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Published: 13 May 2011
|Cosatu: Statement by Patrick Craven, Congress of South African Trade Unions spokesperson, on the local government elections (13/05/2011)|
On Wednesday 18th May the voters of South Africa will be making history, when they vote in the local government elections. Don’t miss this opportunity to use your democratic and constitutional right to participate in charting our country’s progress over the coming years.
Many of our comrades sacrificed their lives, and other suffered jail, torture and exile, so that we could all vote in free and fair elections. Not to vote is a betrayal of those revolutionary heroes and heroines.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions also insists that no worker must be denied the right to vote by employers who forced them to work. May 18th must not be a day for business as usual in the shopping malls, but a day to enjoy a democratic right and duty to vote.
We demand that the day be declared a non-trading public holiday, so that only genuinely essential service workers, including those running the elections, be obliged to work, and that they too must get enough time off to reach their polling stations.
COSATU also urges all its members and all South African voters to put their cross next to the name of the African National Congress and its candidates. We are in no doubt that under ANC government, national, provincial and local, the lives of thousands of South Africans have been improved.
§ We have one of the world`s most democratic constitutions, a bill of rights, and a constitutional court which checks that the laws and courts comply with that Constitution.
§ Over 2.5 million houses have been built for the poor, giving shelter to over ten million people.
§ Six million households have gained access to clean water since 1994 and electricity has been connected to nearly five million homes.
§ In 1994, only 62% of households had access to clean drinking water - today 93% do.
§ In 1994, only 50% of households had access to decent sanitation - today 77% do.
§ In 1994, only 36% had access to electricity - today 84% do.
§ By 2010, 14.5 million people were receiving social grants. Of those, 9.5 million are children less than 14 years old (compared with 2.4 million in 1996).
§ This year the Child-Support Grant will be extended to children aged below 18 years, an additional 2-million children.
§ There been a gradual and progressive reduction of the pension age for men from 65 to 60.
§ The number of people on anti-retrovirals has increased, and a campaign launched to treat 15 million by June and to urge workers to get tested.
No other party standing in these elections can even begin to match that record of achievement. We have every reason to celebrate what we have achieved, and to acknowledge that by voting for the party which has delivered those improvements.
This certainly does not mean however that the struggle for a better life is over. Whilst we have made major gains in winning political rights and certain social rights, far too many South Africans have yet to see any improvements in their lives. We still suffer from outrageously high levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality, and for many, things are getting even worse as unemployment continues to rise.
After the elections we still need to mobilise the working-class and the poor to confront the many challenges we still face and struggle for a just and equitable society.
The rich minority, the still mainly white and male capitalist class, has immensely benefited from our hard won democracy. Inequality is now greater than in any other country in the world and still growing. The workers’ share of national income was 56% in 1995 but by 2009 had declined to 51%. On average the poorest 10% of earners get R1275 a month - 0.57% of total earnings, while the top 10% get R111 733 - 49.2% of the total!
Meanwhile the country’s 20 richest men enjoyed a 45% increase in wealth in 2010, and the number of billionaires nearly doubled, from 16 to 31. Pine Pienaar, CEO of Mvelaphanda Resources, made R63 million in 2009, 1875 times as much as the average worker.
The wealthy minority still have a monopoly over land ownership in our country. They do not have to worry about service delivery – they can just buy it from private companies. They have access to top-class private healthcare, while the poor majority have to languish in long queues to wait for usually terrible service and treatment. That is why we will keep up the campaign for the National Health Insurance system to bring the quality of public health care up to the same and better standard as in the private sector.
Decent education is a privilege for the children of the wealthy, not a right for all. That is why we support the Equal Education Campaign.
Nearly two million families still live in shacks and most new low-income houses are still being built on the far away from workplaces, while our public transport system is so inefficient and unsafe that workers waste hours getting to and from their work.
They do not have the luxury of ‘free time’. Whilst the rich have time to play golf and take overseas holidays, workers are confined to the factories and toiling in the earth with virtually no time even to read and build their consciousness.
Fuelling the anger of our poor communities is the growing evidence that a small minority are not only growing incredibly rich but are doing so through corrupt deals or misuse of public funds. This is not confined to the business community which has always been based on a culture of greed, ‘me-first’ and self-enrichment, but is mushrooming in our public service and revolutionary movement as well.
We congratulate our comrades in SAMWU for exposing corruption in Pikitup and many local municipalities, and other trade unions who have exposed similar abuses in SAA and the SABC.
COSATU is fully behind the ANC’s own campaign to rid the movement of corrupt councillors and officials. The only way to save our revolution from being taken over by these self-serving, money-grabbing individuals is to investigate every report of corruption, bribery and misuse of public funds and deal harshly with all those found guilty.
It is a problem we must solve within our movement. People are rightly angry at corruption, waste and the slow delivery of services in many communities, but boycotting elections or worse still voting for pro-business and anti-worker opposition parties will be a huge mistake. It would open a space for the DA to implement its anti-poor policies and pro-rich policies!
The struggle to build a new and better South Africa cannot be led by those like the DA leaders who benefitted from inequalities, poverty and our oppression, and continue to pursue policies to entrench these injustices.
Yes, the ANC has its problems, but unlike other parties it is open and honest about them. The solution is not to abandon the movement which led our liberation struggle but to join it, swell the ranks and struggle to keep it in line with its traditions of service to the people with no thought to personal enrichment. We also appeal to workers wherever they are, to join and build a strong SACP and a strong progressive trade union movement.
We further call on workers to be active in our communities and get involved in local government not just on next Wednesday but every day. Let us swell the ranks of school governing bodies, community policing forums, ward committees and hospital boards. We must be more in touch on matters that directly affect the working class.
Victory to the ANC on 18 May!