End of the year message from SAFTU President Mac Chavalala
It’s been a long year of hard work to rebuild the trade union movement. From humble beginnings we have laboured hard to give birth to a vibrant, independent but not apolitical federation that is democratic and campaigning.
Our federation is now a household name. Loved by its members and hated by its foes, but something everyone has still had to take note of, that has given a new hope to millions of workers crying out for a trade union movement that can respond to the deepening exploitation of the working class.
We demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that we are a force to reckon with when we mobilised millions of workers to reject the slavery National Minimum Wage and drive to disarm workers by making it nearly impossible to exercise the constitutionally guaranteed right to strike.
On 25 April, following years of demobilisation of the working class, we burst on to the scene, shocking everyone with our sheer ability to mobilise workers who have been long spoiling for a fight with the ruling class but who have been betrayed by a leadership captured by the ruling class.
25 April was a clear demonstration that our people are angry that democracy has simply left them behind. They are agitating at the fact that they have become the face of worsening unemployment, poverty and inequalities. They know very well that this country would have made strides towards a better life for all if the ruling elite did not allow corruption, illicit cash outflows, price transfers and illicit trades to run out of hand.
The living standards of all South Africans, but more so the poorest of the poor, are under unprecedented attack. The tiny minority continues to amass wealth at shocking rates that have contributed to making our country the most unequal society in the world.
These contradictory processes of development are what made a worldwide respected intellectual from India, Arundhati Roy, to use the metaphor of a ‘truck’ to describe the contradictory social order of development in India. This metaphor could easily be applied to the South African conditions. Roy points out that contemporary India is characterised by a kind of ‘schizophrenic’ progress:
“It is as though the people of India have been rounded up and loaded onto two convoys of trucks (a huge one and a tiny little one) that have set off resolutely in opposite directions. The tiny convoy is on its way to a glittering destination somewhere near the top of the world. The other convoy just melts into the darkness and disappears.” (Roy 2001, p 189)
The working class is melting into darkness and disappearing in contemporary South Africa. We have the sixth worst unemployment rate in the world. When it comes to youth unemployment we have become the worst in the whole world. More than 50% of our population is trapped in degrading poverty with 26 million of the 57 million unable to afford at least one meal a day.
Jobs are not only disappearing but the increasing number of remaining workers are seeing their jobs being made more precarious than ever before, through outsourcing, using labour brokers, redefining previously permanent jobs as casual, and using the Expanded Public Works to pay workers peanuts with no benefits.
“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it.”
This is what is inscribed on the grave of Karl Marx, quoting his own words in theEleven Theses on Feuerbach
As a Federation inspired by Marxism and Leninism we have taken these undying words to heart. The coming year will be very different from all the previous years.
We have already agreed to join hands with 147 other organisations that formed part of the Working Class Summit we helped convene in July 2018. We have already recognised the critical need to coordinate our struggles into a single response of the working class. We are no longer going to be fighting in silos.
The general strike to be held on 26-27 March shall not be a strike of SAFTU fighting alone. This is going to be a total shutdown that will unite employed and unemployed workers, the environmental groups, the homeless masses in both urban and rural areas, the landless, the propertyless and small traders involved in survival modes of production.
I urge every cadre of the working class beyond SAFTU to familiarise themselves with this programme.
I appeal to all of you who have taken your well-deserved break after such a difficult year to fill up those reserve tanks and be ready for a mother of all battles against the class enemy.
I urge you to unite more than ever before and prepare properly for this all-round assault of the status quo that has pauperised millions of our people.
We urge you, whilst resting, to remember there can be no real rest for us until we have defeated the very system that reproduces poverty, ignorance and want – the barbaric capitalist system. Whilst you going around during the festive season, speak to your families, friends and your communities. Tell them that a new struggle has been launched to demand the total emancipation of the poor.
I wish you safe travel as you visit your loved ones. Please comrades obey the rules of the road and do not allow anyone to put your lives at risk. There have been 767 fatalities on South African roads in the first 18 days of December. Almost 800 have died, with more maimed and recovering in hospitals with broken limbs, some of which will be amputated. This is an increase of 16% on the same period in last year. The SAFTU deputy chairperson of our Free State steering committee, comrade Zamile Booi is amongst those who have perished.
We send our deepest condolences to the family of comrade Booi and indeed all those who have died. We wish a speedy recovery to all who have been injured, who are recuperating from our hospitals and who are already facing stress.
Let me also take this opportunity to wish our Treasurer, comrade Motshwari Lecogo, a speedy recovery. She has been admitted in the ICU complaining about short breath. Comradely yours
Mac Chavalala SAFTU President