THE South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is not joining in the euphoria over President Ramaphosa’s completion of 100 days as President of South Africa. This ‘Ramaphoria’ is misplaced.
SAFTU continues: The federation welcomed the resignation of former President Zuma, but immediately warned that the new president would not usher in a ‘new dawn’ for the working class and the poor majority of South Africans.
‘Zuma may have gone,’ said SAFTU, ‘but the African National Congress remains in power, and they cannot now pretend that he was the only problem. ANC ministers, MPs, NEC members and Cyril Ramaphosa all share responsibility for the country’s disaster. Only a handful of them raised any red flags during the nine years in which Zuma was committing all the crimes he is now being charged with.’
100 days later, SAFTU welcomes the first steps that the government and NPA have taken to prosecute those involved in corruption, and the restructuring of the boards of state-owned enterprises which have been bankrupted by corruption and mismanagement. On economic policy however, the federation has been proved right. The economic problems, which worsened over Zuma’s years in office, have become even worse.
Jobs are disappearing daily. Unemployment is at 27.7%, the 6th highest level in the world. By the more realistic expanded level, which includes those no longer looking for work, it is 36.7%.
The proposed outsourcing of electricity generation to independent power producers (IPPs) amounts to handing over public assets to white multinational companies, threatening thousands more jobs in Eskom.
Just this week, AngloGold Ashanti said it intended to cut 2,000 jobs to shrink its support structure after selling and closing mines in SA. A World Bank report says that 54% of the population survives on R17 a day and 52% of young people are jobless. The top 10% of the population earn about 60% of all income and own 95% of all assets. Inequality as measured by the Gini coefficient, which shows the measure of income inequality, ranging from zero for a perfectly equal society to one for a perfectly unequal society, puts SA on 0.63 – the world’s highest.
Yet Ramaphosa has done nothing to tackle this economic and social catastrophe. He has done nothing even to take forward the ANC’s own commitment to pursue radical economic transformation, revive manufacturing industry, beneficiate our mineral wealth and create jobs downstream. Instead, his priority has been to reassure the credit ratings agencies and their big business clients around the world that South Africa is a good place to invest and make money. His first budget raised VAT by 7% and imposed further cuts in real spending on essential services like education and health while cutting taxes for the wealthy.
He has done nothing to tackle his friends in business who, according to the data released by Global Financial Integrity, between 2002 and 2011, illicitly moved out of the country $1,007 billion dollars, i.e. more than a trillion rand. In 2012 alone, the year of the Marikana massacre, SA lost R300 billion in illicit financial flows.
The Davies Tax Committee estimated that aggressive tax planning and profit shifting costs the country a further R50 billion a year. Ramaphosa will never ever tackle this because, as a Director of Lonmin, the butchers of workers of Marikana, he is a beneficiary of this massive theft from the people of our country, which dwarfs all the stealing during the Guptas and Zuma scandals. He has done nothing to end the racist two-tier delivery of services, which delivers top-quality service to the rich, while condemning the poor to squalor.
His main ‘solution’ is for a ‘social compact’ between government, business and labour, which has already led to an agreement to a poverty minimum wage of R20 an hour. He has pioneered new laws to take away workers’ right to strike which are due to be passed by Parliament on 30 May. His job has been made easier by the scandalous role of his friends in the leadership of sweetheart union federations who signed the agreement at Nedlac, which made it easier for the ANC government to push the bills through and claim they have the full support of ‘Labour’.
What the President is doing to workers of this country is the same as that undertaken by Margaret Thatcher in Britain. He will go down in the history as someone who was once a hero of the working class but who once he crossed the class floor launched the most savage attack on workers. After all, Margaret Thatcher was also a worker in the beginning. Not even F.W. de Klerk, the last apartheid ruler would have attempted to emasculate the working class at the time it needed every instrument to fight low wages, worsening unemployment, poverty and inequalities.
It is now clear that the social compact will be a partnership between a chicken and a pig to make breakfast, in which the chicken (the employers) offers to lay eggs and the pig (the workers) donates the bacon, which means that it must be slaughtered. This ‘compact’ will try to force union leaders to act as the government and bosses’ law enforcers and to collaborate in the imposition of policies that will lead to more job losses, lower real wages and austerity budgets.
There will be no fundamental change under a leader who is committed to the capitalist class. He will never accept that the system which has made him so spectacularly rich is the root cause of South Africa’s slide into the catastrophe of unemployment, poverty, inequality and corruption
He will never accept that this system is inherently corrupt and exploitative, based on the theft of the surplus value created by the workers’ labour and the pursuit of quick and big profits and a system with no concern for the workers, consumers, communities and society as a whole.
SAFTU is determined not to make the same mistake that COSATU made after Zuma’s first 100 days in office, when it ‘wholeheartedly congratulated the government led by Comrade President Jacob Zuma on its first 100 days in office’. Those in SAFTU who at the time supported that statement have unreservedly apologised for a serious error in accepting fine words at face value and not looking at the class character of those saying those words.
It soon became evident that Zuma was doing none of the things he had promised and that his government did not ‘steam ahead with its reforming policies over the next 100 days and beyond’ as COSATU then hoped. Instead, his term of office was a disaster for the country and particularly for the working class and the poor majority. He presided over and joined in the plundering of public resources through outrageous levels of corruption, fraud and money-laundering. He brought state-owned enterprises to the brink of insolvency, and reduced the economy to ‘junk’ status.
He implemented no ‘reforming policies’ but continued with the neoliberal economic policies of his predecessors, which were dictated by international financial institutions and their enforcers, the credit ratings agencies. Zuma did not ‘continue to have the full backing of COSATU and its two million members’.
NUMSA, SAFTU’s biggest affiliate, was the first to call for Zuma’s resignation, five years ago in 2013, when it also decided to call for COSATU to end its alliance with the ANC. NUMSA and all those who agreed and or had sympathy to that assessment were then dismissed.
SAFTU has not made the same error with Ramaphosa as COSATU did with Zuma. We stand firmly for a genuinely radical transformation of the economy, based on the demand of the Freedom Charter which said that ‘the national wealth of our country, the heritage of all South Africans, shall be restored to the people’, which the SAFTU founding congress expressed in the demand for ‘the nationalisation of the mineral and manufacturing monopolies, the banks and the land’.
SAFTU is challenging the neoliberal economic policies and austerity programmes that have been intensified by President Ramaphosa. SAFTU is not mourning but mobilising. We call on workers to be in Parliament on 30 May when they pass the Bills that will take the right to strike away whilst entrenching poverty wages and inequality.