League; the adoption of the African Claims and Bill of Rights in1945; the Mine Workers Strike of 1946; the Xuma-Dadoo-Naicker  Pact of 1947; the Programme of Action of 1949; the May Day Rallies of 1950; the famous 1952 Defiance Campaign and many other actions of the popular masses.

When the democratic forces ascended to power in 1994 we thought we shared a similar understanding of the Freedom Charter as a blueprint for a future South Africa and a people’s expression of their collective experience and wisdom.

When we developed the Reconstruction and Development Programme it was based on our shared commitment reflected in the document of the people the Freedom Charter.

Our hopes were dashed and shattered when Terror and his ilk in government told us in the face that the Freedom Charter was an outdated document which  needed to be revised. When Terror and his axis were in government they were the ones who undermined the Freedom Charter.

It was during Terror in office in which a macro-economic environment was deliberately created in which the growth trajectory could not fundamentally break with the logic of apartheid-colonial accumulation but restored the profitability of South African capital. Workers share in  national income has since that period deteriorated.

It was during Terror’s term of office as the national chair of the ANC and as minister that a culture of fear permeated the movement and the space for democratic debate virtually closed. During this period we suffered the wrath of the (gang of 80 that was leading the ANC and government. Luminaries like Mandela, Tutu, Ndugane and Boesak were not spared. Marxism was disingenuously used to support the shift to neo-liberal economics and to paint critics as counter-revolutionaries.

It was Lekota and his axis that forced down our throats an economic policy that was centered on stabilisation and sending the right signals to investors. South Africa voluntarily implemented economic austerity measures. This included limiting state expenditure, liberalisation of trade and capital markets; privatisation and monetary policy narrowly focused on inflation. Under these circumstances, unemployment doubled while poverty and inequality worsened.

Under these conditions the Alliance and the ANC were marginalised from the core that shaped economic policy. Instead, the strategy to force a walk out by the ‘left’ from the ANC and the Alliance. A witch-hunt of ultra-lefts and counter-revolutionaries was launched. Individuals were hounded and their credentials questioned. The state machinery was deployed to deal with political rivals.

Yet Lekota has the guts and audacity to stand before the nation and point a finger to a leadership that has been given the responsibility to clean his mess and put the revolution back in the rails.

It was only after Polokwane that we were starting to have hope that the ANC government will really accelerate transformation so that we may have the dream of the Freedom Charter realsied in our life time.

It is only after Polokwane that we have seen real movement to ensure that free quality health care for the needy, compulsory and free education for all children of school going age as well as the nationalisation of initially state-owned service delivery enterprise (e.g. water, electricity etc.) were going to be realised in our life time.

Comrades if COSATU do not act consciously to defend the current leadership of the ANC and all the outcomes from Polokwane we will all live to regret for having failed to seize the moment.

What are the strategic interventions that required now moving to the future.

COSATU and its union must openly defend the ANC and its current leadership.
Explain in simple terms the current developments to the membership and society in general. The Alliance is already in a process to develop a document that seek to clarify what went wrong.
Let’s focus on ensuring that the new administration translate the Polokwane Resolutions to government programmes. This means struggling to ensure the Medium Budget Framework create a fiscus space for this purpose.
We must ensure that we prepare adequately to participate in the Alliance Economic Summit scheduled for 17 – 19 October
in this context work to ensure that the ANC wins with a decisive majority in the2009 elections.

In closing comrades I want to leave you with an instruction that was given by Oliver Tambo when he closed the Morogoro Conference in 1969 when the gang of 8 had been exposed for who they really were,

he said, ‘wage a relentless war against disrupters and defend the ANC against provocatuers and enemyt agents. Defend the revolution against enemy propaganda, whatever form it takes. Be vigilant. Omrades. The enemy is vgilant. Beware of the wedge driver, the man who creeps from ear to ear carrying a bag full of wedges driving them between you and the next man, between a group and another a man who goes round creating splits and divisions. Beware the wedge driver comrades. Watch his poisonous tongue.