“What I fear is that the liberators emerge as elitists who drive around in Mercedes Benz’s and use the resources of this country to live and palaces and to gather riches” Chris Hani

The lockdown found the working class in a very dire, disastrous and deplorable state, caused by the failures and crisis of the inhumane capitalist system, characterised by the dehumanising level of poverty, inequalities and ever rising unemployment rate. They have spent their entire pay cheques and were looking forward to the next, the obvious skew and still racial pattern of haves and have nots, could just be seen when those who could afford lined up big stores and filled up their trolleys not only with the essentials but any luxuries that could ease them during the days of lockdown.

The relaxation of the lockdown’s terms and conditions of regulations during the social grants pay period demonstrating not only how many people are depended on these grants but also the reality that the working class truly live from hands to mouth and survives from day by day by a grain of grace

The now extended 21 days, beyond and possible to return to an abnormal normality – The experiences of CHINA and its aggression in confronting the COVID 19 Pandemic, if anything is to go by the news reports, demonstrate the need for a serious willing and committed government to put off the further spread of this virus, the discipline of the Chinese people and cooperative nature of corporations is noteworthy, so is the case after-recovery and economic revival and boosting efforts. The ITALIAN, USA and UK situations with the worsening situations on the other hands shows the fatal penalty payable for lack of decisiveness on the leadership.

Whereas we support the intended objectives of the lock down mindful of the fact that the President didn’t help to layout a tangible plan and sets of solution to the challenges experience during the past 14 days of the experienced by workers and working class going into a further 21 days under the lock down.

The Period Building Up To The Lockdown and the first 14 Days

Little was known or could be anticipated by the South African workers and the working class community during the early weeks of March 2020 and continued with their daily lives and routines as usual, until rumours which turned into a reality when the President announced a 21 days lockdown from the 26 March – 16th April 2020. This happened with no or little consultations with key stakeholders and little could be shared with constituencies than to convey what the President and his Government and the command council.

The series of various ministerial sectoral regulations got resisted and in certain instances exposed the inconsiderate nature of those imposing them or flatly would likely not address the issue /s at hand or just plainly ambiguous and may not be enforceable. In spite all of these shortcomings the SAFTU have supported the president, his government and the command council to achieve their main twin goals as we understand it, to flattened the curve and keep everyone else free and safe from the COVID19 infections.

Beyond these the Federation have been quiet critical of the direct issues emanating and not addressed or equally given attention affecting workers, both at home and at various workplaces; those employed and unemployed. These ranges from our firm call that this lockdown is not a strike action whatsoever and therefore the known principle of NO WORK NO PAY does not employ. NO worker should lose a penny of their remuneration as a result of this lockdown, NO annual leave or unpaid leave should be imposed on workers over the 21 days period, this payment is NOT a loan or advance salary to workers and post lockdown none should repay it.

We made specific demands and called on both private and public sector employers to respect the lockdown and that those now defined as “essential services” shouldn’t abuse this categorisation and those not declared as such should refrain from “fitting – in” into such, the provision of meals and paid up transport between home and work; provision of appropriate and adequate PPEs, where critical provision of nearby accommodation.

To this end the economic situation of our country and the impact on the lives of the majority of our society have worsen and with little possibility of recovery. Just in the dawn of the lockdown, MOODYs downgraded our ailing economy to a junk status and some of the SOEs, two weeks later, during the 1st week or so of the lockdown FITCH joined the party and went even on a serious rampage putting all four big banks, almost all SOEs on a junk status as well, this was a real pinch of SALT in a fresh wound.

The federation is on record cautioning and demanding that government should stop to be dictated to by the Rating Agencies, IMFs and Big Businesses and equally stop all the attempts to please them but forge ahead with a transformative agenda that will take forward the country’s needs, people’s interests and its general developmental agenda. We reject and will continue to reject any view to consider approaching World Bank or IMF for any loan whatsoever, for this institution have not been of any help but continues to deepen crisis and self-trap countries future development if anything. We reject the Tito Mbowenis’ daylight dream

We have noted the Solidarity Fund and the contributions made by the “BIG 3” of a R1 Billion each, we hold a strong view that they could do more to help and should do so not as a charity case. We actually believe that we are right more than ever before that the government should use this state of disaster to pass a WEALTH TAX without hesitation to these fat cats, if true solidarity is to be realised.

We have noted some few Boards CEOs, Senior Managements who took some salary deductions to ensure that those at the lower end could get their earnings. This to us is nothing other than “guilt – feeling gesture” we have stated many times that they earn an absurdly high salary whilst workers are taking home typically an unjust proportion of an income. We welcome the free life cover of worth of R4bn pledged by the OLD Mutual group for the health worker to get in an event of death arising from the COVID19.  – We call on banks and financial service provider not to impose any interest rates during the same period

We FIRMLY maintain our principled view that no worker should lose any earning and the relief through the UIF is welcomed more to assisted those workers and employers who may not be able to pay part or whole of the workers’ earning, in fact our attitude is that the employer as the premium payer for and on behalf of the workers should pay the worker his or her full packaged and then in turn the employer should claim from the UIF.  The DEL should make a clear spelled out regulations that those working should be given an allowance

SAFTU noted the pay cuts by the President and his cabinet at least, for the duration of the lockdown make a call for a special dispensation and granting of the farmworkers and domestic workers the legislated and now increased national minimum wage. We also herewith pay our condolences to those workers who lost their lives yesterday in the Western Cape and wish those injured a full recovery from the accident that could have certainly been avoided

The FEDERATION, wish to record its unequivocal support to its affiliated unions and others in the public sector demanding government to firstly ensure safety of those public servants working during this lockdown, we certainly support the now inherent right to refuse to work in an unsafe working situation during this COVID-19 Pandemic by those in the health care space.

SAFTU Further, in the strongest term, warns government to implement the last leg of the three year collective agreement and give increase to the public servants, failing which we will take any legal action at our disposal including and not limited to exercising our rights to strike

The Informal sector and trades in particular remains quiet confused at what process to follow to acquire the so called permits under the lockdown but even if they were to get such it remains an equal mammoth task to sell their products under the lock down

Karl Marx: The accumulation of wealth at one pole is therefore at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil slavery, ignorance brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole, i.e., on the side of the class that produces its own products in the form of capital
The devastating social state of our working class and need for delivery of basic services without failure is now paramount. From access to clean water and sanitations, to decent and human shelter, with proper quality healthcare, provision nutritious meals and for that ensure continued education and development of our people. These can’t be suspended

Amongst others, we have certainly received lots of complaints around a number of issues and have also noticed the reported number of GBV cases during the past 14 lock – down, we call on the police to take a pay particular attention. It is obvious that due to the historical and at time seriously challenged family set ups a new arrangements is imposed and therefore calls for an unprepared for realities. The family unit as a structure in our societies in a capitalist system manifest the suffering and oppression of gender inequalities more so to the women and children.

In conclusion we wish to thank those heath care workers, those safety and public order police, the deployed army, the sales merchandising workers, the cashiers, waste pickers, the security officers and all those who are now the ESSENTIAL services workers and the bloated and extremely highly paid management structured proven useless in real crisis or disaster

“As long as the economy is dominated by an unelected, privileged few, the case for socialism will exist. Chris Hani

We again call on each and every one to be safe and observe the preventative measures

Statement issued by South African Federation of Trade Unions

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