Numsa Central committee outcomes
We shall work hard to achieve our target of 400 000 members. This will obviously require that we retool the union.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) central committee (CC) met for the first time after the ninth Numsa national congress on August 27-31 this year, at the Birchwood Hotel in Johannesburg.
Among the key tasks of the CC was to receive a detailed report of the watershed Numsa congress, receive the reports of, and evaluate, both the African National Congress national policy conference in June 2012, and the South African Communist Party’s 13th national congress.
The CC dealt with the preparations for Cosatu’s 11th national congress to take place from September 17-20 this year.
The CC was mindful of the worsening global and national economic and social situation as well as the worsening conditions of the working class and rural poor, that ultimately led to the Marikana massacre.
The CC noted the undying persistence of colonialism of a special type in South Africa post-1994 and the appalling conditions of poverty, mass unemployment and extreme levels of inequality among black people in general and Africans in particular.
The Numsa ninth national congress
The CC was in unison that our ninth national congress was a resounding organisational and political success, characterised by high levels of unity, discipline and political maturity, all of which disappointed the forces of darkness who are working against the working class in general and Numsa in particular.
The congress, which was convened under the strategic theme “25 years of militant struggle for national liberation, decent jobs and socialism”, further displayed the growing influence of our more than 300 000 members in advancing, deepening and consolidating a radical and uninterrupted national democratic revolution (NDR) and the struggle for a socialist South Africa.
The CC resolved that in the period leading up to the tenth national congress of Numsa, we shall work hard to achieve our target of 400 000 members. This will obviously require that we retool the union.
The Marikana massacre
As stated above, the CC met against the backdrop of a world in crisis, with the glaring manifestations of the inherent chronic failures of capitalism in our country and internationally, which are now firmly anchored in the heartland of capitalism itself – in the United States and Western Europe.
This ugly reality of capitalist barbarity, combined with our untransformed colonial economy and society, has sharply worsened the conditions of the working class and the poor, as evidenced by daily violent service delivery protests in our communities and growing dissenting voices against the system, demanding housing, water, food, decent jobs and free education for the working class and the poor.
The situation is socially and economically very traumatic for the millions of our young people who cannot find work.
This is the global and national context which explains the Marikana massacre – a worsening global, and local, capitalist economy which increasingly will resort to bloody violence to “discipline” the working class in order to defend its falling profits.
The CC expressed its deep and heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of the workers that perished in Marikana.
The CC condemned the intransigence and insensitivity of the mine bosses towards the mine workers, and the savage, cowardly actions and excessive force used by the police, which led to the deaths of 44 workers, including the police massacre of 34 people. Many workers were injured.
The CC holds the view that organs of class rule, particularly the police, should not be used recklessly and violently to intervene in industrial disputes involving workers and bosses.
The CC was adamant that what happened in Marikana should be correctly understood, and must go down in our history as the first post-apartheid South African state massacre of the organised working class, in defence of the local and international mining bosses and their profits.
The CC called on the working class and poor not to be blinded by anyone, but to understand that in a capitalist state or class-divided country like South Africa, the state will always act in the interests of the dominant class: the class that owns, controls and commands the economy and political and social life.
This is, after all, the real reason for the existence of any state!
In the South African case, we understand the dominant capitalist class to be centred on the minerals/energy/finance complex.
We are, therefore, not surprised that the post-1994 South African state – a state whose strategic task and real reason for existence is the defence and sustenance of the minerals/energy/finance complex – will do anything to defend the property rights and profits of this class, including slaughtering the working class.
While the CC supports the commission of inquiry announced by the head of state and leader of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, we believe that the commission must uncover the truth surrounding the deaths of the 44 workers. Anything short of this will render the commission useless.
To safeguard the working class in this struggle, the Numsa central committee proposes that Cosatu, together with revolutionary formations of the working class, constitute their own independent commission of inquiry, because, in the future, the bourgeoisie and its apologists will, in one way or another, use the Marikana tragedy to heighten the already active ideological and repressive offensive against the growing militancy of the working class at the point of production and in communities at large.
Our militancy is not borne out of our biological makeup, but is a result of the perpetual failures of the capitalist system to resolve the problems our class faces.
The central committee further calls for the suspension of the task force that executed the massacre. The CC calls on the commission to find out and make public who, between the Minister of Police and the National Police Commissioner, gave orders to shoot workers with live bullets when they peacefully assembled on that fateful mountain in Marikana.
Numsa is disgusted by this display of police brutality. The actions of the police confirm that we have not, post-1994, transformed the apartheid state and its violent machinery.
The actions of the police make a mockery of everything we thought was transformed, including parliament. By this singular act, the police have violently reminded us, once again, what Marx and Lenin taught us about the state: that it is always an organ of class rule and class oppression and that bourgeois democracy is nothing but the best political shell behind which the bourgeoisie hides its dictatorship.
The CC demands the dismissal of anyone in the police or in political office whose actions led to the massacre of the workers.
No one can deny the most obvious fact: despite all the well-intentioned government reforms of mining and mining rights, the black working class on the mines are the most exploited; they earn very little and live in squalor while the mining bosses, local and international, are reaping billions of dollars from our minerals.
Despite the reduced demand for platinum in Europe and the US, we know that the three platinum companies, Lonmin, Implats and Anglo Platinum, in the last five years have registered operating profits of more than R160-billion.
While the manufacturing industry has had an average profit of 8%, the mining companies have averaged 29%. In fact, in the boom years of 2006 to 2008, they averaged 41%. Their R160-billion profits would have built more than three million RDP houses.
But they leave their employees to an impoverished existence in shacks and then express shock and horror when those workers decide they have had enough and refuse to work until they receive a slightly less meagre salary.
The mining bosses are not fit to control the mineral wealth of our country.
Numsa is convinced that unless the mineral wealth of our country is returned to the people, mining will continue to be characterised by violence against the working class, either through dangerous working conditions, or from the bullets of the police defending the profits of the mining bosses.
We see no solution to the violence against workers on the mines other than nationalisation.
The CC called for the immediate release of the 259 arrested Lonmin workers. We condemn, in the strongest terms, the inhuman treatment and violence meted out to the detained workers. We see no reason why bail is being denied them.
The NPA has deployed the combined legal principles of common purpose and dolus enventualis to charge the 259 Lonmin workers with murder. Murder is a crime which requires the intention to kill.
Common purpose allows the prosecution of someone who was part of a group of people when a crime was committed, even if they didn’t commit the crime themselves. So the NPA is suggesting that the Lonmin mineworkers are guilty of murder because they were part of a group present when murder was committed.
But it was their fellow workers who were murdered. So the NPA is suggesting that these 259 Lonmin mineworkers gathered together intending the deaths of their fellow workers.
This is the most ludicrous charge. It is just another example of how the NPA seeks to delay the trial of the detained workers and thus punish them by prolonging their suffering at the hands of the state.
One need not be a lawyer to see that there is no rational, legal or moral basis for the use of these apartheid legal principles to accuse workers of murder because their fellow workers were killed by police in a riot triggered by the police, involving more than 3 000 people!
By this act, the NPA has further supplied us with proof of why we were informed that all evidence of police bullets at the scene was erased overnight!
The callous insensitivity demonstrated by the NPA in this instance further confirms our view of the state and all its machinery – that it is a means of oppressing the working class in favour of the mining bosses.
An important lesson from the Marikana massacre for the working class is that the unity of the organised working class is sacrosanct. Further, we must all do whatever it takes to ensure that we constantly promote that unity.
On the re-nationalisation of Sasol
The CC has agreed to aggressively embark on a radical national campaign for the re-nationalisation of Sasol and ArcelorMittal as strategic entities of the public, as part of resolving the deep-seated triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and deepening inequality, as confronted by the working class and the poor.
The central committee is particularly disturbed by the fact that Sasol continues to make massive profits and has somehow avoided being held to account and sharing the responsibility of developing the country, rather than sucking out every last cent by charging the maximum possible prices.
In 2007 Sasol was allowed by the National Treasury to avoid paying a “windfall tax”, as it had made commitments to develop the petrochemicals sector, but Numsa does not see any results from this; we only see empty promises.
Sasol was also meant to increase production of liquid fuels, such as the Mafutha Project, but nothing has been seen of this. Was the government sold a plan that Sasol knew could not happen?
A task team was set up by Minister Trevor Manuel in 2006 as a result of Sasol’s huge profits from making fuel from coal, when the international oil price was at record highs, to look at the windfall (huge) profits.
The task team made recommendations on taxation and also recommended stronger regulation of Sasol which was referred to the Minister of Minerals and Energy, but Numsa can see no result from this.
Sasol has taken money out of the country to invest in countries such as China and Malaysia, where strong developmental states do not allow such profiteering and which have strong regulations and state-owned companies.
In China, Sasol has even written off R1-billion which could have grown South African business.
Sasol has among the lowest costs in the world but continues to price the fuel it produces as if it is imported.
Numsa notes that the current Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act has provisions to meet the objectives of promoting employment and advancing the social and economic welfare of all South Africans.
The provisions (section 26) empower the minister to promote beneficiation of minerals, subject to such terms and conditions that the minister may determine.
Sasol makes its products from coal, which the country has in abundance, but how is government enforcing the provisions of mining rights? Numsa demands to know what the terms of the mining rights granted to Sasol are and how they are being monitored.
Numsa believes that Sasol cannot be complying with the terms of existing mining legislation and that government should remove their rights.
A stark example is the case of polymer chemicals used for making plastic
products. These polymer chemicals are used by firms making plastic chairs, lunch boxes and components for motor vehicles, among other things. These are a critical part of increasing manufacturing and creating jobs.
Even though Sasol produces vast amounts of some of these polymer chemical products, it charges local firms a much higher price than when it sells to export customers, forcing companies to take manufacturing to other countries.
Instead of dealing with this issue directly the government sent it to the Competition Commission in 2007. The Competition Commission then referred the matter to the Competition Tribunal in 2010.
The case is now due to be heard in 2013, six years later, and then there are likely to be further appeals. Cases heard by the Competition Commission in the early 2000s are still being appealed against. The commission cannot be used as an excuse for the state to duck its responsibility.
The Competition Commission has as witnesses firms that will increase local manufacturing, including bringing back production that has been outsourced to China if this issue is addressed. Numsa does not believe this can wait; this is something that should be dealt with through direct measures.
The state has many possible measures including:
• Regulation by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) of these key products made by Sasol;
• Enforcement of mining legislation, so that the objectives of the Act are met;
• Re-considering the windfall tax, as Sasol has taken the government for a ride;
• Implementing a tax regime on the extortionate resource rents on Sasol’s business without waiting for the decision to be made on other minerals.
• Intervention, through industrial policy measures, such as export taxes as used by China, to deter exporting the product that could be driving our industrialisation.
• Nationalisation of Sasol as a strategic asset.
At a time when everybody is talking about the need for shared growth, the contempt that Sasol has shown for this needs to be addressed. We must not wait any longer. It is time to nationalise Sasol.
Ferrochrome industry crisis
The crisis facing the ferrochrome industry, and the solution that Numsa is currently exploring, is informed by the following observations:
• South Africa has about 80% of the world’s chrome ore resources.
• Chrome ore has been historically mined in South Africa to produce. ferrochrome, which in turn is primarily used in stainless steel production.
• Apart from Columbus Stainless, ferrochrome’s end-use markets are overseas, primarily the US and Europe. More recently China has become the biggest producer of stainless steel.
• The South African ferrochrome industry is a mature sector with an important value chain (almost all inputs, including capital goods and services, are manufactured locally) contributing 200 000 direct and indirect jobs.
• The ferrochrome industry’s market share has, however, declined from 50% to 35% in the last decade. This loss in market share has been displaced to China, but China has negligible chrome ore resources.
• As a result, South African ferrochrome capacity has become a swing producer, operating at less than 60% capacity and is on the brink of deindustrialisation.
• The crisis facing the South African chrome value chain is the result of two economic distortions:
• Deteriorating competitiveness from higher input costs (largely the administered price of electricity) and Chinese competitors working under different rules (smaller furnaces with lower/zero environmental and safety compliance, 40% export tax on metallurgical coke and a differentiated cost of capital).
• The double-digit growth in South African unbeneficiated chrome ore exports to China (South Africa is the leading exporter, with a 50% market share in traded ore to China). The growth in volumes of South African ore exports is largely sponsored by being a by-product of the platinum industry.
This has increased as the balance of that industry has moved towards mining a different reef (the UG2 reef rather than the Merensky Reef) with a different mineral content. As this is a by-product, it has a minimal cost and large volumes can be brought into production relatively quickly.
• The net result is that South African chrome ore is available to China more cheaply, improving China’s competitive advantage and consequently putting South Africa at a competitive disadvantage.
• In order to address these distortions, the industry (business and labour) has proposed the following two-stage intervention:
• The implementations of an R800 per tonne export levy on all South African metallurgical grade ore exports. The view is that South African chrome ore, representing some 50% of the export market, is price-inelastic and can be passed onto the customer.
Notwithstanding, the industry sees this as a short-term intervention which must be reviewed every three to six months in order to assess its efficacy.
• As highlighted in 7b above, the extraordinary growth of UG2 chrome-ore exports from the platinum industry will have far-reaching consequences if they are not properly managed.
A medium to long-term solution must focus on South Africa arresting this tendency to grow chrome ore exports in line with demand.
This will ensure that South Africa becomes a price-setter and not a price-taker. In this regard, the ferrochrome industry commits to maximise the use of UG2 ores from the platinum industry and demands that the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Minerals and Resources intervene to require the platinum industry to enter into long-term local beneficiation agreements and to curb ore exports in line with demand.
• Numsa has resolved to be directly involved in the engagements between the industry players. The central committee called for an expedited process.
Serving section 77 at Nedlac
The Numsa CC has spent some time pondering why the ANC government, having pursued for the past 18 years, right-wing neo-liberal polices that have failed the country, persists in following the same disastrous, neo-liberal path.
We are concerned about the following:
• Why are companies such as Sasol allowed to destroy our manufacturing capability in the plastics industry?
• Why does the ANC government allow our manufacturing base to be destroyed by imports, despite us having capacity to produce all the products that are flooding our market here in South Africa?
• Why does the ANC government allow imperialism by a country like China, which acts in the interest of its own people, to extract our raw minerals such as chrome and rob us of an opportunity to manufacture ferrochrome and create jobs?
• Why is there this religious maintenance of the failed macro-economic policy Growth, Employment and Redistribution (Gear), whose framework was the failed Washington Consensus that has caused the ongoing global crisis of capitalism? Today this rightwing agenda is globally discredited as it has failed the people of the globe and yet the ANC government continues to faithfully and blindly follow it.
• Gear and its toxic combination of inflation targeting, high interest rates, removal of exchange controls and low tariffs have been and remain bad news for local manufacturing and industrialisation, but are allowed to continue.
• On what basis did the government sell Eskom’s coal rights, an action that is directly responsible for us, as a country, having lost our competitive advantage? Today companies, whether big or small, cannot afford the price of electricity!
• There has been a stubborn refusal to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank because both the concerns of the National Treasury and the Reserve Bank are the interests of the minerals/energy/finance complex.
They make sure that they keep interest rates very high by continuously championing inflation, openly privileging the dominant finance and mining sectors over industrial capital that creates jobs.
• National Treasury arrogantly continues to refuse to ban the exportation of scrap metal, even though foundries are closing as a result of this anomaly. Foundries also battling with high electricity tariffs charged by both Eskom and municipalities. This is obviously destroying many jobs in our country.
• What is extremely disturbing is that the very architects of these failed policies have been allowed to plan for the country (Trevor Manuel is now directly responsible for the National Planning Commission).
They have refused to deal with these fundamental issues because what matters to them is to protect their failed legacy and protect the interests of white monopoly capital so that colonialism of a special type continues in our country.
The Numsa CC has therefore resolved to serve a section 77 Notice at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac). All four of our manufacturing sectors will embark on rolling mass action in the form of a national strike and the target is the National Treasury and related government departments.
Numsa will lobby all other Cosatu unions to join this action. Because this action will be about the real future of young people in our country, Numsa will call on all young people and the rest of the unemployed to join us in our action.
Public infrastructure spend on rail
The CC welcomes the announcement by the Minister of Public Enterprises of the public infrastructure spend to replace the current fleet of locomotives and trains for Transnet and the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa).
The CC of Numsa has tasked the national leadership of Numsa to engage with the leadership of this important public entity to ensure that the public spend on the rolling stock at the level of procurement must have at least 60% local content, in line with the government, labour and business local procurement accord.
The leadership of Transnet and Prasa must not make the same mistake that Eskom made with Medupi; they must ensure that this opportunity to manufacture will go to local companies and not China.
Building unity within Cosatu and 11th national congress:
The CC noted with serious concern the attempts by certain right-wing, opportunistic and demagogic forces from inside and outside the national liberation movement who want to capture or liquidate the only reliable and trusted weapon of the working class, Cosatu, for narrow political ends.
The CC was clear that the poisonous political attacks directed at the leadership collective of Cosatu, particularly its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, is a continuation of a broader political offensive to silence and weaken Cosatu as the credible voice of the working class, amid the deepening triple crisis of poverty, unemployment and increased inequality, as well as rampant corruption ravaging both the public and private sectors, and high levels of dissent by our communities, as evidenced by daily violent service delivery protests, mainly in working class and poor communities.
The CC was clear that the Cosatu congress is a platform to deal with the strengths and weaknesses of the federation that include taking stock of the performance of Cosatu’s leadership.
However, what Numsa will not tolerate is a situation where the leadership of the federation is criticised and attacked, using allegations which were never raised during their leadership. Cosatu has had regular central executive committee meetings, so we do not expect to be surprised by a fury of allegations against the leadership of the federation. Any such behaviour will be viewed as propaganda meant to discredit the leadership of the federation for opportunistic reasons.
The CC expressed its full support for the elected leadership of Cosatu, and in particular its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, and called on all affiliates to use the Cosatu 11th national congress to forge maximum unity within the federation, emerge with a clear political and revolutionary programme to improve the conditions of workers, develop a clear programme for the Alliance as the strategic political centre of power, and build a strong, visible and revolutionary vanguard party of the working class – the SACP – to lead the struggle for socialism.
On the ANC and its government
The CC had a frank and comradely engagement on the ANC and its government. The CC noted that the ANC is dealing with serious challenges confronting people in the country.
We debated robustly and asked ourselves a number of questions. We came to the conclusion that without uprooting colonialism of a special type which, historically, has thrived on the mass poverty and unemployment of the majority, who are largely black and African, and on extreme racial and gender inequalities and exploitation and oppression, the entire liberation movement in general, and the ANC in particular, risk being made history by the likes of the DA.
As Numsa, while we appreciate that the ANC has resolved to take measures to deal with the triple crisis of colonialism of a special type through what it is calling “the second phase of the transition” of the NDR, we remain convinced, more than ever before, that what our country needs is a thorough-going and radical NDR whose main aim must be the resolute implementation of the Freedom Charter.
Numsa considers that only the achievement of the aims of the Freedom Charter will answer the pressing and immediate needs of the people and lay the indispensable basis for our advance to socialism.
The immediate needs of the immense majority of our people, who are mostly black and African in particular, and who are the key constituency of the ANC, can only be satisfied by the rapid development of our economy. Central to that is popular control over vital sectors of the economy.
This calls for strengthening of the state sector, mining in particular, the urgent need to take control and ownership of our mineral resources and make sure that they are made available cheaply to downstream industries to champion manufacturing and industrialisation.
We demand that the ANC government, on behalf of all the people of South Africa, and in order to accelerate the development and improvement of the well-being of the majority of our people, must take control of heavy industry, banks and all key strategic sectors of the economy such as Sasol, ArcelorMittal, the Reserve Bank, and break the backbone of white monopoly capital which continues to trap our country in colonisation of a special type 18 years into our democracy.
Our message to the liberation alliance led by the ANC and the rest of the liberation forces constituted by the working class and youth of our country, and in defence of our rich history of struggle and our people, is that we must seek no permission from anyone, but must demand the implementation of the above radical revolutionary programme and be ready to struggle for it.
Our country and our people have been left with absolutely no choice but to embark on service delivery protests. Numsa calls on Cosatu, and the youth of our country, to mobiliserolling mass action for the implementation of the Freedom Charter by their own ANC government.
Numsa has taken this decision to call for a radical programme because, while we continue to celebrate the April 27 1994 political breakthrough, we remain convinced that the negotiated settlement at Codesa delivered a raw deal to the liberation alliance. It is now clear that we won political power without economic power.
A tiny white population, led by the DA and FW de Klerk, secured in the constitution the property clause that ensured that they would forever own
and control the wealth of our country. They, therefore, set up the whole movement, led by the ANC, for failure.
Unless we fully implement the Freedom Charter and ensure that the basic wealth of our country is restored to the people as a whole, the ANC government (or any government for that matter) will not be able to deal with the triple crisis of poverty unemployment and inequality, which are the necessary and essential social conditions for colonialism of a special type.
White monopoly capitalism in South Africa, and imperialist domination, cannot survive without first reducing millions of Black and African people to poverty, generating mass unemployment and creating extreme inequality.
The failure by the liberation movement to appreciate the most obvious fact about post-1994 South Africa – that white capitalist domination and imperialist oppression are at the heart of the triple crisis, and that nothing short of the complete implementation of the Freedom Charter can destroy both the domination, and the triple crisis the majority of South Africans are suffering from – will inevitably and soon, lead to the loss of legitimacy of the liberation movement and the ANC, if this has not happened already.
We know that today, the DA and the likes of De Klerk are happy to see the liberation movement and the ANC crumble under the weight of the racial capitalist system, and we know that they know full well that no amount of growth without redistribution of both wealth and productive capacity can break the racial domination and economic exploitation of the majority.
The DA must secretly laugh at our stupidity because they know that when they call for a youth wage subsidy, they are actually calling for a basic profit grant for largely white and foreign-owned business in South Africa. Numsa rejects this devious, inhumane demand with the contempt it deserves.
Numsa noted that the ANC policy conference was held under the slogan of a “second transition” that later became the “second phase of the transition” calling for a radical programme.
Six out of nine ANC provinces demanded nationalisation of the key strategic sectors of the economy.
The ANC policy conference endorsed the demand for nationalisation of the key strategic sectors of the economy, what can be called the “commanding heights” of the economy.
What was extremely disturbing for Numsa was an open attempt by the leadership of the movement not to announce the majority decision taken by the branches of the ANC.
For Numsa, such ambivalence was problematic, because if the leadership of the movement is not democratic in championing majority decisions and subscribing to democratic centralism, this is something that must be defeated, as it could seriously compromise discipline in the organisation, and destroy it.
Noting the property class’s manipulation of internal democratic processes of the liberation movement, the CC was firm that we need a working class-biased leadership of the ANC and a leadership collective that has the political will to implement the Freedom Charter.
Numsa is of the view that, within the reservoir of the alliance, we should be able to ensure that the ANC emerges with leadership that is rooted in the working class and that does not seek to change its liberation character.
The worst thing that we can do would be to allow a situation where the ANC in Mangaung is dominated by leadership that is rooted in the capitalist class; in South Africa today we have enough right-wing political parties, including the DA.
On the SACP
The Numsa central committee reflected frankly about the consistent negative political posture of the SACP against both Numsa as an organisation and in particular, its leadership.
Numsa CC was extremely annoyed by certain opportunistic stances taken by the leadership of the SACP in particular its general secretary Blade Nzimande. Nzimande came to Numsa’s ninth congress and called on Numsa not to raise the issue of deployment of SACP cadres to the state in public.
The Numsa central committee