Elections 2004: We want an economy growing by jobs not by numbers

Election campaigning to get workers to vote ANC on April 14 is in full swing in workplaces, in provinces and in public places. Read Numsa’s pamphlet on the right as well as reports on various electioneering meetings that have taken place. On page 9, find out about Cosatu’s efforts to make the ANC the ruling party of the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal for the first time.

We want an economy growing by jobs not by numbers

Ex-Cosatu general secretary, Mbhazima Shilowa, was in top form when he addressed a Cosatu regional shop steward council at the Johannesburg City Hall on January 30 this year to garner votes for the ANC.

Shop stewards crammed the hall, occupied chairs, stood in aisles and propped themselves up against walls as their premier gave them his views. “Organise as if we have announced a date for strike action. We will not win an election by believing that the ANC will win,” he told worker delegates. “Cosatu is an organisation of working people, workers have political views,” he said. “I know there are members of IFP, DP, etc. amongst you. And workers will say, ‘I remain a member of PAC but I will vote for the ANC’. And do you know why? It is because it is the only organisation in South Africa with a history and track record of being on the side of the workers.”

He related how the ANC government has eliminated discrimination by equalising old age pensions for black and white and by paying the same rate for the job to women and men in the public service.

He reminded those present of the repairs done and the changes made in Katorus, the new townships that they have built at Braam Fischerville. He warned the avid listeners that “memories fade. If you have a house now, you worry about something else, but don’t forget that there was no house before! Diepsloot is bigger than Alex. We have done a lot of things.”

Turning to the national crisis of unemployment he cited the provincial government’s efforts in Alrode and Rosslyn to provide the necessary infrastructure so that “business can do business”. He conceded that although Gauteng ‘s economy is growing at 3,2% as against the whole country’s 2,1%, it is still not growing fast enough to absorb new labour market entrants. He pointed to the expanded public works programmes and told of government’s plans to encourage labour intensive jobs while protecting existing jobs.

In a swipe at trade union members, he told the captive audience that “trade union members don’t believe in public education at schools in the townships. These schools are closed or empty. They seem to believe that schooling in white suburbs and private schools is better. But then they say – ‘the cost of education is too high’. In Soweto , there is nowhere where education costs more than R200 per year!”

On the touchy subject of AIDS, he vowed that by April all Gauteng hospitals and community clinics would be equipped to provide mother to child prevention treatment. He said that by February his health department would have a plan to roll out anti-retrovirals (ARVs).

But he warned worker representatives: “We are not going to defeat it simply with ARVs. The first step is prevention. How many of you have been tested here? Do you know your status?” he roared at the representatives. “If you are positive, take steps to manage and put in place a treatment programme. If you are negative, take steps to remain negative. If you go wherever and the urge is too big, use a condom, it will save your life. It is the stigma attached to AIDS that is making you afraid to take the test.”

To concerns from a shop steward about increasing conflict between the ANC government and residents over electricity and water cut-offs, Shilowa clarified: “All of us who receive and can afford services must pay. If you can’t pay, we have an indigent policy. But some people say they can’t pay but they drive posh cars, they drive 7-series but they don’t work. If it is a pensioner in a house looking after grandchildren and they get cut off, then that is wrong. Those that can pay must pay so that government can concentrate on those that can’t pay. We have a policy for credit control not cut-offs.”

“We want you to vote for the ANC so we can move beyond an economy growing by numbers but also growing by jobs.”