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SAFTU: Mac Chavalala: Addtess by President of SAFTU, during SAFTU's founding congress, Birchwood hotel and conference centre, Boksburg (23/04/2017)

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SAFTU: Mac Chavalala: Addtess by President of SAFTU, during SAFTU's founding congress, Birchwood hotel and conference centre, Boksburg (23/04/2017)

25th April 2017

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SAFTU National Office Bearers,
SAFTU Founding Affiliates leadership collectives,
SAFTU affiliates–in-waiting leadership collectives,
SAFTU Founding Congress delegates and official observers,
Representatives of civil society formations and organisations,
Invited guests and the media.

On behalf of the South African Federation of Trade Unions National Office Bearers, I want to thank all the delegates, observers, guests, media, and workers of this hotel for having made it possible for the work to happen to give birth to our new federation.

All the leaders and officials of our full and soon to be full affiliates, all those who have worked long hours and mostly without pay for SAFTU, I thank you for the work you have done to give the South African working class a new home, a real revolutionary home, SAFTU.

Special thanks, and a big hand of applause are due to all the members of the Steering Committee and its Convener who worked so hard to bring us to where we are today!

We must thank NUMSA for its generosity in so many ways and especially in offering the new union a place to operate from.

We, your first National Office Bearers of SAFTU, thank this Congress for the absolute trust you have placed in us, by unanimously and democratically electing us into office.

It is done. You have done it. You have given birth to the South African Federation of Trade Unions. It is time to work now, for the working class in South Africa and to do our part, for the world working class.
By giving birth to SAFTU, what have we promised to give to the working class in South African in this Founding Congress of SAFTU?

Millions of workers in South African – unemployed, in factories, in government offices, in schools, hospitals and clinics, as policemen and women, on farms, slaving on the streets in our towns and cities in informal trades, slaving in homes as domestic workers, and yes – millions searching for work everyday – have longed for the birth of a genuine labour federation to unite their efforts in the struggle to improve their lives.

In this Congress, we have given birth to their new home - the South African Federation of Trade Unions, SAFTU!

We know that less than 24 percent of these workers belong to unions. Even of these 24 percent, not all are happy with the service and with the unions they belong to.

We have promised to offer these workers trade union services of the highest standards by the affiliates of SAFTU!

More than 76 percent of the South African working class is not organized in unions.

In this inaugural Congress of SAFTU we have promised to recruit and organize these workers into affiliates of SAFTU, to give them a comforting and protecting home from the heartless exploitation of the bosses.

We know that millions of South African workers cannot find work. Millions of those who work are poor, even as they have work.

We have promised to fight unemployment, low wages, and for a living wage, in this historic Congress.

Mass poverty and extreme inequalities are the daily experience of millions of the South African working class.

In this Congress we have noted the historical roots of the racialised and gendered poverty and inequalities and we have vowed, through the resolutions we have taken, to wage the necessary political war to change this reality.

Racism is well and alive, twenty-three years after 1994.

We have resolved to wage war on racism using both our federation and our affiliates and the organized and united political power of the working class.

Women, especially black women, suffer the most poverty, unemployment and inequalities.

We are determined to abolish the social and economic conditions, and the discrimination, which women in general and black women in particular, suffer from, daily.

Millions of black youths are condemned to a life of inferior or no skills and education, unemployment, poverty, alcohol and drug abuse, disease, violence and prison life; with no hope of ever escaping from their miserable fate.  

SAFTU, in this inaugural Congress, has vowed to take up the struggle to abolish this miserable and pathetic situation of youths in general and black youths in particular.

We have shared knowledge of the conditions of the working class in the world, in Africa and here in South Africa itself. We have observed the fragmentation, divisions, and weakening of the organisations of the working class in this period, especially trade unions, and how all this has grown the power of the enemies of the working class.

We have agreed in this Congress, confirmed by the very act of giving birth to SAFTU, that we shall work for the unity of the working class and their organisations, if the working class are to defeat the system of capitalism and all the dehumanizing conditions this system imposes on the world working class.

By its own admission, the ANC government tells us, in the 2017 Budget Speech that since 1994:

Income growth has been uneven - the bottom 20 per cent have benefited from social grants and better access to services, the top 20 per cent have benefited from the rising demand for skills and pay increases. Those in the middle have been left behind.
Wealth remains highly concentrated – 95 per cent of wealth is in the hands of 10 per cent of the population.
35 per cent of the labour force are unemployed or have given up hope of finding work.
Despite our progress in education, over half of all children in Grade 5 cannot yet read adequately in any language.
More than half of all school-leavers each year enter the labour market without a senior certificate pass. 75 per cent of these will still be unemployed five years later.
Our towns and cities remain divided and poverty is concentrated in townships and rural areas.

What does this mean, for post 1994 South Africa?

60 percent or more of South Africans are poor, post 1994!
The majority 90 percent of South Africans, own a meager 5% of South African wealth 23 years after 1994!
More than a third of the South African working class cannot find work and many have given up hope of ever finding work!
Our school system condemns more than half of Grade 5 children to illiteracy by denying them the skill to read!
After 12 years of schooling, more than half of school leavers have nothing to show for their stay in school – they have no senior certificates! And, 5 years later, a mere 25 percent will have experienced work!
South African communities are, 23 years after 1994, still neatly divided along racial lines and poverty is predominantly African.

Today, the chances of the ANC government, or any other capitalist South African government, ever changing this ugly reality, we all know, are zero! Only the power of the organized working class, led by its own leaders drawn from the ranks of the working class itself, can change this situation.

In order to make SAFTU the fighting federation it must be, on my own behalf, and I know I speak on behalf of the National Office Bearers this founding Congress has elected, do make 10 pledges, to the working class of South Africa in general and members of affiliates of SAFTU in particular, that:

Our priority shall be to place the resources and collective power of our federation at the service of our affiliates so that they grow and truly become unions that effectively provide their members with services of the highest standards.
We shall defend, if need be, with our lives, the fighting independence of our revolutionary and socialist oriented federation.
We shall protect the values and practices of worker control, full democracy and equality as the defining features of our federation.
We shall advance and defend trade union and worker rights and offer solidarity with all workers in their struggles for better wages and conditions.
We shall protect the right to work and higher quality of life for the working class.
We shall promote militancy in fighting for the working class and the poor and actively campaign for change, working together with organisations sharing our vision for society.
We shall uproot and make tribalism, racism, xenophobia and sexism extremely unwelcome in our federation.
We shall leave no stone unturned in our efforts to achieve maximum unity of all workers.
We shall practice zero tolerance for corruption, fraud, maladministration, abuse of the power and resources of the federation and all such destructive and immoral practices.
We shall tirelessly promote anti-imperialism, internationalism and socialism.
It is done. There is no turning back. The South African Federation of Trade Unions, SAFTU, is here.

Go home, and travel safely, now, and tell everyone in our communities, churches, schools, colleges and universities, all social gatherings including bars, clubs, funerals, in factories, offices, at roadblocks and so on, that SAFTU is the federation for all the working class of South Africa be they black or white, young or old, women or men, unemployed, self, formally or informally employed.

Sing to everyone you meet: that there is hope once more, for the downtrodden, the poor and the working class in South Africa for SAFTU is their steel shield and truly red hot spear!

I declare this Founding Congress closed.

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