Every citizen is free to make political choices, which includes the right to form a political party; to participate in the activities of, or recruit members for, a political party; and to campaign for a political party or cause. – Section 19, SA Constitution.
When legitimate dissent becomes a crime then we have lost the very essence of our democracy. Dissent is not treason. And that’s the message that we as the citizens of our country need to give to our leaders and rulers. The expulsion of NUMSA from the federation is a crossroads not just for COSATU, but for our country as a whole.
The extraordinary decision to boot NUMSA from COSATU calls for a deep reflection, analysis and evaluation on the state of our nation. What is the road ahead? Do we have clarity of purpose to forge a forward path of shared peace, prosperity and openness? Or will we soon descend into a fragmented and authoritarian state, driven by political and economic elites?
Workers have always joined trade unions to protect their interests. As the founding national office-bearers of COSATU, we had differences but we never divided workers. We have always treated our positions in leadership as the guardians of workers’ unity.
COSATU itself was the result of tireless and painstaking work by thousands of cadres, many of whom sacrificed their jobs, suffered detention and torture, and even gave their lives. We are talking about the lives of a key constituency in the fabric of society, not a deck of political playing cards with two jokers. To have 54 leaders take a decision to expel NUMSA and to irreparably wound a key public institution of over 2 million members is unforgivable.
In today’s South Africa, I see institution after institution undermined. I see the inflammatory language used by those in power and their sycophantic subordinates as they demonise and dehumanise their opponents. I see political expediency trump serving the people.
COSATU was always more than a labour federation. It was created as an important outlet for voicing the hopes, grievances and aspirations of many of those feeling excluded or marginalised from our democracy.
Those who masterminded this betrayal know this. But their vision is clouded by their own myopia.
Already the social fabric of our country is tearing under the stress of wide-scale municipal protests over corruption and non-delivery of water, sanitation, refuse removal and other basic services. Most are alienated from their leaders, whom they see as disconnected from their day-to-day challenges. They have begun to lose trust in our democracy. The majority of young people, after 12 years of education, have few skills, no jobs and are unlikely to have a job in their lifetime.
The reaction by those in power, an increased militarisation of our security forces, reminds me of the tightening laager mentality of our terrible past. The consequences are often tragic, as they were in Marikana. Using a blunt panga to cut a pound of butter failed under Apartheid. It will fail now too.
We cannot go back to that. A growing political arrogance is no answer to legitimate grievances and it will only bring a further political instability. Now we’ve seen exposed the sorry state of organisation under COSATU, to say nothing of the rest of civil society. As investor confidence drops and the country’s already dim prospects grow even dimmer, our economic downturn is even more obvious.
The building blocks of COSATU were based on migrant workers. It was the blue-collar workers, living and working in brutal conditions, who built the labour movement. The post-1994 scenario and the growth of the public sector unions have tilted the balance of power towards the white-collar workers. The mining and manufacturing sectors have plummeted. All of these factors have created the tensions and contradictions we are now seeing playing out.
I was part of the leadership that led COSATU into an alliance with the ANC and SACP. We had a clear objective. We were making a commitment to a profound transformation of the cheap labour system and its attendant diseases of joblessness, poverty, gender violence and inequality. The strong, determined, committed COSATU struck at the heart of Apartheid. In all my discussions with comrades such as OR Tambo, John Nkadimeng, Chris Hani, Nelson Mandela and Joe Slovo, there was an explicit commitment to the political independence of COSATU. They worked tirelessly in building the unity of the labour movement.
I see little evidence of that political leadership today.
There is growing foment in our land. The people in our townships, rural areas and squatter camps are bitter that democracy has not delivered the fruits that they see a tiny elite enjoying.
There was a time when the COSATU shop steward was a community leader and an education activist. That time is no more.
I think the call for a Special National Congress is an important one to resolve the current impasse. I hope that COSATU will answer that call.
This moment offers us the opportunity for a realignment of unions in one new federation, which has the goal of serving the actual interests of the organised workers and is independent of any political party.
History judges harshly those whose only claim to legitimacy is to rest on the laurels of past glory. Lest we forget: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it, in relative opacity.” – Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth. DM
Watch Pauli van Wyk’s Cat Play The Piano Here!
No, not really. But now that we have your attention, we wanted to tell you a little bit about what happened at SARS.
Tom Moyane and his cronies bequeathed South Africa with a R48-billion tax shortfall, as of February 2018. It's the only thing that grew under Moyane's tenure... the year before, the hole had been R30.7-billion. And to fund those shortfalls, you know who has to cough up? You - the South African taxpayer.
It was the sterling work of a team of investigative journalists, Scorpio’s Pauli van Wyk and Marianne Thamm along with our great friends at amaBhungane, that caused the SARS capturers to be finally flushed out of the system. Moyane, Makwakwa… the lot of them... gone.
But our job is not yet done. We need more readers to become Maverick Insiders, the friends who will help ensure that many more investigations will come. Contributions go directly towards growing our editorial team and ensuring that Daily Maverick and Scorpio have a sustainable future. We can’t rely on advertising and don't want to restrict access to only those who can afford a paywall subscription. Membership is about more than just contributing financially – it is about how we Defend Truth, together.
So, if you feel so inclined, and would like a way to support the cause, please join our community of Maverick Insiders.... you could view it as the opposite of a sin tax. And if you are already Maverick Insider, tell your mother, call a friend, whisper to your loved one, shout at your boss, write to a stranger, announce it on your social network. The battle for the future of South Africa is on, and you can be part of it.
"The real problem of humanity is the following: we have paleolithic emotions; medieval institutions; and god-like technology" ~ Edward Wilson