The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) notes with outrage the Cabinet reshuffle announced by President Ramaphosa. It proves beyond doubt that the ANC is now terminally sick, divided and incapable of offering any solutions to the monumental problems facing the country and especially the working class and the poor.
It vindicates SAFTU’s view that Ramaphosa’s appointment has changed nothing. He has reshuffled names but remains rooted in the corrupt and pro-business ANC led by his predecessor. In particular it is incredible that he has appointed David Mabuza, as deputy president, and therefore potential president, who has for years been implicated in of some of the most serious crimes when Premier of Mpumalanga.
These crimes included alleged bribery in the awarding of contracts for World Cup facilities, threatening and spying on journalists and drawing up a hit-list of political opponents, of whom at least 15 were assassinated while no-one was arrested for any of these murders. Journalist Mzilikazi wa Afrika, author of Nothing Left to Steal, who blew the whistle on these crimes, revealed that one of his informants told him that ‘there is a R1 million reward for anybody who can kill you’. Yet not once did Mabuza condemn or even express any concern about these serious crimes being committed under his watch.
SAFTU welcomes the dismissal of discredited ministers Lynne Brown, Mosebenzi Zwane, Des van Rooyen, David Mahlobo, Bongani Bongo (who had only been in his position as minister of state security for four months), Nathi Nhleko, Fikile Mbalula, Faith Muthambi, Joe Maswanganyi, and Hlengiwe Mkhize. However, several ministers implicated in corruption or incompetence have just been moved from one department to another. It is a monstrous insult to women that Bathabile Dlamini, a Minister who has brought the social grant distribution system to the brink of collapse, which could hit the poorest of the poor, mainly women, should be appointed as minister for women.
Ramaphosa has moved Malusi Gigaba back to Home Affairs, one of the departments in which he allegedly began his involvement with the Guptas by fast-tracking their applications for SA citizenship.
Thulas Nxesi, who stoutly defended Zuma’s overspending on his Nkandla house, has been reshuffled back to the Public Works department he headed then. Pro-capitalist supporters Pravin Gordhan and Nhlanhla Nene have been put in charge of the key economic portfolios of Public Enterprises and Finance, a sure sign that Ramaphosa will continue with business as usual, with the priority to appeal the credit ratings agencies to upgrade the economy and convince investors that their investments in SA will be profitable.
For the working class and the poor this reshuffle offers nothing but more job losses, deepening poverty and ever-widening inequality. This had already been foreshadowed in the scandalous Budget speech which imposed a cut in living standards through the 1% increase in VAT and spending cuts in real terms in vital public services.
SAFTU has been proved 100% correct that the crisis facing South Africans was never just one of Jacob Zuma, glad though we are to see him gone, nor of the Guptas. It is a crisis in the whole ANC leadership of which multi-billionaire Ramaphosa was a leading figure, who never lifted a finger to expose and denounce the looting of public resources since 2009 and backed the neoliberal National Development Plan.
His reshuffle has been exposed as nothing more than a clumsy attempt to paper over the cracks in the NEC while pushing ahead with a pro-capitalist, free-market economic strategy.
It is now more urgent than ever to build an independent workers’ party to challenge the capitalist system and the ANC factions who now serve its interests.
• The South African Federation of Trade Unions pledges its full support for the striking workers at Gupta-owned mines who are not being paid. About 2,000 workers, who have not been paid any wages in February, marched to the company offices and then downed tools at the Hendrina mine on Wednesday 21 February, after the company’s COO told workers that he was not sure if they would be paid on Friday.
This was followed by news that another Gupta-linked mine in Mpumalamnga – Koornfontein coal mine – has failed to pay its employees’ salaries and that they would strike from Monday 26 February.
Workers at both mines have vowed not to return to work until their wages have been paid. To make matters even worse, their jobs are at risk.
Optimum coal mine is being taken to court by another mining company, Derko Mining and Exploration, in an effort to have the mine either placed in business rescue or liquidated. The company owes service providers over R60 million. The mine could also be shut down over its failure to operate a community water desalination plant, which is a requirement for its mining licence, in line with a requirement for mining companies to meet social and labour obligations to maintain their permits.
It is intolerable that mine-workers, their families and communities are being punished for the crimes of the Guptas and their cronies in Eskom, who have looted billions of rands by exploiting the workers who risk their lives and health mining the coal for Eskom’s power stations. Now the workers face unemployment and their families and local communities face poverty. All money owed to the workers – and the cost of keeping the mines open – must be recovered by the Assets Forfeiture Unit from those who embezzled it, through fraudulent contracts between Eskom and the companies which supplied its coal.
This episode provides further justification for SAFTU’s demand for the nationalisation of the mines, in line with the Freedom Charter’s call that ‘The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole’. The Gupta brothers are not the only capitalists who have been exploiting their workers, manipulating contracts, damaging the environment and ruining the lives of the local communities.
They are just more blatant in the way they go about it. They are all in the business only to amass huge profits for their companies and massive incomes for themselves. Mining is a vital part of any country’s economy and more so in South Africa because of its central role in the economy. It must no longer be a source of wealth for a tiny elite of mine-owners but be owned and democratically controlled by the workers, and with far stricter health and safety conditions. The industry must benefit rather than blight communities and play its part in transforming and reindustrialising the economy and improving the lives of all South Africans.
• Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) members have gone on strike at the Optimum Coal Mine in Mpumalanga due to the non-payment of salaries.
The Gupta-owned mine has failed to remunerate over 2,000 of its employees and owes service providers over R60 million. Workers belonging to the National Union of Mineworkers shut down operation there last week.
Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa says government, which is the mine’s main client through Eskom, should intervene immediately.
He also says they’re sceptical about the appointment of Gwede Mantashe as the mineral resources minister. ‘That is not the office of the ANC or the office of the NUM, it’s the office of the government. So maybe his behaviour might change but we are quite sceptical.’