SAFTU statement on the ANC 2019 elections manifesto

The South African Federation of Trade Unions has noted the ANC’s  manifesto for the 2019 elections and has no confidence that it will lead to any radical solution to the country’s economic and social catastrophe.

It is now 25 years since the ANC’s first election manifesto in 1994. That one – and every other manifesto since – contains almost exactly the same promises that are in this latest one.

The manifesto confirms SAFTU’s strongly-held view that the ANC has long ago reached its sell-by date. There is little if any anything new in the manifesto, which underlines our view that the governing party has reached a cul de sac and is now degenerating into a party of empty promises.

In 1994 the ANC promised that “A new trade and industry policy will focus mainly on job creation, strengthening our manufacturing capacity and industries that export goods.

The opposite has taken place. A new industrial policy came into being 10 years later.  South Africa’s manufacturing sector used to contribute over 20% of the GDP; now it is down to about 11%-12%. There has been a job loss blood bath, centered on the manufacturing sector. Poverty has worsened alongside unemployment, and South Africa has become the most unequal society in the world.

In 2004 the ANC developed what it called Vision 2014 in which it made the following commitments:

Vision 2014 – Forward to the second decade of freedom

Guided by the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), our vision is to build a society that is truly united, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic. Central to this is a single and integrated economy that benefits all.

Some of the most important targets and objectives making up Vision 2014 were as follows:

  • Reduce unemployment by half through new jobs, skills development, assistance to small businesses, opportunities for self-employment and sustainable community livelihoods.
  • Reduce poverty by half through economic development, comprehensive social security, land reform and improved household and community assets.
  • Provide the skills required by the economy, build capacity and provide resources across society to encourage self-employment, with an education system that is geared for productive work, good citizenship and a caring society.
  • Ensure that all South Africans, including especially the poor and those at risk – children, youth, women, the aged, and people with disabilities – are fully able to exercise their constitutional rights and enjoy the full dignity of freedom.
  • Compassionate government service to the people; national, provincial and local public representatives who are accessible; and citizens who know their rights and insist on fair treatment and efficient service.
  • Massively reduce cases of TB, diabetes, malnutrition and maternal deaths, and turn the tide against HIV and AIDS, and, working with the rest of Southern Africa, strive to eliminate malaria, and improve services to achieve a better national health profile and reduction of preventable causes of death, including violent crime and road accidents.
  • Significantly reduce the number of serious and priority crimes as well as cases awaiting trial, with a society that actively challenges crime and corruption, and with programmes that also address the social roots of criminality.
  • Position South Africa strategically as an effective force in global relations, with vibrant and balanced trade and other relations with countries of the South and the North, and in an Africa that is growing, prospering and benefiting all Africans, especially the poor”.

SAFTU does note with appreciation the improvements have been made since 1994, including that, as the manifesto says, “over the past 25 years, the lives of the people of South Africa have changed for the better. Millions of people have houses, electricity and access to clean drinking water. Children from poor communities have access to free education. In the past five years the number of HIV positive people on antiretroviral treatment has doubled while the overall rate of new infections is decreasing. Over 17,5 million of our most vulnerable citizens receive social grants.”

South Africans know however what has happened in relation to the Vision 2014. On the issues that are most important to our people the ANC has dismally failed. They do not even mention that Vision 2014 because it will bring back memories of their disastrous record of governance.

This 2019 manifesto fails to explain why so many of the promises of the earlier manifestos were never implemented and why the social evils we inherited from the years of colonialism and apartheid remain in place and some have even got worse.

The closest the manifesto comes to recognising this problem is a feeble admission that “although much has been achieved, we could have moved faster and the quality of services could have been much better. We accept that mistakes have been made and in some critical areas, progress has stalled.”

It very revealingly says that this year’s election provides us with “an opportunity to restore our democratic institutions and return our country to a path of transformation, growth and development”.

This is an admission that successive ANC governments have failed to implement the promises made in previous manifestos, have abandoned their path of transformation, growth and development and that democratic institutions have been corrupted and sabotaged and need to be ‘restored’!

Nowhere in this latest manifesto is there any attempt to analyse why these failures happened nor why, in the key areas of economic growth, unemployment, poverty and corruption, the situation, under the ANC’s watch has become even worse since the 1994 elections.

Nor does the manifesto begin to acknowledge the gravity of the economic crisis, in which South Africa has the world’s highest level of youth unemployment which has left 6.2 million unemployed South Africans between the ages of 15 and 24! It does not even mention the fact that we have the widest level of inequality in the world.
In all previous manifestos there has always been a promise to move towards a comprehensive social security system. For example in the 2014 elections manifesto the ANC promised to “Urgently finalise policy discussions on proposals for a comprehensive social protection policy that ensures that no needy South African falls through the social security net.” In  2019 it still promises the same without accounting for the failure to achieve this.

There are just a handful of manifesto proposals, which SAFTU welcomes, but even in these cases there is unnecessary repetition of the commitments made in the past. These include:

  • Ensure adequate legislation is in place to give effect to the Constitutional Court’s ruling on labour brokers. The manifesto does not acknowledge that the amendment to the LRA came to effect in April 2015. What we need is mechanisms to enforce that amendment, now reinforced by the Constitutional Court.
  • Develop a short and medium-term plan to insource support services back into the public sector. The ANC has completely forgotten that in its 2014 manifesto it said: “Essential support services such as catering, cleaning, laundry and security will be insourced over the next five years.”  Today it is the DA Johannesburg Mayor who is in-sourcing these essential services, not the ANC.
  • Absorb over 50,000 community health care workers into the public health system and double this number over the next five-year. This commitment was made in 2007 and 2009. Little has been done to date.
  • Investigate the introduction of prescribed assets on financial institutions’ funds to unlock resources for investments in social and economic development. Labour has been campaigning for this for years. We hope it will be implemented. But many are worried about the levels of corruption and certainly do not want to open another trough.
  • Establish a state-owned pharmaceutical company to promote an affordable and reliable supply of medication and localisation, especially in the production of vaccines and active pharmaceutical ingredients.  This commitment is contained in the 2009 manifesto.

So even where we agree with this manifesto it is difficult to take these commitments seriously.

Virtually all the rest of the manifesto consists of old promises from past manifestos which always sounded good in words but which have never been implemented. And there is no attempt to explain why they have not.

The real explanation is that ANC government policies have never been based on manifesto promises. As Carol Paton cynically remarks in the staunchly pro-capitalist Business Day, the manifesto commitments are “recycled ideas that have never been implemented before because they can’t be… In the face of the impossibilities of the manifesto, hard realities loom. Six weeks from now, finance minister Tito Mboweni must present his budget under the most difficult set of fiscal circumstances since 1994.”

Mboweni is the public face of the real architects of government policy – big business, global financial institutions and credit rating agencies. And it is successive governments’ capitulation to their demands, which first appeared in the GEAR Plan in 1996 and continued into the National Development Plan (NDP), which still looms large in the manifesto, which explain why these manifest promises have never been kept.

All these promises are not only recycled but also sufficiently vague for the government to escape from any real action.

On jobs:
The NDP set a target of creating 11 million jobs by 2030, which would mean 550 000 every year, almost double this manifesto’s pledge to “create an extra 275,000 jobs each year by boosting local demand for goods, investing more in mining, manufacturing and agriculture and expanding export markets”.

This ambition to create 275 000 annually is rather pathetic in the light of the challenges we face. It provides further evidence of stagnation. As Neil Coleman observed recently, from 2010 to 2018 an average of 300 000 jobs per annum were created or 2.6 million. But in the same period unemployment rose from 7.4 million to 9.5 million because of new entrants in the labour market, who were not absorbed.

On land
The manifesto tells us nothing about how the historical theft of land from the African majority will be reversed, and how the Freedom Charter’s call for the land to be shared among those who work it will be realised. It even ignores the reality that the constitution does not actually need to be amended allow land to be expropriated without compensation.

On corruption

“We are committed to consolidating our resolve to crack down on corruption and state capture involving the public and private sectors, including collusion, price-fixing, tender fraud, bribery, illicit financial flows, illegal imports and misuse of tax havens. We will comprehensively fight corruption, combining both prevention and punishment” says the manifesto.

About time too! But how seriously can we take this pledge when on the platform of the manifesto launch rally sat some those most implicated in the very corruption the manifesto condemns? This shows that they do not take seriously the devastating effect of the theft of public resources.

On crime

Conveniently and consistent with a deliberate strategy to hide the reality of South Africans, the manifesto is mum with the horrifying crime stats issued by the Minister of Police last year.
We now know that 20,336 people were murdered between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2018 – which means 57 people are killed every day, an increase of 6.9% over the previous year.  South Africa remains one of the ten most murderous countries in the world.

The number of women murdered increased even faster, by 11%, the number of boys by 20%, and girls by 10%.

39 785 rapes were reported, 109 every day, which is highly likely to be an underestimate given the notoriously low level of reporting and prosecution of this vile crime. 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%.

The commitments look very sound but to any South African in particular members of the working class they are hollow.

On workers’ rights

“We have advanced the rights of workers and protected vulnerable workers through progressive labour legislation. At the same time, relative to full-time employment, we have seen the growth of more precarious forms of work through casualisation and labour brokering” says the manifesto.

But it contains no promise to repeal the laws it has just passed to make it harder for workers, particularly casual workers, to organise, strike and picket to defend their jobs, raise their wages and resist racist and abusive bosses.

The manifesto, in line with President Ramaphosa’s ‘new dawn’, his Jobs Summit and Investment Conference, also calls for consensus between government, business and labour in favour of the very capitalist policies which caused the economic crisis in the first place.

In particular it sets a very dangerous trap for workers, with its idea of “an economy in which all our people have a meaningful stake and from which they can all benefit, which will enable workers to own stakes in the companies they work for and share in the profits”.

This is an attempt to cause divisions with the workforce. They hope that workers who own shares in their employers’ company will have divided loyalties and put their interests as shareholders before those as workers. This will weaken the collective strength of the organised workers and open them all up to attack and exploitation, from which share-holder workers will suffer just as much as the others.

Our message to our members and our class for the 2019 election year is to mobilise mass support for a campaign that will include:

  • Special Provincial Shop Steward Councils
  • People’s Assemblies in every town and rural areas to unite organised workers with the unemployed, the workers in the informal economy, environmental activists, and homeless campaigners with the rest of the marginalised.
  • A massive demonstration in Cape Town on Budget Day on 20 February, with mass meetings throughout the country to mobilise for a People’s Budget and to reject a ‘business as usual’ budget that will only deepen the misery for the poor majority.
  • A two-day general strike on 26–27 March 2019, which will be a total shut-down and an occupation of cities and towns by the unemployed and the employed, the homeless, the landless, the property-less, etc. It will not be a SAFTU strike or an organized workers’ strike but a strike by the poor majority of South Africans. We shall occupy the streets from the poor townships and march to the city centres and sleep there overnight. We will remain in the cities until the government meets our demands.
  • Mass May Day rallies to unite all workers, employed or unemployed. But the May Day celebration of workers will not be limited to only the 1st of May but it will continue throughout the year.

We are calling on all trade unions, all working class formations and other ordinary South Africans to join the campaign, which seeks to unite unions, progressive civil society and the rest of the working class formations, including religious formations, the middle strata and small businesses, taxi operators and drivers.

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