Opening address by SAFTU President Mac Chavalala to the 3rd National Executive Committee

NOBs, NEC Delegates, SAFTU staff and all affiliates staff members present here today.

I welcome to you all to this important, third meeting of the National Executive Committee. We meet at a crucial moment and I hope we shall have a fruitful discussion of the many issues on the agenda.

We also meet in fascinating times. It is just days since the coup in Zimbabwe, which holds important lessons for us in South Africa. SAFTU, NUMSA and SASWU have issued media statements, which I hope all the affiliates had the opportunity to read and this NEC will, amongst others issues, discuss the Zimbabwean situation.

This year we are also celebrating the 1917 Russian Revolution, and I hope in your deliberations you are not going to confuse what happened in Russian and what is happening in Zimbabwe.

Some Zimbabwean workers may have been so relieved at the possible end of Mugabe’s 37 years of poverty, unemployment and dictatorship that they initially welcomed the army’s intervention, as illustrated by the huge crowds on the streets of Harare and Bulawayo on Saturday, but we have to warn them that the workers will never be liberated through military coups led by generals.


The army is part of the “State Instruments” and Lenin warned us that: “The state is an instrument for the exploitation of the oppressed class”.

So we must correctly analyze this situation from the working class perspective, and discuss whether the Army’s action constitutes a revolution, a coup, or it is ZanuPF using the Army to deal with internal factional battles within ZanuPF??

And what does that mean for the future of Zimbabweans? We should also ask: “In whose class interest is the army in Zimbabwe acting?”

As we discuss these issues, we must also discuss what is happening in Zambia, Kenya, DRC, Swaziland etc, and the role of SADC and the AU in these Countries.

The rallies in Zimbabwe, and here at home were huge, like those during the ‘Arab Spring’, which led to the overthrow of dictators in several countries, but these mass movements rapidly lost their momentum and allowed new dictatorial regimes to impose themselves on the people.

So it is possible that the people of Zimbabwe are faced with a situation of the “Two Devils”, and they must choose who between the two is the best Devil.

Coups invariably lead to at best a continuation, and more often a worsening, of the hardships faced by the workers and the poor. This will certainly be the case in Zimbabwe, where we see a struggle between two factions of corrupt leaders of the ruling ZanuPF, both of whom are fighting for power so they can to keep on looting the country’s wealth.

Dictatorship will also continue if, as widely speculated, Mugabe is replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, also known as ‘Crocodile’ who is notorious as a perpetrator of the mass murder of 20 000 people in the Matabeleland in the 1980s, and who has been Mugabe’s ‘hit-man’, suppressing any opposition to ZanuPF’s dictatorship.

Who can forget how the 2008 elections in Zimbabwe were stolen. Where was the “Revolutionary Army “? Where were the SADC and the AU?

Dictators will always want us to understand “democracy” their way. But Lenin reminds us, that “Democracy in nothing but a gauge of the level of maturity of the working class”.

If Reuters reports are true, Mnangagwa has been planning to bring back thousands of white farmers kicked off their land nearly two decades ago and patching up relations with the the World Bank and IMF.

The parallels with South Africa are striking. In both countries, government is led by former leaders of national liberation movements who have betrayed those who put them in power, and abused their position to amass riches for themselves, their families and cronies, through corruption and pillaging of pubic resources.

In both countries this betrayal is disguised by empty demagogy about “protecting our revolution” radical “economic transformation” and attacks on white monopoly capitalists’, when in reality both governments have pursued pro-capitalist, neoliberal policies which have left wealth and power in the hands of the ruling class, and condemned the working class to sky-high unemployment, grinding poverty, and, in Zimbabwe’s case, mass emigration.

‘State capture’

Far from getting rid of white-monopoly capital, Zuma and Co have collaborated with it. More evidence is emerging to support SAFTU’s contention that the ‘state capture’ has involved not just a few political leaders and one family, but a wide network of global corporations, proving that corruption is an inherent feature of monopoly capitalism, a system that is structurally corrupt.

As well as McKinsey, KPMG, Bell-Pottinger and SAP, researchers in the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project have found evidence that more than 20 international banks sent money to or received money from Gupta-linked companies: “Led by HSBC, these banks also included National Westminster in the UK, Wells Fargo in the US, India’s state-owned Bank of Baroda, Habib Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and a dozen Chinese banks like Bank of China and China Citibank”.

I must say comrades, I’ve never seen a corrupt family as powerful as the Gupta family.

16 Days of Activism

Comrades, Next Saturday will be the first of 16 Days of Activism on Violence against Women and Children. This year it is especially significant for us, as it coincides with the trial of the alleged murderer of our comrade Thembisile Yende, an atrocity that brought home to us the shocking reality of the savagery inflicted on women.

We have also seen the lenient sentencing of former Minister Mduduzi Manana after being convicted of a brutal assault on three women, and the revelations of sexual abuse by Hollywood boss Harvey Weinstein, actor Kevin Spacey and here in SA Danny Jordaan.

The time for us to form a DSFTU gender structure has come, if we are to effectively deal with gender-based violence against women and children.

We should not allow a situation where the “Woman’s Leagues” that are captured are allowed to score cheap political points at the expense of our people.

It is good that so many women are now coming out and saying ‘MeToo’ and providing evidence to bring these criminals to justice, but we must not drop our guard, because the justice system is dysfunctional and women remain victims of the culture of impunity. In 2009 according to the police statistics, the conviction rate for rape was just 11.5%. Other estimates in 2014 said tit was as low as 10%.

The police and courts are also often reluctant to treat violence against women, especially against partners, as seriously as other violent crimes. Rape victims often battle to prove they did not consent.

The problem is rooted in a society where patriarchy, sexism and homophobia were all entrenched under colonialism and apartheid but still thrive today.

We must say No! To violence against women, not just for 16 days but every day, and adopt a policy of zero tolerance to the perpetrators, with no exceptions.

SAFTU’s challenges

We have achieved a tremendous amount in just seven months. I must congratulate our comrades in the Western Cape for their successful launch of our first Provincial structure. We have won significant victories against the moves to exclude us from Nedlac. We have helped hundreds of workers looking for a new home and have see the historic victory of the Midrand municipal workers. We had successful rallies in all our provinces as mandated by our Congress.

We must at the same time recognise that we have fallen short of our targets and not made the progress we expected in some areas. The NEC must look at all these challenges, not finding someone to blame, but analyzing our organisational and financial difficulties and agreeing on strategies to overcome all obstacles.

The one thing on which we have been shown to be 100% correct is the absolute need for SAFTU. Unemployment, poverty and inequality have reached new heights, and our members experience on the ground the job-loss bloodbath, casualisation of labour, exploitation by labour brokers and the attacks on workers’ rights.

We cannot afford to fail in our quest to build a million+ strong independent, militant and revolutionary workers federation.

The other elephant in the room is the “Fourth Industrial Revolution “. We have not as a Federation discussed and resolved on this matter.

Comrades, the time for us to adopt new bargaining strategy has come, and, as a Leninist inspired Federation we should not forget what Lenin once said about this issue: ”Machines and other improvements must serve to ease the work of all and not to enable the few to grow rich at the expense of millions of people.”

The other challenge which this NEC must discuss, is how are we going to deal with the reality that under the ANC Government the students are not going to realize “free and compulsory Education ” in their lifetime?

How do we deal with the divisive nature of the so-called feasibility report, where TVETs students are prioritized not university students, and also, the meddling by JZ in Treasury matters, which led to the resignation of Micheal Sachs?

What are we going to do come next year when schools and universities reopen ?

We know that the Class collaborators in NEDLAC want to hijack this matter and make it a NEDLAC issue, so that they can claim easy victories. This Federation is a Campaigning Federation and we have resolved that the struggles of our students are going to be ours.



This being the last NEC this year, I would like to wish you a peaceful festive season and a prosperous 2018!!!

Let’s start mobilizing now for our Section 77 early next year and make sure that we have a successful campaign.

Please go and buy Jacques Pauw’s “The President Keepers ” and read it.

Make sure that you spend time with your family and please pass our gratitude to your spouses in particular, who gave you “time off” to build your Federation.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations.


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