Honourable guests, colleagues, comrades, compatriots,
South Africa has held four free and fair elections since 1994; carried out the truth-and-reconciliation process, firmly established an independent constitutional judiciary based on a Bill of Rights with a relative free press. Yet, the country’s economic, ethnic and social problems are serious enough to pose a real challenge to our young democratic system.
This situation has prompted many South Africans to speculate whether our nation will accomplish its promise as Africa’s powerhouse. Our Constitution is our real first social compact that has united our people and released us from the chains of apartheid.
Our people tend to remember our rights however with every right comes an obligation. We as FEDUSA align ourselves with the principle of Chapter 15 of the National Development Plan “We feel we belong. We celebrate all the differences among us. The welfare of each of us is the welfare of all.”
FEDUSA worked very hard and made tough decisions to unite black and white workers since the formation of our beloved organisation in 1997. We were called a white trade union federation, this was deeply offensive and hurtful but I am grateful to our former FEDUSA President Mary Malete who encouraged us to remain faithful to the principle that all men and women are created equal and that the colour of your skin does determine the integrity of your heart.
Years ago, after the negotiation of our precious labour legislation, it was very tough for our negotiator, Leon Grobler and myself to go and explain to our members the importance of the implementation of the Employment Equity Act, to ensure that we redress the injustices of the past.
A recent study by Naledi actually found that FEDUSA has transformed to be more than 65% representative of the demographics of our country, and we have to thank all of our Affiliates for this achievement. We are arguably the most diverse trade union federation in South Africa.
I am very proud of the bold decisions that our leaders took in the interest of our country. It was no wonder, when President Zuma delivered his keynote address at our 5th National Congress that he thanked FEDUSA for being the rainbow federation of South Africa, representing Black, Coloured, Indian and White workers.
Organised Labour has a critical role to play in equal partnership with government and business to create an environment to ensure that quality education is delivered from Grade R to our higher education institutions.
Quality education is the best gift and opportunity that we can give to the South African child. Quality Education is the cornerstone of any progressive and forward-looking society, which is committed to promote social cohesion and nation building.
It was for that reason that we signed to Social Accord on Basic Education with Government, Business and Community, we travelled to a deep Eastern Cape village in the rain to meet with parents, learners and officials of the Basic Education Department on a Sunday to explain the importance of making use of the opportunity to obtain a quality education.
FEDUSA was however dismayed when we witnessed afterwards that the teachers in the Eastern Cape went on a go-slow when their grievances were not addressed adequately by the Eastern Cape Government. We were even further shocked when an NGO had to take the Limpopo Authorities to Court over the none-delivery of text-books.
Those who stand in our way to deliver quality education to our children must be removed from the education system irrespective of political affiliation. We don’t have to wait until 2030 to achieve our goal to deliver a better and quality education in order to give a poor child better life opportunities.
It is also better to appoint a committed white person who is disciplined, on time at school and who is willing to go the extra mile to help our disadvantaged children, than to sit with a black person who does not care for the well-being of our children.
Poor-quality education undermines our efforts to provide decent work and access to higher education for our learners, which in turn results in keeping our poor communities in poverty and under-development.
The time allocated is too short to deal with the other challenges that affect social cohesion but FEDUSA is committed to building a non-racial and non-sexist democratic society free from poverty, inequality and unemployment.
We will have to make tough decisions on many areas to turn the situation around. It will take true leaders and real statesmen who rise to the top to make the difference!
I thank you…