Cde Zingiswa Losi, President of COSATU
Cde Blade Nzimande, General Secretary of the SACP
Comrades and Friends
Workers of our country
This is the second Workers’ Day we commemorate under pandemic conditions. COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we live and work.
The people of South Africa have shown tremendous courage in living under the economic and social challenges that are posed by this pandemic.
South African workers have sacrificed a lot and have been severely impacted by the pandemic in terms of loss of income with their livelihoods being negatively affected.
Frontline workers, such as medical personnel, police, teachers, other staff members in the public service, workers in the retail sector and other workers put their lives on the line during the height of the pandemic to keep the country going.
We salute these heroes and heroines.
This has been the most challenging time that our country and its people have faced since the beginning of the democratic era.
The leaders of the Alliance showed the utmost unity throughout the COVID pandemic and have been able to give clear leadership to the country.
The alliance coordinated our response together with government and provided the leadership in a multi-pronged and coherent manner.
Citizens largely conducted themselves admirably and this behaviour aided our efforts to contain the virus to a considerable extent.
It is in such times of great difficulty that the Alliance must continue to show united leadership.
Let us not allow ourselves to be diverted from the challenging tasks at hand; let us deal with the matters that cause strife and division but let us also be clear about addressing the needs of the people.
A united Alliance, made of the peoples movement, the vanguard and the fighting force for workers ….and a vibrant civic organisation…, is still the best force to drive the National Democratic Revolution.
It is certainly a strong force to lead our campaign against the pandemic.
Our people are still being asked to maintain their vigilance and continue adhering to the known protocols of maintaining social distance, wearing a mask and avoiding crowded spaces whilst we now get our vaccine programme underway on a massive scale. Worker leaders must be exemplary in this regard.
There have been a number of unforeseen delays to our vaccine programme and we have to do much better going forward.
We had to pause the Johnson and Johnson/ Sisonke trial due to reports of this vaccine being linked to incidents of blood clotting in the United States. No instances of blood clotting were detected in the South African trial thus far.
Our country resumed the Sisonke trial of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, on Wednesday and with strengthened protocols to screen and monitor for potential blood clots.
In the interim, South Africa also increased our supplies of the Pfizer vaccine.
We will soon begin vaccinating people over sixty (60) and certain other, designated categories of people with comorbidities and other high-risk groups in Phase 2 of the vaccine rollout.
Now, we have experienced the high degree of vaccine imperialism that exists in the world in that more developed countries have tended to hoard vaccine supplies at the expense of lesser developed countries.
South Africa and India have made a strong call, which is supported by more than a hundred countries, for a temporary waiver of vaccine patents at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This will allow developing nations more speedy and equitable access to the vaccine.
The rising number of COVID infections, deaths and ongoing health emergency in India and the looming crisis in Brazil make an urgent and highly visible case for developing countries to be given access to the means to produce vaccines themselves. Many developing countries have the capacity and will be able to manufacture their own vaccines much more quickly and much cheaper.
South Africans, in particular, must be alive to the real risk of experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections during winter.
Workers of the world must unite to compel developed countries and large pharmaceutical companies to display more social solidarity in addressing this pandemic. We call on COSATU, and the rest of the Mass Democratic Movement, to intensify their efforts to join with progressive forces in our country and throughout the world to advocate for vaccine patents waivers.
The best way in which to fight COVID-19 is to ensure that as many people as possible are vaccinated as fast as possible. This disease cares nothing for borders, economic, military or other prowess.
Developing countries must be made to internalise that hoarding available vaccines and not waiving vaccine patents will lead to immense suffering and tremendous loss of human life.
None of us are safe until all of us are safe.
It is without a doubt true that COVID-19 put unforeseen and massive pressure on an already strained fiscus.
We have had to reprioritise our spending across a range of areas in order to fund social, medical and other interventions to mitigate against the worst ravages of the pandemic.
As is well known, South Africa was already in a precarious economic position even before the pandemic.
The precarious economic situation that our country finds itself in is having a negative impact on our people as a whole as the reprioritisation of spending affects expenditure in a number of areas that affect our people.
The precarious economic situation has also had an impact on our ability to finalise a wage agreement with public servants,
The government re-affirms its commitment to protecting collective bargaining and all other labour rights that many sacrificed so much for. This sentiment has been endorsed by comrade Senzo Mchunu as recently as this week.
COSATU a while ago proposed that certain public holidays and election day be declared non-trading holidays. Government has begun the process to amend the Public Holidays Act and will begin a series of public consultations within the next few months.
There is absolute agreement that unemployment and the jobs bloodbath, exacerbated by the pandemic, are devastating. We must take drastic action to create sustainable jobs that make a meaningful difference to people’s lives.
Social partners, working mainly through NEDLAC, put together the elements of the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.
This plan sets out a series of actions aimed at fundamentally changing the economy and the jobs market and making it more inclusive and more equitable. Some of these programmes are beginning to show positive effects, such as:
The Presidential Employment Stimulus was established in response to the economic impact of COVID-19, and is the most rapid expansion of public employment in South Africa’s history.
The stimulus supports a range of programmes, from expanding traditional public employment to protecting existing jobs and providing support for livelihoods.
Over 650,000 opportunities have been supported by the stimulus by March 2021. This includes:
o More than 300,000 education assistants were placed in over 20,000 schools across South Africa. They have supported teachers in the classroom and contributed to COVID-19 safety protocols and maintenance of infrastructure, while learning skills that will help them to succeed in the labour market. Funding has also been provided to protect vulnerable teaching posts.
o Income support is being provided to more than 125,000 workers in the Early Childhood Development sector, whose livelihoods were disrupted by the pandemic.
o More than 50,000 opportunities have been created in public employment programmes in the environment sector, including in natural resource management, fire prevention and the war on waste.
o Almost 2,000 artisans have been hired by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure to support water and energy efficiency, facilities management and the Welisizwe Rural Bridges Programme.
o The expansion of the Global Business Services incentive has enabled the creation of 8,000 new jobs in the sector.
o More than 100,000 small-scale and subsistence farmers are being provided with input vouchers to expand production.
Another pillar of the Recovery Plan is to increase local production and we are developing a number of Master Plans to create conducive conditions for industries to grow.
These Master Plans focus on localisation, development of SMMEs and growing the local economy and are found in the following four sectors:
o Sugar masterplan: Industrial users and retailers have agreed to minimum off-take of sugar for a period of three years with at least 80% of sugar consumption to be localised, increasing to 95% by 2023.
o Poultry masterplan: R1 billion of the R1.7 billion investment that the industry pledged to expand capacity by 2022 has been activated, with 5% more chickens (equivalent to 1 million birds) being produced per week.
o Clothing, textiles, footwear and leather masterplan: This has unlocked new investments of R564 million (Pepkor R30 million, The Foschini Group R350 million and Glodina R184 million).
o Steel masterplan: The draft masterplan has been finalised and presented to Executive Oversight Committee on 9 February 2021 and the implementation plan being developed.
This COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the enormous depth of humanity with wonderful stories of solidarity and patriotism.
At the same time, it also showed depths of depravity of some of our compatriots.
Those people, especially those charged with positions of public trust, who used this pandemic to steal from the people and unjustly enrich themselves must feel the full brunt of the law.
Such misdeeds will not go unpunished.
In fact, no instance of criminality and corruption must go unaddressed. It is only when we adopt an attitude of zero tolerance in our ranks that we will make a lasting difference.
Social ills such as substance abuse, gender-based violence and femicide stalk our population. There needs to be further, in-depth study of the socio-economic causes of these ills and refine our responses to go beyond judicial- legal responses.
The scourge of gender-based violence is an indictment on our people. It finds its roots in backwards attitudes of patriarchy and chauvinism and must be eradicated in all its formations.
We call on our structures to develop programmes to educate citizens about rights and resources available to survivors of gender-based violence. Too often people stay in abusive situations as they are not aware of the resources available to them.
Communities must be vocal about gender-based violence as silence is often a contributing factor to such abuse. Do not protect perpetrators, whoever they may be.
It is our revolutionary duty to actively work to eradicate gender-based violence from our society.
The ANC appreciates the ongoing support of COSATU and especially the renewed support for the forthcoming Local Government Elections in October 2021.
We will, as in the past, work together to develop our Manifesto and wage this campaign vigorously in compliance with COVID-regulations.
We must all work for a decisive victory in these local government elections.
We have heard the pleas of workers to improve the way the Alliance functions and we are working together to achieve this.
Every process of reform is painful and will encounter resistance. In reconfiguring the Alliance, we must put in place structures that will respond to current challenges.
Comrades, we have broad agreement on our immediate tasks and the alliance must develop a common platform around these.
1. Unite, renew and build the alliance
2. Promote continued adherence to all COVID-19 health protocols.
3. Mobilise all South Africans to get vaccinated
4. Resolve the impasse with the Public Service Wage Negotiations.
5. Mobilise and win the 2021 Local Government Elections
We will not succeed in providing effective leadership on any of these issues unless we unite and work together.
I thank you.