Address by Zwelinzima Vavi, SAFTU General Secretary, to the Annual Closing Ceremony of the Academic and Professional Staff Association
December 4, 2017
SAFTU condemns Trump’s statement on Jerusalem
December 7, 2017

SAFTU appalled by “the big Madiba funeral rip-off”

The South African Federation of Trade Unions is appalled by the evidence in the report by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane of what has rightly been dubbed “The big Madiba funeral rip-off”

She paints a picture of a greedy scramble to get rich on this the most solemn and emotional day in South Africa’s history. It confirms beyond any doubt that the country is in grave danger of sinking into one where the only morality is the capitalists’ outlook of ‘me-first’, ’get-rich-quick’ and ‘to-hell-with-everyone-else’, which is spreading from the bosses’ boardrooms into every corner of society.

The PP’s allegations include:

  • Invoices submitted and paid for goods and services, the delivery of which was not or could not be verified;
  • A company submitting an invoice for the outstanding payment of more than R1,9-million for unsold T-shirts after the funeral, without disclosing that it had changed the order and delivered them after the funeral at taxi ranks and other places;
  • Using money earmarked for service delivery to buy T-shirts and food for mourners in municipalities such as Buffalo City Metro, King Sabatu Dalindyebo Municipality and OR Tambo district;
  • About 3,000 marshals being deployed for the funeral being treated to almost R1-million worth of meals from fast-food outlets Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s.
  • Almost R500,000 spent on refuse bins that are now gathering dust.


If all this, and much more in the report, can occur on the very day when we were mourning the loss and commemorating the life, of the honoured leader of our national liberation struggle, what chance is there of turning the tide in normal times?

It is despicable and disgusting, cruel and heartless, no different from stealing from your brother’s children when he passes away.

It is a grim symptom of a diseased capitalist economic system which only honours those who can make the most money as quickly as possible, regardless of the consequences for the companies’ workers, its consumers, the communities where it operates, the environment and the country’s future.

This immoral view of the world has filtered down into government, the public service, state-owned enterprises, municipalities and even trade unions and is rapidly becoming the norm. This is the underlying reason for the runaway corruption and looting, which, as SAFTU has repeatedly insisted, involves not just a small number of mavericks around President Zuma and the Gupta family, but is widespread and a structural feature of a sick system.

The ANC and its allies must however take full responsibility for this situation and for having rejecting the words of its own Morogoro conference resolution that said:

“We do not underestimate the complexities which will face a people’s government during the transformation period nor the enormity of the problems of meeting economic needs of the mass of the oppressed people. But one thing is certain — in our land this cannot be effectively tackled unless the basic wealth and the basic resources are at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by sections or individuals be they white or black.” [Our emphasis]

These leaders of the ANC today have totally rejected this view. They have not just been ‘manipulated’ by the class of white monopoly capitalists they pretend to be fighting, but have become part of it, and implemented neoliberal policies in GEAR and the National Development Plabn and have strengthened their grip on the country’s economy.

They have betrayed the workers and the poor who put them into power and are now left with massive levels of unemployment and poverty and live in the world’s most unequal society. Yet these hyenas will soon be at Nasrec telling everyone who cares to listen that there is a fresh start.

This will only be stopped when South Africans, under the leadership of a strong, independent working class movement, changes the basis on which the economy operates by nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy, under democratic control by, and accountable to, the workers, communities and society.

Wealth and power has to be transferred to the people and used to build a South Africa which there is not only political freedom but economic freedom from exploitation, abuse and oppression by a rich elite which benefited from apartheid and is prospering even more under the ANC government.

As the wise authors of the Morogoro resolution said:

“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.”