The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) held its National ExecutiveCommittee (NEC) meeting from 4 –6 July 2022 at the Birchwood Hotel, Boksburg. The meeting was attended by the SAFTU National Office Bearers (NOBs), Presidents and General Secretaries of the affiliated unions, and the Provincial Chairpersons and Secretaries.
This is the first NEC since the successful and historic 2nd National Congress, which was held from 23–26 May 2022. The Congress had issued a clear instruction to the National Office Bearers of the Federation to lead the Federation on a path of unity, cohesion, and healing.
In addition, the 2nd National Congress enjoined us to return the Federation to its founding mission as articulated by the Inaugural National Congress. That is, SAFTU must be a militant, fighting and campaigning Federation that is truly democratic and independent but not apolitical.
The NEC spent three days developing concrete plans to carry out these 2nd National Congress directives.
We reported on the “meet and greet” meetings we had with the affiliates as part of the path of healing and uniting the Federation. Flowing from this, were robust and constructive discussions on how we should avoid returning to the internal challenges that
have hampered the Federation’s progress over the last four years.
Further, the NEC observed a moment of silence in respect for the 21 young people who perished in Enyobeni Tavern in East London. The need for a caring state, capable of regulating against the unscrupulous profiteers in our society willing to put our next generation at risk in such settings – and more generally – has never been more obvious.
Coinciding with the second day of our NEC was a collective agreement victory that gave a 7% wage increase and R400 increase in housing allowance to Eskom workers. (For
context, the current consumer price index is 6.5% and producer price index is 14.7%.) The NEC congratulated its affiliate the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), which demonstrated a good spirit of unity in working with National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a COSATU affiliated union. This unity in action transcending the fragmentation of the unions and federation is exactly what the trade union movement needs.
Integrated Operational Plan
To operationalise the marching orders of the national congress and ensure the effective implementation of the 2 nd National Congress resolutions, we adopted a four-year
Integrated Operational Plan or Master Plan for the next four years (2022 – 2026). The Integrated Operational Plan is standing on Five Pillars:
a) Build a campaigning federation which stands shoulder to shoulder with the working class.
b) Strengthen the unity of working class forces.
c) Build a strong, financially independent federation
d) Strengthen staff and worker leader capacity in the federation and its affiliates
e) Propose alternatives to neoliberal economic strategy, in the interests of the working class
To implement the five pillars of the Integrated Operational Plan in its first phase, the NEC went further to adopt six campaigns to take up the struggles of the working class in the context of the current crisis facing the working class in our country:
1. The campaign against the swelling cost of living
The cost of food basket has increased by 14,29% since June 2021. Electricity tariffs increased by a combined 16,53% in 2022, by over 30% in 2021 and by 460% between 2007 and 2020.
Petrol prices have now reached unprecedented levels with a litre of 93 unleaded petrol costing R26,31 cents, having increased by 52% since June 2021 and 72% since March 2020. Economists predicts the prices of fuel to reach a high of R40 per litre before they subside.
2. The campaign against the rolling electricity blackouts currency
In addition to the swelling prices of electricity, the masses of working class and poor people are also facing a crisis of loadshedding. For the past 15 years, we have been subjected to electricity cut-offs because of at least three things:
a) The aim to privatise Eskom has led to a deliberate engineering of a crisis that undermined the building of internal generation capacity so our grid could contribute to economic growth,
b) Since tortoise steps were taken from 2007 to expand the generation and distribution capacity of Eskom, the state was increasingly taken over by a kleptocratic clique of comprador bourgeoisie, who having been shunned by traditional colonial capital (white monopoly capital), looted Eskom for their own
means, most notably when Hitachi was successfully prosecuted in Washington, DC (under the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) for bribing the ANC but nothing yet has been done here and the Zondo Commission turned a blind eye in spite of ongoing failures at Medupi and Hitachi;
c) The incompetent Chief Executives, especially the incumbent, Andre de Ruyter, have failed to add the obvious solar, wind and storage required to stabilise the grid. De Ruyter has not only cut off black townships through the inhumane ‘load reduction’ strategy (even if households have paid their bills and purchased prepaid electricity) that does not apply in wealthier areas, but has shed more megawatts of electricity than any Chief Executive before him.
We are taking the battle not only to demand the immediate resignation of the Eskom CEO, Andre de Ruyter and the Board, but we are calling on the entire government of the ANC to step aside.
3. Campaign for a living wage
The rising costs of living are rendering the minimum wage inadequate. The cost of household food basket is now at R4 688, R50 above the minimum wage. The cost of food basket excludes the costs of other household and personal hygienic products, electricity, transport, and other social services in the context of the declining quality of public
SAFTU rejects the minimum wage of R23.19 cents. In re-tying the knot with the martyrs of Marikana Massacre, we demand in the interim, R72 per hour (R12 500 for those working 22 days per month and 8 hours per day). But since this demand was put 10 years ago, it must be revised upward in the context of the swelling inflation.
4. Campaign for a Basic Income Grant
The crisis of unemployment and poverty call directly for the expansion of social security to cushion the effects of unemployment and poverty.
But because of the ANC government’s obsession with the neoliberal fiscal restraints, they proposed in October 2021 to introduce a “family grant”. Outlined in the abridged draft of the Anti-Poverty Strategy, a “family grant” is the Treasury option that would allow Godongwana to reject the basic income grant (BIG). Through this family grant, Treasury will exclude more unemployed people, will introduce a burdensome “means
test” on income, and will further penalise women due to the way South African capitalism has amplified patriarchy at the household level, often preventing women from getting access to funds and causing strife in families.
SAFTU rejects the “family grant”, and commits to supporting campaigns for a universal BIG – at the upper bound poverty line – to be funded by more progressive personal and corporate taxation.
SAFTU reiterates its demand for a BIG of R1 500 that is R150 above the upperbound poverty line. We believe that the BIG will in turn have positive multiplier effects in the economy by boosting demand and production, whilst relieving poverty among the unemployed.
5. The campaigns against austerity programmes
Government has cut expenditure on social goods and services by cutting that component of the budget from 33.2% to 31.5% of GDP, but this is only one reflection of the crisis, since desperation rose in 2020 when more than two million jobs were lost. Sector by sector, in areas such as health, education and housing, Treasury’s austerity regime is hitting double-digit percentage cuts in real terms. Encouraged by institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which now have Pretoria under their thumb due to nearly R100 billion worth of loans from 2020-22, the ANC government is committed to neoliberal fiscal ‘discipline’. They have planned to cut R303 billion from the public sector wage bill over the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF: 2021 – 2025).
We are calling on the public sector workers to prepare for a strike against the wage freeze that government has imposed through their Medium-Term Expenditure Budget. The unions must reject the 1.5% to 2% that government is offering in favour of their demand for a 10% raise, given how much they have been shortchanged since Treasury violated its contractual obligations in February 2020 and ever since.
In addition, we want government to fill all the 200 000 vacancies in the public sector that were said to be vacant. The demands for the expansion of the public sector wage bill must be combined with communities’ demands for better services. Government must address the chronic infrastructure backlog in our schools,
hospitals, police stations, correctional services, the housing backlog, etc. We demand an end to budget cuts on the basic services that are meant for the poor — who constitute 70 – 80% of the population depending on public services.
6. The campaign against privatisation of the state-owned enterprises
SAFTU rejects the plans to hollow out Eskom, following what the progressive U.S. scholar Noam Chomsky called the “standard technique of privatisation” in which neoliberal governments on the way towards privatisation “defund and make sure things don’t work”. This is how the consent of the unsuspecting masses is manufactured. Look at how people are angry at Eskom, to the extent of even ululating when hearing of privatised power generation that contributes to unbundling by allowing “competition” in energy generation. This was their plan from the White Paper on Energy in 1998, repeated again in the Accelerated Agenda Towards the Restructuring of State Owned Enterprise in 2002. As so many cases (such as the U.S. states of California and Texas have conclusively proven), if we leave generation (and later transmission and distribution of power) to mostly-foreign profiteers, we are setting ourselves up for a brutal case of blackmailing.
We demand that Eskom be positioned under a different leadership that will ensure that it drives the introduction of renewables. But not only that, we believe the entire government must resign because its commitment to neoliberalism will continue to run down and hollow out Eskom, whilst gradually replacing it with Independent Power Producers (IPPs) who will hold us hostage.
We further demand the renationalisation of Sasol, Iscor, SAA and other stateowned enterprises that this ANC government has brought to its knees in addition to a full makeover at Denel, PRASA, PetroSA, Transnet, etc, to reflect social and labour needs.
7. A campaign against job losses and catastrophic levels of unemployment
We will campaign against job losses. We lost over 2 million of jobs as result of the Covid 19 pandemic. The pandemic merely accelerated jobs bloodbath which was underway.
Official unemployment increased from 24% in 2012 to 34%, and when we factor in those who have given up looking for jobs, 45.5% (12.4 million) of the labour force is unemployed. Moreover, 66% of the youth between the ages of 15 and 24 is unemployed,
53,3% of black women in the labour force are unemployed, whilst 46,3% of the youth between the ages of 15 and 34 were Not in any form of Employment, Education and Training (NEET).
As a result of this, our country is facing extra ordinary levels of social crisis, including high levels of depression with more and more young men resorting to suicide, drugs and alcohol abuse, increased crime and sheer violence.
8. Campaigns against extra ordinary high levels of crime including Gender Based Violence and killing of police officials
According to the South African Police Services (SAPS) Crime Statistics, South Africa experienced 68 people being killed daily in the financial year 2021/22 — from April 2021 to March 2022.
Women are under siege. There are 114 recorded rapes taking place daily, and this is a highly conservative figure given than many do not bother reporting such heinous crimes because of degenerating state policing and social-work services.
The police officials who are supposed to our defenders are not spared. In the recent period, there have been increasing reports of police officers killed, as our society reaches the stage of extreme desperation, prone to the kinds of unrest chaos witnessed in July 2021. We reiterate that a killing of police officers is an act of treason against the people as whole.
Don’t Moan – Mobilise or Die!
This crisis cannot be addressed, as it always is, by half-baked, ill-conceived measures. It cannot be tackled through expression of anger, by xenophobia or by rushing ahead of other sections of the working class. We need action that will be appropriately match the scale of the crisis we face.
To start with we will immediately start mobilising to guarantee internal and external support.
Internally we will immediately convene all our Locals Shopsteward Councils (LSCs) which will be followed by the Provincial Shopsteward Councils (PSCs) across all the nine
provinces. Affiliates will immediately call workplace general meetings as well as their own local, branch, regional, provincial and national meetings of their executive committees to execute the mobilisation plan including releasing resources for effective mobilisation.
Externally, we will dispatch letters of invitation to all trade union federations, trade unions not affiliated to federations, working class formations including pro-working class and anticapitalist; NGOs, students, youth, and women formations as well as left leaning political organisations inviting them for a discussion on how best we can drive this mass campaign together.
We have agreed to convene the Working Class Summit (WCS) with the participation of all left-leaning political parties to adopt a mobilisation plan, one that will not be a once-off event but a process to reclaim power in our workplaces, communities and other theatres of struggle. This Summit will be held on the first week of August 2022.
We are working for the broadest possible unity of the working-class movement and to reject sectarianism and purist approaches that continue to fragment our working-class
We need a minimum programme that can unite all these formations of the working class. A minimum programme should be able to transcend today’s divisions and suspicions.
In our bid to overcome sectarianism and fragmentation, we are however not a free for all church. We have developed criteria to avoid associating with pro-capitalist and right-wing formations. We will limit the participation to the formations that conform to these criteria:
1) Anti-capitalist (in the current context, this means opposing neoliberalism and government’s austerity and privatisation programmes)
2) Reject racism, patriarchy, sexism, and xenophobia
3) Oppose the pandemic of Gender Based Violence
4) Oppose the destruction of the environment
5) Oppose imperialism and the destructive consequences across the globe
6) Accept the centrality of the working class in the resolution of the capitalist crisis as a global system
SAFTU has set a tentative date for a one-day general strike for the 24th of August 2022. We will, however, not impose that date on our members or other allied formations with which we seek to build a minimum programme. What is important is the bottom-up
approach with properly coordinated, build-up programmes of mobilisation in our industrial areas, residential areas, campuses, villages and towns. As we mobilise around the immediate challenges facing the working class, we will recruit workers into SAFTU unions, build our structures and ensure that we provide quality service to members.
SAFTU secured a Section 77 certificate that allows all workers irrespective of whether they are members of SAFTU to embark on a protected strike. In other words, those who are members of trade unions not affiliated to SAFTU can also join the strike.
We believe that this certificate remains valid as we could not exercise our right to a protected strike in 2020 as result of the coronavirus. SAFTU will ensure that this is the understanding of NEDLAC as well.