Firstly, SAFTU congratulates the newly elected President of the Republic, His Excellency Cyril Ramaphosa. We wish him well as he ascends to the highest office in the land.
From the onset we must make it clear that we are class opponents to the new President and the ANC he leads, not because of any bitterness but because in policy terms we serving the different class interests. We will engage with him as we do with any other government leader.
What is encouraging is that class and policy differences will now be debated on their merits instead of their obfuscation by personal and corruption scandals that were such a feature of the Presidency of Jacob Zuma.
Before we engage on some issues let’s remind the workers of the scale of the challenge as a result of total mismanagement of our economy by apartheid and the abysmal record of the ANC to address these challenges.
What is the real state of the nation today.
JOBS, the right to work and the economy
The most shocking statistic of all is that unemployment, poverty and inequality have all got worse since 1994. The official unemployment rate, which excludes those not looking for work, was at 20% in 1994, the 18th highest in the world, but 27.7% in 2017, few days ago it dropped to 26.7%, the 6th highest in the world.
The job-loss bloodbath continues daily. The latest news is that 2,863 construction workers are to be retrenched by Aveng. They will join the 9.4 million unemployed, of whom 3.3 million are under 35. These millions have no source of income except hand-outs from employed family members, money from piece jobs or begging in the street.
The most serious job losses are in manufacturing industry, which not only hits those directly affected, but has a knock-on effect on other workers and the future of the whole economy.
This is the real state of the nation
30.4 million South Africans are living in poverty, with almost 14 million living in extreme poverty, says StatsSA. Black Africans remain the majority of the poor, with 46.6% affected, followed by coloureds at 32.2%, with less than 5% percent of Indians and 1% percent of whites living in poverty.
In 2015 one in three South Africans lived on less than R797 per month, or half of the country’s 2015 mean annual household income of R19,120, with more women affected than men, and children and the elderly hardest hit.
The number living in poverty increased from 27 million in 2011, to 30 million in 2015. Inequality as measured by the Gini Coefficient has risen since 1994.
This is the real state of the nation
South Africa holds the unwanted distinction of being the most unequal society in the world. It takes 4.5 days for the best-paid executive at Shoprite to earn what temporary farm workers earn in their lifetime, if they live up to 50 years, says an Oxfam report on inequality.
Oxfam also revealed that “about two-thirds of South Africa’s wealth is held by the top 1% and about 90% is held by the top 10%”. In 2017, 82% of all growth in wealth went to the top 1% and the bottom half saw no increase at all At work
As well as soaring unemployment, the workers’ share of national income, – the gross value added by workers’ labour – was 57% in 1993, but declined to 49% in 2008 and remained just below 50% up to 2013.
This has been been made worse by the casualisation of labour, outsourcing of work, use of labour brokers and replacing full-time jobs with part-time. More employers are using so-called ‘self-employed contractors’ like the Uber drivers to avoid any of their responsibilities under the labour laws and many are trying to limit or even scrap sectoral collective bargaining.
New amended labour laws will threaten to undermine workers’ constitutional rights to withdraw their labour by dictating how unions must consult their members and even allowing for compulsory arbitration which could be used to force workers back to work, and treat them as little more than slaves.
Worst of all workers still have to endure the exploitation, abuse and violent assault of employers like the Springs farmer and his son who forced a worker to swallow faeces, beat him, racially insulted him and attempted to drawn him in a septic tank.
Far too many other employers still imagine they live in the years of apartheid and can treat their workers as slaves, transport them herded on to the back of trucks and evict their families from their homes when they retire.
This is the workers reality, this is the real state of the nation.
At SCHOOL and UNIVERSITY
About the 41% in just one year’s intake, either leave school with no academic qualifications at all or had to repeat one or more times.
The young people who leave school, and those who failed Matric, have virtually no chance of getting anything but the most insecure, casual and underpaid employment. Most will swell the ranks of the 3.3 million young people who are not in employment, education or training.
The crisis has its roots in the heritage of colonialism and apartheid, when the white ruling class saw no need to provide education and training for the African majority.
The scandal is that after 24 years of ANC rule, so little has been done to change this two-tier education system. They have abolished the formal racial segregation of schools and there has been a big growth of no-fee schools. Yet the gulf between conditions in the under-staffed, ill- equipped and under-funded public schools for the overwhelmingly black poor, and the private schools with their beautiful buildings, spacious playing fields, laboratories and libraries is even wider, and the racial divisions remain.
A survey in which students, reading skills were tested in the language with which they are most familiar, show that 78% of Grade 4 students in South Africa failed to meet the lowest literacy benchmark of the study. Out of 50 countries around the world, South Africa ranked lowest
In the hospitals and clinics
The murders of at least 143 mentally ill patients, whose care was outsourced from Life Esidimeni to private establishments, gave us a horrific glimpse into the inhumanity of the two-tier heath service delivery. Those with money can buy top-class medical care, while the poor majority risk their lives in under-funded, under-staffed and squalid hospitals and clinics.
Three years after the long-promised national health insurance scheme was announced, we have only pilot projects and they are threatened by budget cuts which may lead to insufficient funds to pay their staff.
On the land
It is scandalous that 24 years after the ANC came to power in 1994, its leaders have done virtually nothing to implement the transfer of stolen land. In 1994, 87% of the land was owned by whites and only 13% by blacks. By 2012 however, land reform had transferred only 7.95 million hectares into black ownership, equivalent to just 7.5% of formerly white-owned land.
In 2012 Minister for Agriculture, Gugile Nkwinti, told Parliament that only around 10% of commercial farmland has been redistributed or restored to black South Africans since formal apartheid ended. So whites still own most of the country’s land.
CRIME & DRUGS in the communities
Angry protests in poor communities have become so frequent that they are often only referred to on the radio in traffic reports, warning motorists to avoid areas where residents are burning tyres or throwing rocks. They have been mainly over poor or non-existant service delivery, though more are now about the terrible levels of crime, gangs and drug abuse.
In many poor townships like Marikana in Cape Town, criminal gangs are terrorising the neighbourhood and killing any who get in their way. The main victims are the youth, who, with no chance of employment or higher education, are attracted to drugs and gangs to try to escape from the despair, only to end in a deeper trough.
This is the real state of the nation.
Crime and discrimination against women
For 16 day towards the end of every year we discuss the appalling levels of violent and sexual abuse of women and children, then largely forget about it for the rest of the 349 days.
One in five women have suffered physical attacks. The figure is even higher in the poorest communities. This reality was tragically brought home by the brutal murder of our NUMSA comrade Thembisile Yende while working at Eskom.
21% of women over 18 have been violently abused by their domestic partners, 25% have experienced gender-based violence. More than 100 people are raped every day and the Medical Research council estimates that half of South Africa’s children will be abused before they reach 18.
Yet, in 2009, according to the police’s own statistics, the conviction rate for for rape was 11.5%. Other estimates in 2014 put it is as low as 10%.
This has perpetuated a culture of impunity. Too many men feel justified in using violence to enforce their will against partners and children, and women in general.
This is the real state of the nation
CORRUPTION and CRIME in the boardrooms
The biggest crime in the nation is the corruption, fraud and racketeering which has spread to state-owned enterprises, public officials, government ministers, private businesses, government minsters and the president himself.
While SAFTU welcomes the steps by the Hawks and Assets Forfeiture Authority in the Free State and the new Eskom Board, far more needs to be done before we shall see public money being used for the public good and not to line the profits of the corrupt.
But the fight against corruption and crime must not be confined to just one president, one family and a coterie of cronies or just in the public sector, but against those involved in the all the private companies who are now being exposed as fellow-culprits and accomplices.
This is the real state of the nation.
This is the real state of the nation.
The main reason for this disaster is the ANC government’s neoliberal economic policies which, as Professor Sampie Terreblanche has written, were agreed upon at “secret meetings between the ANC and big business — behind the high walls of Harry Oppenheimer’s estate and at the Development Bank of Southern Africa” These meetings, he wrote, “laid the foundations for the continued beggary of the majority”.
This deal led first to the misnamed Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy of 1996 followed by the National Development Plan, whose chief architect is the ANC.
These free-market, pro-business policies led to the exact opposite of what they promised – slower growth, less employment and redistribution from the poor to the rich. It has disastrous consequences in every of area of the life of the majority.
This is the real state of the nation
Workers analyze society informed by their realities, material conditions of the class to which they belong. We never allow the emotions of the day to inform how we view political events.
Wearing these working class spectacles we now begin to analyze President Cyril Ramaphosa State of the Nation Address.
We welcome his commitment to decisively deal with corruption, inefficiencies and the backward culture of the government, which is not geared towards servicing the people. In particular we are very pleased by the following steps that he announced.
1. Complying with the Constitutional Courts decisions and lower court decisions is essential part of our hard won constitutional order that will help fight against predatory state.
2. Reviewing the size of the Executive. President Zuma had used the Cabinet as a weapon to distribute patronage and hence it kept on expanding to the current unmanageable inefficient elephant that cannot deliver any coherent programme.
3. Reviewing the management of the tax authorities. In our view the starting point must be the immediate dismissal and the arrest of SARS Commissioner Tom Moyane and his cronies including ruthless pursuance of tobacco smugglers, those moving an estimated 23 billion US dollars annually and trade transfers.
We offer to be partners of President Ramaphosa in this fight so that we can help root out corruption from the face of society. Will will give him praise when he implement what he promised, but will be his critiques should he fail to act decisively against the scourge of corruption. We however warn, that the root cause of corruption is the very system of capitalism that has helped make him a multi billionaire whilst marginalizing 55% of the population into poverty.
SAFTU is however not pleased at all about the economic programme he articulated. In fact the SONA represent the old wine in new bottles. It’s the old neoliberal programme that has spectacularly failed to deliver a better life for all for 24 year now.
Outside the announcement that land shall be expropriated without compensation which we warmly welcome, and that free education shall be rollout in the next 5 years, which whilst we welcome as a significant step forward even not meet in full demand for free, high quality, decolonized public education from Grade R to tertiary level, the speech as a whole is business is usual.
There is hardly anything new coming out of the SONA in policy terms. We heard is what we heard going way back to the Thabo Mbeki and Jacob Zuma presidency. This underlines the correctness of the SAFTU National Congress analysis and statement that categorically states that it is the ANC policies that have betrayed the working class and its own historic mission not any single individual.
SAFTU’s departure point is the ANC own Morogoro Conference resolution of 1969, which confirmed that:
“In our country — more than in any other part of the oppressed world — it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy… Our drive towards national emancipation is therefore in a very real way bound up with economic emancipation.”
We emphasize outside the promise to expropriate land without compensation which is itself subjected to all manner of qualifications which may give the leadership a back door to escape, the SONA is not a comprehensive redistribution strategy that will decisively address the huge wealth disparities we inherited from apartheid and colonial era.
The speech lacks bold policy initiatives to address the structural unemployment, poverty and inequalities inherited from our colonial past. There is no attempt to address the structure of the economy and to end its domination by the mining, finance and heavy chemicals complex.
Without addressing the structural fault lines of the apartheid and colonial economy, we are afraid the beautiful and excellent presentation skills the President displayed will come to naught. People don’t eat beautiful words, our people are in need of decent jobs that will take them out of the poverty trap.
We wish to make the following examples to demonstrate that the speech is regurgitation of old policies that have failed dismally in the past 24 years.
1. The statement that the economy has created jobs is the old insult to the workers facing the job loss blood currently underway. It’s a statement used from Thabo Mbeki error right through Zuma and now Ramaphosa. It’s a statement meant to hide the crisis by counting the small numbers of jobs created without looking at the rising unemployment as a result of job losses. We back to the Zuma days of denial of the problems facing the working class.
2. The statement that there were 3,8 million work opportunities created is directly stolen from previous Zuma speeches. We never said we wanted work opportunities. The ANC promised our people decent jobs and not the insulting
Extended Public Works Programme jobs that pay our people are meagre R800 a month. Even in the so-called new deal, these workers will be paid an insulting R11 an hour. Let us emphasize every person employed through the EPWP lives in poverty! SAFTU demands that the people employed perpetually in the EPWP must be absorbed in the municipalities and be paid a living just like all other workers. More often these workers perform duties that should normally be performed by the municipal workers.
3. 17 million people on social grant does not represent a victory but a monumental failure of the government to create an economy that will get all the recipients of the social grants in meaningful employment.
4. Disappointingly the President is joining his predecessors is joining Zuma in celebrating the improved pass rate without making any commitment to address the public education fault lines. He said nothing about the inferior public education that continues to throw an estimated (41%) learners to the streets either who leave school with no academic qualifications at all or had to repeat one or more times. President Ramaphosa says nothing about the scandalous situation where after 24 years of ANC rule, so little has been done to change this two-tier education system. They have abolished the formal racial segregation of schools and there has been a big growth of no-fee schools. Yet the gulf between conditions in the under-staffed, ill-equipped and under- funded public schools for the overwhelmingly black poor, and the private schools with their beautiful buildings, spacious playing fields, laboratories and libraries is even wider, and the racial divisions remain.
A survey in which students, reading skills were tested in the language with which they are most familiar, show that 78% of Grade 4 students in South Africa failed to meet the lowest literacy benchmark of the study. Out of 50 countries around the world, South Africa ranked lowest. The speech is typical of the previous ANC choosing to play propaganda games at the expensive of confronting the apartheid fault lines.
5. The jobs summit is no innovation at all. There has been three jobs summits since 1994 and they never solved anything. Instead job losses, poverty and inequalities have worsened. The jobs summit without addressing the real fault lines will change nothing.
6. President Thabo Mbeki had a series of economic advisory councils. There is nothing knew in what President Ramaphosa announced with such vigour.
7. The 30% procurement target comes directly from a commitment made before by President Zuma. It was never implemented. We hope this will change.
8. The national minimum wage of R20 an hour for bread winners, R18 per hour for farm workers, R15 an hour for domestic workers and R11 per hour for the EPWP workers in an insult that SAFTU has committed to resist to the last drop of our blood. We call on the ANC to withdraw this insult before May Day 2018 or face a national general strike.
9. Whilst we want all the individuals placed in the State Owned Enterprises removed and replaced with competent people, we wish to warn that President Ramaphosa must not exploit the period of honey moon to sneak tendencies of the past days of unilateralism and big brother. There was no consultation with labour unions when the Eskom Board was removed and replaced. We have made a call that labour must represented their interest in the SOEs board including the PIC. Instead if the example of Eskom was to be replicated, business people only will be appointed.
10. The promise to speed up and reverse deintrialisation. We have heard that from Zuma before. Without changing the macro – the fiscal and monetary policies particularly shifting resources to support the promised renewed industrialization, this commitment shall ring hollow.
SAFTU will continue to educate workers and the public at large that the Ramaphosa presidency will not be substantially different from other presidencies that simply failed workers and worsened their unemployment, poverty and inequalities.
One of the lessons we learnt from Harry Gwala is that in a class divided society, is always check who are clapping hands when you speak! Check who is praising you and giving you a standing ovation.
We acknowledge that ruling class is ecstatic about the speech and the fact that their class colleague is on the helm of the country. The media which is still owned exclusively by the ruling class is heaping praises and is helping to get our people to forget about the real crisis of society.
We in SAFTU will not be fooled.