Address by the Deputy President of the ANC, Comrade Paul Mashatile, on the occasion of the NUM Special Congress
Comrade Dan Baipile, the President of the National Union of Mineworkers
The Deputy President, Comrade Phillip Vilakazi
The General Secretary, Comrade Makgabo Mabapa
The leadership of NUM
Delegates to this Special Conference
Comrades and Friends:
I bring to you warm and revolutionary greetings from the leadership and membership of the African National Congress.
We send our best wishes to one of our trusted allies, the National Union of Mineworkers, as it holds this Special Congress.
We look back with pride at the history of the of the National Union of Mineworkers which to us represents the history of class struggle in our country.
Up to this day, we recognise the NUM as the progressive and pre-eminent voice of workers in the Mining, Energy, Construction and Metal sectors of our economy.
You are part of the motive forces of the National Democratic Revolution; for you are among those who stand to benefit the most out of the successful execution of this revolution.
You are also among the unifying forces of the working class, whose strength lies in the awareness of its interests and preservation of class unity.
Building working class consciousness and unity, therefore, remains critical.
We expect this union of James Motlatsi, the founding President of NUM, and Elijah Barayi, President Cyril Ramaphosa, Deputy President Kgalema Mothlante and our National Chairperson Gwede Mantashe, to take a lead in this regard.
UNITY OF THE ALLIANCE, UNITY OF THE ANC
Linked to this is the work we must do, collectively, to build the unity and cohesion of the tri-partite alliance.
Our presence here today is but one practical demonstration of our commitment, as the ANC, to a strong and vibrant alliance with all our allies.
As we undertake this work, we are guided by the words of President O.R. Tambo that; “Ours is not merely a paper alliance, created at conference tables and formalised through the signing of documents and representing only an agreement of leaders. Our alliance is a living organism that has grown out of struggle.”
Even as we may face challenges within the Alliance, we must never lose sight of its historic and strategic importance.
Accordingly, as the ANC, will never abandon our revolutionary task to work ceaselessly towards the unity of the Alliance, for in our view the unity of the Alliance is of paramount importance.
It is only through a united Alliance – guided by a joint programme of action – that we can deliver on the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution: to build a truly united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist, and prosperous South Africa.
We are conscious of the reality that unity cannot and should not be equated to the absence of differences.
Indeed, unity does not mean sameness!
Ours is unity of purpose. Unity in action.
We also expect members of our trusted ally – the NUM – to play a significant role in the renewal, revitalization and unity of the ANC.
While, we have made some progress in renewing and rebuilding the ANC, we must act with greater purpose and urgency going forward.
We need to renew the ANC in order to restore its relevance, and to narrow the social distance with the people.
Renewal will also enhance the ANC’s capability and credibility as an effective force for transformation and a trusted agent for change.
Comrades, a renewed ANC is one that is not pre-occupied with itself and its internal dynamics.
It is an ANC that is in touch with communities – an ANC that is responsive to the needs of the people – an ANC that spends more time resolving problems of the people.
Renewal requires that we also build a strong alliance with the SACP and COSATU.
It is also about renewing our commitment to the values of the ANC including hard work, honesty, selflessness, democratic debate, discipline, criticism and self-criticism.
Renewal is about strengthening the organisational culture and building an ethical movement.
It is about modernising our movement.
It is also about winning the fight against corruption and unacceptable conduct within its ranks and in society.
A renewed ANC will demand accountability from its leadership and deployees in government.
Within a renewed ANC, members will be able to debate issues without retribution, in appropriate forums of the organisation.
Part of the renewal process must also include strengthening branches of the ANC – with NUM members at the forefront of this endeavour in their communities.
Comrades, as we renew and revive our movement, let us also recommit ourselves to uniting our movement and the alliance.
Let us remember that unity is the very basis upon which our organization and alliance was founded.
Unity is, therefore, sacrosanct!
It is a fundamental principle and pillar on which we stand or fall as a broader revolutionary movement.
Without a unity, there can be no renewal, and there can be no unity of the Alliance.
A CHALLENGING TIME FOR THE MINING INDUSTRY
Comrades, this NUM Special Congress is taking place at a time of increased volatility and uncertainty in the global commodity markets.
This is a time where, as stakeholders, we are called upon to respond to a series of severe and mutually re-enforcing shocks.
These have profound implications for the global economy, our own national and regional economies, industries, firms and households.
The mining industry, in particular, has seen its fair share of highs and lows over the past decade, including last year.
Intransigence from the mining bosses have seen the industry facing prolonged industrial action early in 2022.
Continuing energy supply challenges, global supply chain disruptions and a volatile commodities market have also hindered growth and employment in the sector.
For this year, the sector faces improved prospects, however the risks are tilted towards the downside. These include a slowing global economy.
THE STRATEGIC IMPORTANCE OF MINING IN THE SOUTH AFRICAN ECONOMY
As you know, South Africa is exceptionally well-endowed with mineral resources.
We are home to the large reserves of the platinum group metals, gold, chromite, manganese and vanadium.
Historically, mining was an important catalyst for the development of other economic sectors, and a principal driver of our current infrastructure network.
The sector remains an important contributor to the fiscus, economic growth and job creation. It is also a major earner of foreign exchange.
To us mining remains a sunrise and not a sunset industry.
In this we are reassured by our vast mineral endowments, our leadership and expertise – across the mining value chain – the tenacity of our workforce, as well as our advanced technical skills.
Going forward, therefore, we expect South Africa to remain a global mining powerhouse.
We are fully cognizant of the reality that the transition to a low-carbon economy will also create new opportunities for the mining sector.
Our country must grab these opportunities with both hands.
Accordingly, as the ANC we will ensure that legislation and regulation for the mining sector remains predictable and stable; and that it allows the country to remain competitive globally.
We also urge the ANC government to deepen the linkages between mining and other economic sectors including upstream and downstream producers.
Equally, The ANC will ensure that South Africa develops and enhances legislation and the regulatory environment so that mining attracts investment and remains a key pillar of the economy.
It is our view that government must place priority on implementing an intensive programme of minerals exploration.
This will allow for new mines to be opened and new minerals, some of which are critical for the energy transition underway globally, can be discovered.
DOMESTIC CONTRAINTS ON MINING AND UNLOCKING INVESTMENT
In recent years, the South African mining industry has experienced falling levels of investment and exploration, job losses, and increased cost pressures.
Also disturbing is that South Africa has been unable to take to full advantage of the massive increase in demand and prices for commodities.
In the six months to June 2022, the mining sector contracted by 7.3 per cent, compared with the same period in 2021.
The final six months of 2022 are likely to reflect a similar downturn.
The ongoing energy crisis as well as serious challenges in our logistics sector remain the biggest constraints to mining performance.
It is in these areas where we are required to take the most urgent and decisive action.
For instance, it is estimated that up to 40 per cent of our economic underperformance can attributed directly to the ongoing energy crisis.
According to the South African Reserve Bank, load-shedding likely lowered 2022 third quarter real GDP growth by 2.1 percentage points.
Against this background, the ANC government remains single minded in its resolve to end loadshedding within a much shorter timeframe than originally projected.
Government’s approach, in this regard, focuses on the following 3 things:
- Improving Eskom’s operational efficiencies.
- Bringing more power to the grid, including from other sources of energy such as solar, gas and renewables; and
- Strengthening demand management measures, including taking more people out of the Eskom grid.
To ensure Eskom’s long-term financial viability, government will take over a significant portion of the utility’s R400 billion debt.
A lower debt burden will enable Eskom to implement a viable unbundling process.
It will also make resources available for investment in critical electricity supply and transmission infrastructure, to end loadshedding.
Government is also implementing the Energy Action Plan and has established the National Energy Crisis Committee.
This committee oversees the implementation of the following five key interventions:
- Fix Eskom and improve the availability of existing supply;
- Enable and accelerate private investment in generation capacity;
- Accelerate procurement of new capacity from renewables, gas and battery storage;
- Unleash businesses and households to invest in rooftop solar;
- Fundamentally transform the electricity sector to achieve long-term energy security.
In the short-term the Energy Action Plan aims to reduce the severity and frequency of load shedding, through immediate measures to improve the performance of Eskom’s existing power stations and stabilise the energy system.
Among the key achievements made in implementing the Energy Action Plan are amendments to the Electricity Regulation Act, to remove licensing requirements for generation projects of any size.
This will enable private investment in generation at a much larger scale.
A new Ministerial determination has been published for over 18 000 Mega Watts of new generation capacity from wind, solar and battery storage.
Project agreements for 19 projects from Bid Window 5 and 6 projects from Bid Window 6 will soon proceed to construction.
A team of independent experts has been assembled to work closely with Eskom to diagnose the problems at poorly performing power stations and take action to improve plant performance.
As the ANC, we welcome the planned establishment of the Ministry of Electricity.
It will ensure that there is dedicated capacity and resources aimed at addressing one of the biggest challenges of our time: energy insecurity.
Comrades, the crisis in our logistics sector has also had a deeply negative impact on growth, especially on exports by the mining industry.
This is happening at a time when global conditions are conducive for increased production and sales, and the wider socioeconomic benefits that come with it.
Mining firms, as well as other manufacturers, are struggling to move their goods at the pace and scale needed.
One example of this is in coal mining.
At around 54 million tons, coal miners are now shipping close to half of what they were shipping five years ago, at a time when international coal prices have soared to all-time highs.
The same story can be told of other minerals in the sector.
To address problems at Transnet, government has allocated the company R2.9 billion to ensure the return of out-of-service locomotives.
This will be complemented by a further R2.9 billion allocation to deal with flood damage that affected Transnet operations in eThekwini.
Third-party access to the freight rail network, to raise competitiveness, lower logistics costs and encourage investment is being facilitated.
In the area of ports, the Transnet National Ports Authority has been corporatized.
This is an important first step in raising competitiveness and efficiencies in our ports.
Private-sector partnerships are being enabled at the Durban Pier 2 and Ngqura container terminals.
Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that our state-owned companies, in this case Transnet, has a sustainable business model and is able to honour its obligations without constant state financial support or bail outs.
We reiterate that the ANC is not in favour of the privatization of key state-owned enterprises.
As directed by our Conference resolutions any restructuring of SOEs will be done on a case-by-case basis. There is no one size fits all.
Comrades, as community members first before being members of a union, NUM members cannot turn a blind eye to the hardships faced by many South Africans because of the rising cost of living.
In this regard, we must applaud ongoing efforts by the ANC government to cushion the most vulnerable in our society by continuing to expand the social security net.
The social security net now accounts for over 65% of non-interest spending by government.
Our approach remains that of accelerating inclusive growth, encouraging investment, including in local manufacturing, while providing sufficient cover to the vulnerable.
This includes considering the roll out of a Basic Income Grant for the poor and vulnerable, as directed by the 55th National Conference of the ANC.
Once again, I wish the NUM our trusted ally well in this Special Congress.
May this union of James Motlatse, Elijah Barayi and many other pioneers of such high caliber, grow from strength to strength.
Viva the NUM, Viva!