Message of support by ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa to the COSATU May Day celebrations
Comrade Zingiswa Losi, President of COSATU
Comrade Solly Mapaila, General Secretary of the SACP
Members of the Central Executive Committee of COSATU present
Members of the National Executive Committee of the ANC present
Leaders of the Alliance present
Leaders and Stalwarts of the Mass Democratic Movement present
Comrades and Friends
Let us take a minute to remember the 51 workers who tragically lost their lives on 1 May 2003. These compatriots were on there way to the 2003 Workers’ Day celebrations when their bus drove into the Sol Plaatje Dam (then the Saulspoort Dam) near Bethlehem. May their souls rest in peace.
It remains, as always, a great honour and privilege to extend the revolutionary greetings of the African National Congress to you on this occasion.
Workers in our country and across the world have fought over many years for the right to gather to celebrate the achievement of workers and to honour those who have championed the interests of the working class. Workers Day is also the day on which workers demonstrate their determination to take forward the struggle against exploitation and oppression.
This Workers Day is taking place at a difficult time for the country, and for the working class in particular. In addition to the legacy of apartheid – of poverty and inequality – we are also confronted by the effects of a worldwide pandemic and rising fuel and food costs as a result of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
We are still feeling the effects of a decade of state capture and under-investment in electricity, water and rail infrastructure.
Our economy, like other economies across the globe, is not performing well. The cost of living is rising and unemployment remains stubbornly high.
As a result, many of our people live in poverty and many people go to bed hungry.
Such challenging times demand that we stretch every sinew, draw inspiration from those who came before us and walk surely in the knowledge that we have overcome greater difficulties than what now confronts us.
Rebuilding the Alliance
Times of difficulty, almost inevitably, test the unity of our movement and it is up to us to build and preserve that unity.
Our words and our deeds must strengthen the movement and the ANC commits to build and renew the Alliance, as mandated by our 55th National Conference.
We know, all too well, how easy it would be to derail the National Democratic Revolution and the transformation of our nation without a strong, vibrant and functioning alliance, working as a progressive bulwark.
We know that we cannot achieve progress if we do not build a broader democratic movement that is rooted in communities, and that drives programmes about the issues that most affect and concern them.
The Alliance must therefore accelerate and strengthen our work to ground its structures and cadres in the communities. In this regard, the ANC is intensifying our Letsema campaign and has continued the work of strengthening our branches, engaging the people and taking up issues affecting communities.
The ANC will work with its alliance partners to develop and implement a common Alliance programme of action to address the challenges facing the people. Our common programme, based on the objectives of the National Democratic Revolution, will help to strengthen the alliance relationship and advance and defend the gains of democracy and freedom broadly.
Addressing the Electricity Crisis
Last week, we celebrated Freedom Day. There is much to celebrate about our progress over the last twenty-nine years. We have achieved much progress and bettered the lives of millions of people.
However, much more remains to be done.
The most pressing issue facing our country is loadshedding and ensuring security of energy supply.
The electricity crisis affects the economy, safety and security, and our overall quality of life. As with most things, loadshedding has the greatest impact on the poor.
We are implementing several strategies to address the electricity crisis, which include improving performance at Eskom’s power stations, improving the quality of coal supplied to power stations and ensuring appropriate skills, adequate funding and effective planning are put in place for maintenance.
Progress is also being made in adding new generation capacity to the grid, buying power from neighbouring countries, fast-tracking renewable projects and other measures to cover the deficit of about 6,000 MW.
These measures are showing results, but as we have said before it will take some time before we end loadshedding in its entirety.
Winter is almost upon us and Eskom is undertaking planned maintenance to deal with the increased demand during winter. The Alliance must support such measures by participating in a massive public awareness campaign to encourage industries and households to reduce electricity.
Eradicating Poverty and Creating Jobs
Unemployment has decreased in the last four quarters, but this has not been nearly enough to address the scope and depth of the challenge before us. Figures from Statistics SA show that that nearly 7.8 million people were unemployed at the end of last year. This excludes those people who had given up looking for work.
We know that this is not the full picture of unemployment and that these numbers do not reflect the hardships brought on by being unable to provide for oneself or one’s family.
Government will therefore continue our efforts to directly and indirectly contribute to creating more and sustainable employment.
Last month, we held the 5th South Africa Investment Conference, which saw further investment commitments from South African and international companies. Over the last five years, investments have amounted to over R1.5 trillion. Much of this money has already been invested into the economy, establishing new factories, expanding production lines, building new infrastructure and creating new jobs.
This is real investment that is supporting emerging businesses, growing the capacity of our economy and contributing to people’s livelihoods. While we have made important progress, we need to significantly increase levels of investment.
To do that, we need to make it easier to do business in South Africa and remove the obstacles to faster growth.
While the unreliable electricity supply is the greatest threat to our economy at this moment, the inefficient operation of South Africa’s ports and railways is also holding us back.
Government is working with all stakeholders, including organised labour, to improve the overall performance of the freight logistics sector. We are establishing a National Logistics Crisis Committee to implement a comprehensive roadmap to fix the freight logistics sector.
We will proceed with other structural reforms aimed at making the economy more competitive, creating opportunities for new entrants in various industries, encouraging investment and creating more jobs.
We will also continue to build on the successes of the public and social employment programmes.
Initiatives that form part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus enable unemployed people to gain skills, experience and an income and provide valuable social services. We must use such programmes to reinforce and support economic reform efforts.
South Africa has a very big system of social assistance and our social grants reach over 18 million people today. It is estimated that more than two million households receive free basic water, basic electricity and solid waste removal services.
Social grants not only help individuals and households in the greatest need. They also act as a stimulus for the economy as a whole, increase spending in townships and rural areas and improve employment outcomes.
As per the mandate of the 55th National Conference, we are looking at options to provide basic income support for the unemployed within our fiscal constraints.
One of the most crucial tasks before us is to conclude our work on ensuring access to quality health care. We therefore urge public representatives to pass the National Health Insurance Bill so that all South Africans have access to quality health care regardless of their ability to pay.
Fighting Crime and Corruption
We have identified the fight against crime and corruption as one of the key priorities for 2023. This was done in recognition of the fact that a society is not really free if its citizens live in fear of crime and corruption or if its economic development is being held back by economic sabotage, organised crime and corruption.
Progress is being made in training more police personnel and tackling violence and extortion at construction sites, illegal mining, infrastructure vandalism and cable theft. We have also strengthened the ability of the criminal justice system to tackle gender-based violence and femicide.
These efforts will only be successful if communities, unions and civil society formations are involved in the fight against crime, working together with the police and other law enforcement agencies.
Strengthening Local Government
Local government remains both our greatest challenge and the site where we can do the most to transform the lives of the people. That is why the ANC is committed to improving the functioning of all municipalities as well as professionalising the public service across the board.
The ANC commits to South Africans that our conduct will not contribute to the chaos and instability that loose and opportunistic coalitions have hitherto brought onto the people. Such chaos and instability undermine service delivery and effective administrative management.
We are therefore looking at a range measures to bring certainty and stability to municipalities affected by coalitions. Some of these measures would ideally be enacted into legislation and apply to all coalitions regardless of the parties involved, whilst others would involve internal guidelines regulating the conduct of ANC representatives entering into coalition agreements.
In regulating the ANC’s approach to coalitions, we reiterate the four principles guiding our approach to coalitions as mandat4ed by the 55th National Conference:
- Firstly that our primary objective is to achieve a decisive electoral victory. This means that the ANC, working with our partners in the Revolutionary Alliance, must unite and work to ensure an overwhelming victory.
- Secondly, where there are coalitions, we must ensure these put the interests of people first, which must of necessity include a stable government with a minimum programme that can improve service delivery and push forward the transformation agenda.
- Thirdly, the ANC cannot participate in a coalition which is simply about the “sharing of the spoils of office”.
- Lastly, where we have performed badly in elections, we should be principled enough to go into opposition to build anew, rather than be part of a coalition government that undermines the foundational principles and values of both the ANC and the Constitution of the Republic.
2024 National and Provincial Elections
Comrades, we will be going to elections in about a year’s time. We will be asking the people to once again put their trust in the ANC as the most effective and committed force for fundamental change.
We know our strengths and weaknesses. We have shown that we are committed to fix the problems in our organisation and to improve governance throughout the country.
We know that we still need to do much to restore confidence in our movement, and we will do so through dedicated and consistent service to the people. We do not seek political office for its own sake, but so that we can work together with all South Africans to effectively transform society.
This will be an election unlike any other since the advent of democracy. It will require great effort, dedication and discipline. It will require unity within our movement and within the Alliance. This unity must be based on respect, democratic practice and an agreed programme of action.
A better Africa and a Better World
We are undertaking this work of rebuilding and renewing our movement and our country in an increasingly complex global context.
We remain committed to fostering peace and stability on our continent and are therefore greatly concerned by the eruption of conflict in Sudan. We call on the African Union (AU) to urgently intervene and encourage the establishment of civilian transitional structures that must work towards establishing institutions of democratic civilian rule.
South Africa calls for the resolution of all conflicts in a peaceful manner and in ways that mitigate damage and loss of life.
South Africa and other countries in Africa and the Global South have come under pressure to take a particular view on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Like many other countries, we have taken a non-aligned position and have consistently called for a peaceful resolution of the conflict through dialogue.
South Africa will continue to assert its right to freely conduct our international relations according to our own principles and interests. We should continue to seek cordial and constructive relations with all countries, and work to strengthen and transform institutions of global governance.
Later this year, South Africa will be hosting the BRICS Summit. We will use this important platform to advance our developmental objectives as a country and a continent.
As we mark Workers Day this year, we know that life is difficult for the workers of our country. We are faced with many challenges.
But we also know what needs to be done to overcome these challenges and are taking the steps we must take to rebuild our economy, create jobs and reduce jobs. We will only succeed if we work together – as the Alliance, as workers, as communities and as South Africans.
At all important moments in our history, workers have been at the forefront. Now, we once again look to the workers of South Africa to provide leadership, and to unite all our people in building a just society, an inclusive economy and a better life for all.
I thank you.
I mention that the unemployment rate has dropped marginally for 4 consecutive quarters further down.