SAFTU statement on the COSATU general strike

The South African Federation of Trade Unions has noted the call by the Congress of South African Trade Unions for a general strike against corruption on 27 September.

“What prompted this action,” say COSATU, “were the revelations by the Public Protector that the current South African Administration has been captured and that there is a network of the predatory elite that is engaged in looting of state resources and corrupt activities”.

The strike’s main demands are “to push the President of the Republic of South Africa Cde Jacob Zuma to establish the Judicial Commission of Inquiry” and that “the state and all its institutions must refuse to deal with the predatory elite and in particular cancel all commercial dealings with the Gupta family”.

SAFTU cannot disagree with that but sees double standards at play by the COSATU leadership.

SAFTU was out on the streets to fight corruption even before it was officially launched in April. It submitted its own Section 77 Notice in December 2016 for a general strike and has joined civil society in many anti-corruption marches. At not one of these has COSATU made any appearance, and has even condemned those taking part.

SAFTU is not opposed to collaboration with other workers’ organizations but it must be based on principle. In this case we cannot support this march, in part because we were never consulted, but also because we have to raise the following serious questions:

  1. COSATU’s leaders abandoned the militant program adopted by its 12th National Congress because its ANC and SACP alliance partners were uncomfortable with its commitment to genuine radical economic transformation and the battle against corruption. Its leaders were less loyal to their to the downtrodden workers than to their cohorts in the alliance and government, including those they are now attacking for ‘state capture’ who for years they continued to support.
  2. They failed to act on the 12th Congress resolutions on corruption and were knowingly complicit in defending the ongoing manipulation of state institutions. They only started to condemn ‘state capture’ when it got involved in the factional warfare within the ANC and the alliance, and the faction they supported opportunistically began to attack the criminal actions of their opponents.
  3. The COSATU leadership also only started to talk in more radical language about radical economic transformation, when all the factions began to mouth radical slogans that none of them have done anything to implement after 23 years in power.
  4. Just 12 months ago, COSATU was using workers’ money to put up huge posters for the local government elections calling for a vote for jobs by supporting the ANC candidates, despite being in the midst of a job-loss bloodbath. Yet now that are asking workers to give up a day’s pay to oppose the policies of an ANC government which over and over again they have being urging them to vote for.
  5. The job losses, which COSATU also purports to be concerned about, have happened because the ANC government, supported by its allies, have consistently pursued neoliberal economic policies which have strengthened the power of white monopoly capital and are the main reason for the catastrophe of unemployment, poverty and inequality. This is why their sudden hostility of ‘white monopoly capitalism’ rings so hollow.
  6. This is the same COSATU leadership which expelled its biggest affiliate, NUMSA, after its 2013 Special National Congress called for Zuma’s resignation because of his role in the looting of public assets and called for an end to COSATU’s alliance with the ANC. This led to a serious split within the workers’ movement which was a deliberate attempt to strengthen the status quo and weaken the opposition of the working class to corruption and capitalism.
  7. This leadership also did nothing to intervene and stop the purging of those from SAMWU, and other unions who were trying to expose corruption within their unions. COSATU leaders put their own internal factional interests to expel NUMSA and force out Zwelinzima Vavi above the need to tackle gross corruption in SAMWU, CEPPWAWU and other unions, and continue to do so.
  8. COSATU is blocking and frustrating in Nedlac the processing of SAFTU’s Section 77 strike application, in the hope that it can present itself as a champion of workers’ struggles when in fact it has betrayed them.

For all these reasons SAFTU stands by its decisions to build a new, genuinely independent, militant and revolutionary workers’ federation which will fight not only against corruption and looting but also against the inherently corrupt capitalist system which is at the root of all the unfolding scandals which we now know involve far more than the Guptas and ANC leaders but a vast network of criminal fraudsters.

SAFTU fully understands why workers are angry and want to march in protest against the economic crisis, the attacks on jobs and living standards and the theft of public resources. They should however aim their anger not only at the employers, government and the ANC but against their own leaders who have sat back for years and failed to mobilize on their behalf.

SAFTU is pressing ahead with its own Section 77 Notice to allow for a protected  general strike in November and a People’s Assembly in December which will chart out a genuinely radical path not only to end corruption but to build a new equal society, inspired by the Freedom Charter which will lead to a South Africa which belongs to the people. We call on all workers to rally behind this call and fight for workers’ unity on a principled basis.

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