Numsa To ‘Swamp’ The Streets Of Durban In A Massive May Day Demonstration!

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NUMSA members during the national engineering pay strike in July last year
NUMSA members during the national engineering pay strike in July last year

THE National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa in KwaZulu-Natal (KzN) working closely with other like-minded and class orientated COSATU affiliates, will swamp the streets of Durban, Friday 1st May 2015, as part of May Day celebrations.

The planned march is a break from the paralysed COSATU’s traditions of holding mass rallies, sponsored by the neoliberal capitalist and fading ANC government in order for the butchers of the working class in power today to be given unlimited platforms to poison the minds of the workers and the poor.

The ‘Red’ march in Durban will be symbolic, given the fact that the radical and militant trade union movement in South Africa owes its revolutionary origins to the heroic 1972 Durban strike; and revolutionary formation of COSATU in Curries Fountain Stadium, 30 years ago.

The march will also connect South Africa’s workers’ struggles, with other workers of the world, who will be engaged in similar actions in their respective countries, against capitalist barbarity and its neoliberalism.

The march action will be used to submit socio-economic demands of workers, as resolved by the watershed last COSATU National Congress in 2012.

It will be targeting government and big business, since both are responsible for the socio-economic crisis killing the workers and the poor.

Among the key demands will be to stop load shedding; ban labour brokering; stop corruption; stop casualisation and mass retrenchments; nationalisation of SASOL; nationalisation of South African Reserve Bank and other related revolutionary demands.

Shop Steward Councils and General Meetings will be held in each and every corner of the province of KwaZulu-Natal to mobilise workers for the planned march and protest action. Even workers belonging to other federations and independent unions will be mobilised.

The time has long arrived for workers to unite beyond the logos or t-shirt colours of their unions, and collectively fight against injustices in workplace; poor service delivery in the communities and neoliberal embedded policies that are eroding revolutionary gains achieved by workers over many years of struggle.

Massive mobilisation is currently underway in various Locals to garner support and massive attendance of workers during the march.

NUMSA and other union leaders will address Shop Stewards Councils and General Meetings.

An application to march has been submitted to the eThekwini Municipality and their response is awaited.

• On Wednesday 25 March 2015, about 21,000 workers, the majority belonging to NUMSA, embarked on a protest action to highlight their plight or grievances at Medupi Power Station, Lephalale, Limpopo province.

The action has resulted into the total closure of the Medupi Power station, as a direct response by Eskom (Electricity Supply Commission), to quell workers’ action. A Memorandum of Demands was submitted to Eskom by our members.

NUMSA is convinced that the workers’ reasonable demands can be resolved by Eskom, without any undue disruption of work.

Already these workers have delivered on their mandate in building a Power Station, so that it can provide the necessary and much needed power to the national grid.

This was done in the best interest of the ailing economy and poor consumers, amidst the scandalous load-shedding that has led to our country being downgraded by rating agencies and neoliberal market institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

These are the key demands by workers;

• Completion bonus should be given to all workers, not only to senior Managers;

• Retrenchments of workers should be halted with immediate effect; and

• An end to racialised evictions of workers from their subsidised accommodation. We call on Eskom to respond to the demands of workers.

The failure by Eskom to respond to these genuine and legitimate demands of workers, will force the union to escalate its organisational muscle and power until these demands are met. The union will be compelled to pull-out its members into a full blown action, including workers at Kusile Power Station, in Mpumalanga.

Meanwhile, NUMSA is alarmed and dismayed by the recent developments at Eskom where the new CEO of Eskom has been suspended with three of his senior executives.

The recklessness and unceremonious suspensions of the four executives at Eskom have simply added more fuel to the already existing public perception that Eskom is riddled with deep-seated systemic, structural, organisational, administrative and financial crises.

The more NUMSA reflects on the new developments at Eskom the more convinced it becomes that the decision to suspend the four senior executives was reckless, without due regard to the damage to the public image of Eskom the decision would cause, and more dangerously, the suspensions are completely oblivious to the centrality of Eskom to the economy and society of South Africa.

NUMSA’s statement says: ‘We have scoured our brains and have found no valid organisational or administrative reasons why Chair of the Eskom Board Zola Tsotsi and his colleagues should have suspended the four executives.

‘In class terms, we are convinced that the answer for the reckless decision to suspend the four lies somewhere in the labyrinth of factional class interests that are ruthlessly competing to secure, for themselves, the control of South African energy sector, post-1994.

‘We find it extremely disturbing and thoroughly mind-blowing that the Minister of Public Enterprises – Lynne Brown – under whom Eskom falls – must claim ignorance of the true causes of the crisis at Eskom, and that she should support the suspensions of the four executives at Eskom.

‘Mr Zola Tsotsi, Chairperson of the Eskom Board surely must know that he cannot act as investigator, jury and judge in his own cause. As Chair of the Eskom Board for more than four years now, Tsotsi must know as he should, all about the administrative, financial, commercial and technical causes of the crises at Eskom.

‘If he has not discovered this in the past four years, how much longer does he want to understand the causes of the crippling crises at Eskom?

‘Now Eskom credit rating has been reduced to junk status, thanks be to Zola Tsotsi and his board, in large part. At NUMSA, we remain convinced that all this plays perfectly into the hands of powerful economic and financial factions both in the government and in the private sector who have never stopped fighting to wrestle energy control from the state by privatising Eskom and the entire South African energy regime.

‘We view the machinations that tend to confirm that Eskom is badly managed by the state, and the current reckless decisions to ensure the downgrade of Eskom’s credit ratings are all ploys to fast-track the privatisation of Eskom.

‘We reject with full class contempt all these crass private capitalist materialistic machinations.

‘We demand an end to all load shedding immediately. We demand the cessation of all manoeuvres to privatise Eskom. We demand sanity at Eskom.

‘We demand the withdrawal of the new electricity tariffs which will simply destroy jobs, increase misery in working class households and reduce access to electricity for working class households. The crises at Eskom must never be transferred to the working class!

‘In the long term, we know that only the complete destruction of the white racist-dominated capitalist economic system and society and its replacement by an economy and society properly constructed to service all South Africans equally can resolve the systemic and structural causes of the crisis at Eskom. Eskom in its current shape and form remains an apartheid relic.’

NUMSA holds the view that a full, independent and genuine investigation of Eskom and the entire South African energy and industrial regimes, with a view to replacing this regime with a socialist and democratic energy regime, are essential and necessary if South Africa must have an energy regime capable of servicing its needs, post-1994.

Such an investigation will need the full support and participation of the working class and a broad range of representatives of South African economy and society. It cannot be created by those who are in fact at the heart of the current crisis!

In all past restructuring efforts of Eskom including after 1994, workers employed at this state entity have never been properly and fully consulted on the best policies to reconstruct and rebuild the country’s generator and distributor of energy.

Meanwhile, everyone knows that it is these workers who work the system every day and who know the inner workings of Eskom, and therefore can offer valuable input and ideas on. NUMSA demands that workers of Eskom be fully involved in all the investigations and work to turn around the power utility.

Eskom needs transparent, accountable, and democratically constituted management. Eskom needs the necessary state resources to expand its infrastructure and meet the real needs of all the people of South Africa in general and the working class in particular. This cannot, and will never happen under the current neoliberal capitalist policies of the ANC government.

Should load shedding not stop, NUMSA reserves the right to call for a national strike, and concludes:

‘We repeat our political position to the crisis at Eskom: we demand the full implementation of the Freedom Charter which demands that coal must be nationalised. Coal mines must be nationalised especially as they are a major source of high costs for Eskom. Eskom must remain a public entity. We reject and will fight any measures to privatise Eskom.

‘Massaging apartheid structures and systems will simply not do! It is time for the working class to organise for a socialist South Africa!’