Cosatu demands a labour-absorbing economic growth path, the reversal of the VAT hike and an end to state capture and corruption.
Hundreds of workers and members from affiliates of the Congress of South African Trade Unions marched to Parliament in what the federation’s first deputy president, Michael Shingange, said was “part of a rolling mass action against the effects of the economic crisis.” Coming a day before the budget speech, Cosatu delivered memorandums of demands on unemployment, job losses and the Eskom crisis to Parliament and to the Minerals Council.
“Over 10-million people are unemployed and both the public and private sector are unrelenting in their decimation of jobs,” said Shingange. According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), South Africa’s official unemployment rate decreased by just 0.4 of a percentage point to 27.1% in the final three months of 2018.
Shingange said that the government would not be able to reach the target it set in 2012 when it adopted the National Development Plan that aimed to reduce unemployment to 14% by 2020 and to 6% by 2030.
Mining companies last year announced intentions to retrench workers. Business Day reported that Goldfields are going to retrench 1,560 at its South Deep operation in Gauteng while Lonmin and Impala revealed that they plan to retrench close to 25,000 workers over the next three years.
Speaking on behalf of the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) in the Western Cape, Muhammad Khalid Sayed said that they would not allow retrenchments in state-owned enterprises as they are not meant to make profit but to assist the development of the state.
“The fight for job creation must also go to the private sector as they make a lot of profit which they could use to create jobs but they find ways to avoid tax and put their money in tax havens. The private sector is a breeding ground for corruption, tax avoidance and the corporate tax reduction has not resulted in job creation,” said Shingange.
Shingange said they support the Zondo Commission and that “all mentioned politicians must be removed from office, prosecuted and have their assets attached.” Cosatu also wants company managers and the directors who have mismanaged funds to be arrested.
“We want the Treasury department to sign the anti-corruption bill that they have been dilly-dalling on and demand that workers be included on the board of the Public Investment Corporation,” he said.
Cosatu is against the unbundling of Eskom as they feel that it would pave a way for privatisation. “The unbundling of Eskom would lead to job losses and high electricity prices that would be unaffordable to most workers,” said Shingange.
The secretary of the South African Communist Party in the Western Cape, Benson Ngqentsu, said that they are also opposed to the unbundling of Eskom and they will fight its privatisation. “We are committed to saving Eskom but it cannot be saved to the detriment of workers,” he said.
“We want to know who are the beneficiaries of the IPPs [independent power producers],” said Ngqentsu.
According to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the president is pursuing the privatisation of Eskom and the inclusion of IPPs in the country’s energy mix because his brother-in law, Patrice Motsepe, and members of the ANC elite, stand to benefit from it.
“We need a clear diagnosis on what happened at Eskom. We can’t allow a one size fits all approach. Eskom is the fuel of this country so we can’t allow it to fail,” said Shingange.