The South African Federation of Trade Unions welcomes the long overdue recall of Jacob Zuma as President of South Africa, though condemns the ANC leadership’s continuing indecisiveness and its failure to give him a deadline to resign.
His term of office has been a disaster for the country and particularly for the working class and the poor majority. He has presided over the plundering of public resources through outrageous level of corruption, fraud and money-laundering. He has brought state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to the brink of insolvency, and reduced the economy to ‘junk’ status.
Cyril Ramaphosa must now immediately appoint a new National Director of Public Prosecutions who will urgently bring Zuma to court, plus all those others against who there is prima facie evidence of corruption and other offences.
These criminals who have stolen billions of rands from the people in the public service, SOEs and private companies, must now be arrested, charged and tried.
If found guilty, they must be punished severely. There must be absolutely no question of any amnesty, pardon or plea bargain for the man who is not only allegedly personally implicated in criminal acts but who presided over others involved and appointed leaders of the law enforcement bodies to protect them and himself from prosecution.
Any such escape route would be illegal and unconstitutional, in breach of Clause 9.1 which says that “Everyone is equal before the law”. It would set a terrible precedent by establishing one law for the rich and powerful and another for the majority of the people.
SAFTU however warns that, however pleased they may be to see the back of this corrupt president, South Africans should not imagine that this change of leadership will resolve all the deep-seated problems we face.
Zuma may have gone, but the African National Congress remains in power, and they cannot now pretend that he was the only problem. ANC ministers, MPs, NEC members and Cyril Ramaphosa all share responsibility for the country’s disaster. Only a handful of them raised any red flags during the nine years in which Zuma was committing all the crimes he is now being charged with.
The same applies to all the economic problems which have worsened over Zuma’s years in office. They cannot all be blamed on one man, but are a consequence of pro-rich and anti-worker neoliberal policies which the ANC was imposing long before Zuma was President and which his successor has promised to continue.
In 2009, when he took office, unemployment, by the narrow definition which excludes those no longer looking for work, was already 23.7%, the 8th highest in the world. Now it is at 27.7%, the 6th highest.
The number living in poverty increased from 27 million in 2011, to 30 million in 2015. Inequality as measured by the Gini Coefficient has remained the highest in the world. The top 10% of the population earn about 60% of all income and own 95% of all assets, all under Zuma’s watch, but all the responsibility of the entire ANC leadership.
They have all, collectively, ignored the advice from unions like NUMSA and then later SAFTU to pursue a radically different programme based on socialist measures to revive manufacturing industry, beneficiate our mineral wealth and create jobs downstream. The ANC has ignored demands for laws to stop the transfer of money out of the country into tax havens and tariffs to be imposed to protect struggling local industries.
They have even failed to implement policies agreed at successive ANC National Conferences in 2005, 2012 and again last year, which talked about radical economic transformation, job creation and reducing poverty and inequality but have been ignored in practice
Instead the Government’s priority has been to reassure the credit ratings agencies and their big business clients around the world that South Africa is a good place to invest and make money. Each year’s budget imposed further cuts in spending on essential services like education and heath while cutting taxes for the wealthy.
It has failed abysmally to implement its own resolution on the return of stolen land. It has postponed the national health insurance scheme and comprehensive social security.
It has done next to nothing to end the racist two-tier delivery of services which delivers top-quality service to the rich, while condemning the poor to squalor and incompetence. The Life Esidimeni outrage was just the most extreme example of the government’s brutal and contemptuous attitude to the poor and disadvantaged.
These policies were not only totally against the ANC’s verbal commitment to economic transformation but also contrary to its historic 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 have suffered more than just national humiliation. Our people are deprived of their due in the country’s wealth; their skills have been suppressed and poverty and starvation has been their life experience. The correction of these centuries-old economic injustices lies at the very core of our national aspirations.”
SAFTU has no confidence at all that multi-billionaire businessman President Ramaphosa will be any better. His priorities are clear – to make South Africa more attractive to investors, through market-friendly policies.
His main ‘solution’ is for a ‘social compact’ between government, business and labour, which has already led to an agreement to a poverty minimum wage of R20 an hour.
He is now introducing new laws, agreed to by the leaders of COSATU, FEDUSA And NACTU, that will seriously weaken workers’ rights His Labour relations Amendment Bill will impose an obligation for all unions to include a clause in their constitution on secret strike ballots, under the threat of deregistration and the loss of all other rights under the law.
It will allow strikes to be ended through an “advisory arbitration panel” which can be set up at the request of any party to the dispute, including the bosses, the Minister of Labour or the CCMA if if strikes are deemed to be “long, violent or cause a crisis”. Settlements can then be imposed on workers, strikes interdicted.
This ‘compact’ will force union leaders to act as the government and bosses’ law enforcers and to collaborate in the imposition of policies that will lead to more job losses, lower real wages and austerity budgets to cut the already low levels of spending on social services and even in enforcing laws that will undermine the basic constitutional right to strike.
There will be no fundamental change under a leader who is committed to the capitalist class. He will never accept that system which has made him so rich is the root cause of South Africa’s slide into the catastrophe of unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption
Ramaphosa will never accept that the white, monopoly capitalist system is inherently corrupt and exploitative, based on the theft of the surplus value created by the workers’ labour and the pursuit of quick and big profits and a system with no concern for the workers, consumers, communities and society as a whole.
He will never bring about the country envisaged in the Freedom Charter, in which the country’s mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole.
SAFTU demands a fundamentally different economic strategy to implement that Freedom Charter demand, and for a socialist South Africa in which the key monopoly industries are owned and democratically planned and run in the interests of the people as a whole.
We salute our comrades in NUMSA, who first raised the call for Zuma’s resignation in 2013 at its Special National Congress. As a result they were then butchered by the ANC and their allies in the COSATU leadership, for saying what the ANC is saying today. The same applies to many other unsung heroes – SATAWU members who are now in DETAWU, NTM and TASWU, SAMWU members now in DEMAWUSA and MATUSA, SADTU members in SALIPSWU and other unions, CEPPWAWU members whose union was destroyed and are now in CWAWU, and other who are still battling to reclaim their unions.
The biggest lesson is the need to build independent, democratic and campaigning unions.
So while cheering to celebrate the end of the Zuma era, SAFTU will not drop its guard in its fight to defend and advance the interests of the workers and the poor and will be mobilizing its members and allies to fight back against the expected attacks.