Do not underestimate “enemies” seeking to create divisions before the ANC’s December elective conference in Mangaung, Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini said on Monday.
“Comrades, we must not make a mistake and underestimate the enemy,” he told the Congress of SA Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) 11th national congress in Midrand.
“The systematic attack we see today directed at us is based on evidence of what a united alliance is capable of doing to defend and advance the NDR [National Democratic Revolution].”
But, these enemies were making a mistake, Dlamini said.
“We will not go to Mangaung divided; but we will go there with a clear class agenda to defend and advance the progressive outcomes of [the last ANC conference in] Polokwane.”
Dlamini said it was for this reason that the African National Congress, the SA Communist Party, and Cosatu, as the tripartite alliance, needed to ensure they were unified around “class interests”.
“We must not allow tactical differences to be elevated to strategic differences,” Dlamini said.
“They [the enemies] have seen what a united alliance can achieve. It is because of this proven track record of resilient struggle and victories that the rightwing and the demagogues would prefer to have us divided and weak going to the 53rd national congress of the ANC.”
He said the “plight of workers” was being used to weaken the alliance.
“The strategy includes buying the emotions of the masses and society and us[ing] that support to stab Cosatu and the liberation movement in the back and allow it to bleed to near death so that they… come as heroes to save the movement,” Dlamini said.
“We must not fall into a trap of competing with demagogues. Instead we should honestly be with the workers to listen to them and engage the employers; force them to address the demands raised by the workers.”
Cosatu’s congress should be used by workers to tell it where it had deviated from its mission.
“These four days will be your opportunity to tell us on our faces where we have deviated. An organisation becomes stronger by purging itself.”
Cosatu also had to respond to “systematic attacks” against it in the wake of the Marikana shooting, Dlamini said.
“The problem in Marikana is not rivalry between unions, nor can it simply be put as being a widening gap between leaders and members.
“This will obviously be a matter which we will have to honestly confront during our discussions, but the central issue is that workers in the mines are rising against their continued exploitation by employers,” Dlamini said.
“Mineworkers cannot be expected to keep quiet and say ‘thank you baas’ when they know that the financial officer of Lonmin, Alan Ferguson, earns R10,254,972 a year or R854,581 a month, which is 152 times higher than the salary of a rock drill operator.”
Last month, 34 striking workers were shot dead and 78 were wounded when police opened fire on them at Lonmin’s Marikana mine in North West.
“Workers… [were] simply saying we produce wealth and we want our reasonable share and they expect to be given a fair share,” Dlamini said.
“It is not just workers from North West that are speaking; this is a reflection of the demands being harboured by millions of our people.”
It was “interesting to note” that most of the richest people in South Africa came from those in charge of the mining sector.
Dlamini said the attack on Cosatu was similar to an attack on it by the Democratic Alliance, which marched to Cosatu’s headquarters in Johannesburg earlier this year.
“The majority of those in the DA march were the African people being instigated to march against other African workers,” he said.
“A strategy that was used by the apartheid government to set blacks against each other, the same strategy we saw being used at Marikana where African workers are being set against each other.”
The reality was that more than six million workers lived on less than R10 a day.
“It is for this reason that we will continue to argue that it is mistaken to think that any kind of job will reduce poverty,” Dlamini said.
“If employment is to be the primary instrument to fight poverty and inequality, then such employment will have to be decent and labour brokers cannot deliver decent jobs and similarly the youth wage subsidy cannot deliver decent jobs except making employers richer through the provision of cheap labour by our children.”
Dlamini said South Africa needed to look to models of social and economic justice used by several South American countries.
Brazil, under President Lula da Silva, defied conventional economic prescriptions, and advanced economic strategies to redistribute incomes by raising wage levels and social protection.
“The… radical phase of our transition will not happen if we do not build a radical and militant campaigning Cosatu, SACP, and ANC as mass-based organisations, which derive their perspectives from the masses,” Dlamini said.
“We need to build these as organisations that do not identify with the people out of pity, but [which are] grounded on the masses and connect with community struggles… [and build] them as fighting organisations that must continue to enjoy respect and credibility by the working class.” – Sapa