26 February 2014, Cape Town, Western Cape
On behalf of the National Office Bearers (NOBs) and the over 341, 150 members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, please receive our revolutionary and red greetings.
I’m grateful to address you Metalworkers; the fighting sons and daughters of Oliver Tambo; Joe Slovo; Harry Gwala; Walter Sisulu; Govan Mbeki; Mzala Nxumalo; Ashely Kriel; Anton Fransch, Lillian Ngoyi; Ruth First; Coline Williams; Robbie Waterwitch; Jabulile Ndlovu; Mtutuzeli Tom; Danny Oliphant, and Mbuyiselo Ngwenda. I also send special greetings to our dearest friends and comrades from the progressive social movements and civil society organisations. This is what we meant when we resolved to forge a united front, this is the living reality of that vision, a united front in action!
We have prefaced our message to this important demonstration and ongoing struggle to demand decent jobs for youth with a quote from one of the celebrated sons of the toiling masses and the poor of the world, a revolutionary African fighter and Communist, Amilcar Cabral, when he said “Always bear in mind that people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in one’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children”.
Comrades, despite the political and social gains scored since 1994, the working class in this country continues to reel under the pressure of neoliberalism and the legacy of apartheid/colonialism. Poverty, hunger, unemployment and corruption are the principal challenges facing the working class in the current period. And to retain their privilege the ruling class continues to place the burden of this brutal system we live under on the backs of workers and naturally on the backs of the most vulnerable workers, the youth!
We are living in the most complex and challenging times as we head towards celebrating 20 years of our political freedom or rather 20 years of our bourgeois democracy. The National Democratic Revolution (NDR) is at a cross-road, even though some within our ranks are living in denial or have a willful, false understanding through claiming that the NDR is still on track.
This should not be surprising nor should we fool ourselves, purely because the main culprits, who are perpetuating this lie, are those coming from the ranks of the working class, who are now enjoying the perks of power and social comfort in our bourgeois parliament post-2009, in a government administration under the stewardship of President Jacob Zuma.
It is quite interesting that some of them, not long ago, were with us in the trenches and on the streets, when the workers and the poor of our country rejected GEAR and the disastrous neo-liberal path that was being pursued and advanced by our now fading glorious movement the African National Congress (ANC).
Today these leaders or comrades are the most vocal Shopstewards of Neo-Liberalism under the pretext of “Taking responsibility for our National Democratic Revolution”, whilst the working class, the poor and the most vulnerable, marginalised youth of our country are at the receiving-end of capitalist brutality.
This ugly reality is evidenced by violent service delivery protests in mainly Black African working class communities; at the fore-front of these struggles is the reserve army of labour from our apartheid created Townships – the working class youth.
These advocates of the neoliberal order even went to the extent of changing the constitution of their organisation in order to enjoy the perks of being Cabinet Ministers in the bourgeois government, while unashamedly abandoning their responsibilities of vanguarding us as the working class.
Today they have the guts and gall to spew insults and label us with all sorts of names that you can’t even find in the Oxford Dictionary. The truth of the matter is that the hammer and sickle of our political insurance for Socialism is being used to slaughter us, as the organised section of the working class – the workers.
It is quite important that we remind each other of what Karl Marx said “People cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity”. If we all agree that we live in a country that is engulfed by the crisis of capitalism which manifests itself in mass unemployment, deepening poverty and widening inequalities, mostly affecting the Black African working class, particularly youth and women; then surely we must all agree that only change of the ownership and control of our economy in line with the principles of the Freedom Charter will turn things around in the interest of the working class and the poor. What makes it difficult for the ANC or the Liberation Alliance as a whole to champion a revolutionary agenda as encapsulated in the Freedom Charter, in order to improve the conditions of our people, 20 years into our political freedom?
At the core of this crisis and complex challenges is a leadership that has been captured by white monopoly capital, who does not have the political will to implement the Freedom Charter. Let’s remind each other of what we committed ourselves to do post-liberation. The ANC in its Strategy and Tactics document of 1969 adopted at Morogoro, Tanzania, said the following “In our country – more than in any part of the oppressed world – it is inconceivable for liberation to have meaning without a return of the wealth of the land to the people as a whole. It is therefore a fundamental feature of our strategy that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy. Our drive towards national emancipation is therefore in a way bound up with economic emancipation. We have suffered more than just national humiliation. Our people are deprived of their share in the country’s wealth; their skills have been suppressed and poverty and starvation has been their life experience. The correction of these centuries-old economic injustices lies at the very core of our national aspirations. We do not understand the complexities which will face a people’s government during the transformation period nor the enormity of the problems of meeting economic needs of the mass of the oppressed people. But one thing is certain – in our land this cannot be effectively tackled unless the basic wealth and the basic resources are at the disposal of the people as a whole and are not manipulated by sections or individuals be they White or Black”.
Yet, today, South Africa is the most unequal society on earth, we have overtaken Brazil; and shockingly, we will soon be awarded an Olympic gold medal, for having the highest number of service delivery protests when compared to other countries in the world.
All of this lies, with the apartheid faults lines in our economy. Political power is just a shell, when it is not accompanied by genuine economic emancipation. If truth be told, real political power in South Africa today, firmly remains in the hands of white monopoly capital, which continues to own and control the means of production in our country.
It is precisely this situation which continues to generate centuries-old conditions of humiliation and the suppression of the talents of the vast majority of the people, who are Black and working class, most profoundly manifested among young people and women in particular.
(A) Taking forward our Special National Congress resolutions – Building a United Front!
The United Front we are building is a United Front of working class organisations, whose task is to fight against neo-liberalism wherever and whenever it manifests, and the immediate and radical implementation of the Freedom Charter. It is a United Front in action, as demonstrated here today.
Even our revolutionary icon President, Comrade Nelson Mandela, would have agreed with us on the formation of the United Front to coordinate struggles in the workplace and in our communities. We must draw strength and political wisdom as we build the United Front from the words of President Mandela, when he said; “You must make every home, every shack and every mud structure wherever our people live, a branch of the trade union movement and never surrender”.
For us to build a strong and vibrant United Front, it requires;
- That our members and Shopstewards must be active on all fronts and in all struggles against neo-liberal policies, whether these policies are being implemented in the workplace or in communities;
- That in all our constitutional structures, there should be a standing agenda item on community struggles, their nature and NUMSA’s attitude to these community struggles.
Therefore, our action today, is part of our Special National Congress (SNC) mandate and revolutionary obligation to build this United Front to confront the many challenges that faces the working class in our country, in the absence of a vanguard political party.
Hence our immediate priority or task as this United Front is to demand decent, sustainable jobs for our country’s youth, as opposed to the false solutions or instruments being adopted by the bourgeois ANC government towards dealing with the crisis of unemployment amongst the youth. We are meeting here today to declare to the whole country and those in power, that we fundamentally reject the Youth Wage Subsidy dressed up as an Employment Tax Incentive Scheme. Have you ever heard of anything as ridiculous, subsidising employers for something they should do anyway, providing jobs for young people?!
(B) Why the Tax Incentive Scheme or Youth Wage Subsidy is a False solution to Youth Unemployment?
We have argued, correctly, that the Tax Incentive Scheme or Youth Wage Subsidy will lead to the following disastrous and negative consequences;
(1) Subsidisation of employers for taking on workers, whom they should have taken anyway;
(2) Displacement of older and unsubsidised workers – this makes it possible for vulnerable workers such as farm workers to be evicted
(3) Creation of a multi-tiered labour market where workers in the same establishment and who are doing the same job will have different wages, benefits and overall employment conditions;
(4) Widening of inequality; and
(5) Shrinking revenue which makes it very difficult for government to provide public services such as education, healthcare, housing, etc.
(C) Why is the Tax Incentive Scheme or Youth Wage Subsidy being imposed?
Contrary to the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) protocol that requires socio-economic policies to be discussed by social partners, namely government, labour, business and community constituencies before they are tabled by parliament, the Youth Employment Tax Incentive Bill was passed in parliament and signed by President Jacob Zuma into law before it was processed in NEDLAC.
The Employment Tax Incentive Act bypassed the NEDLAC processes, obviously due to the greed of the bosses and the desperation of ANC politicians to capture the youth vote as we approach the 7th May 2014 General Elections, and secondly, it was done to reinforce a false belief in our people, especially to the electorate, an ideological fog of “we have a good story to tell” that was widely spread during the State of the Nation Address (SoNA) by President Jacob Zuma, even though our people, particularly the workers and the poor, live in shameful and scandalous conditions; in some instances worse than they were under apartheid.
We cannot allow the ANC government to feed our youth with false solutions to the crisis of youth unemployment. We have been plunged into this crisis by the very ANC government’s adoption of capitalist, neoliberal social and economic policies before and during the negotiated settlement and the 1994 democratic breakthrough.
(D) Our United Front in Action for Decent Jobs for the Youth!!
National Treasury, since 1994, combined with the Reserve Bank, have been the unashamed champions of the South African version of capitalist neoliberalism. South African Ministers of Finance since 1994 have been shopstewards of neoliberal capitalist policies. Today Pravin Gordham is the Number One Shopsteward of Neo-liberalism in South Africa.
We do not expect any new changes to the budget Pravin will announce that will fundamentally alter the capitalist neoliberal spending patterns South Africa has been following since 1994. We expect, as usual, our people to be fooled and lured to sleep with false promises of millions of jobs from construction and other capitalist projects. We expect the youth to be lied to about jobs from the Youth Employment Tax Incentive law.
More painfully, we expect Pravin, like his Master President Jacob Zuma, to pontificate that “South Africa is better than in was before 1994”!
Nothing short than the full and radical implementation of the Freedom Charter and the total abandonment of capitalist neoliberal policies will resolve the South African crisis of massive unemployment, nationwide poverty and extreme unemployment – all of them deeply affecting Black youth and Black women in particular.
NUMSA, applauds the progressive social movements and progressive trade unions that have heeded our calls for our “United Front in Action” to demand Decent Jobs for the Black African working class youth.
Lastly, today’s action marks the beginning of our National Day of Action to take place on Wednesday March 19, 2014. All sectors we organise as NUMSA shall come on a stand-still, as we march across the country to demand Decent Jobs for the Youth. Hopefully, by that time we march again, the General Secretary of COSATU comrade Zwelinzima Vavi, will be back in office to lead us.
NUMSA 2nd Deputy President
Mobile: 078 120 6001