Speech delivered by the COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini, at the SADTU National Congress

2 - 4 October 2014, Birchwood Conference Centre

The acting President of SADTU, comrade Magope Maphila

The entire leadership of SADTU from all levels of the organisation

Invited Guests from beyond the borders of our country and across the length and breadth of South Africa

Comrades Delegates, we give our special greetings to you,

We salute you for building SADTU into a union with clarity on issues regarding the national democratic revolution.

Thank you for consistently showing that you understand your revolutionary tasks and never became a sweetheart union. You have shown that it is possible to defend the interests of the country and still continue to defend the interest of workers.

We are certain that your employer knows that you are clear about the difference between your tasks to advance the National Democratic revolution and drawing a line when it comes to issues affecting workers.

Your role to advance the NDR must never blackmail you into being a timid union. Workers issues come first.

Thank you for building SADTU into a fighting union which knows its priorities, a union which knows that its theatre of operation is in education and its scope and level of thinking is international.

Thank you for standing firm and remaining united in defence of your union against those who thought SADTU can be easily stolen.

We thank the entire membership of SADTU for leading from the front in working with other unions and the Alliance formations doing mobilisation work during elections leading to the ANC - led Alliance winning with a more than 62% convincing majority. Thank you for implementing a COSATU resolution against those who went public against it even from within our ranks.

Were it not for the energy, bravery and resources provided by SADTU with other COSATU unions our people may have stayed in their houses demobilised by the media which was working with the opposition parties to de campaign the ANC.

It is true that the election results were also a statement of no confidence to the media and the opposition parties by the majority of the South African people.

The task now is to ensure that we keep the comrades deployed into parliament to implement all the promises we made to our people.

Our task is to continue to remind those we have been deployed in various state institutions to remember never to take the confidence of our people for granted. The ANC must never hesitate to recall whoever fails to carry the mandate or those who deliberately misinterpret and undermine the mandate given by our people through the manifesto, the Mangaung Conference and through Alliance decisions.

We want all those deployed to the state to remember that their task remains that of undoing the bases upon which the colonial state was erected whose central function was the creation and administration of what was essentially a system of labour coercion, directed against the blacks.

We want to once against remind our comrades that there is a marked difference between political office and political power. Political office refers to control of ministries conferred on a party on the basis of the results of a general election.

Thus it is conceivable in a capitalist country, as it happened elsewhere in world that a party of the working class may win the elections and assume political office - that is, it is given control over the ministries - without that in any way altering the fact that political power remains in the hands of the capitalist class.

What happens in such instances is that a party of the working class is allowed to administer the capitalist state, introduce ameliorative reforms, and even impose certain controls on the activities of the capitalists just as long as it does not tamper with the central sphere of capitalist political power. Forming the government, therefore, is not the same thing as acquiring political power.

Political power finds expression through the state, which is a class instrument combining two functions, those of coercion and those of persuasion and this include mobilising society behind a radical popular programme.

Comrades must refuse to have the task of the democratic and developmental state being made to be that of ensuring the continuity of the power of the ruling class, to arbitrate the differences and conflicts within this class, and regulate the conflict between the ruling class and the subordinate classes. The democratic state must not be an administrator of tenders, the collector of taxes, a national fund-raiser through public borrowing, and the disburser of funds and allow the actual delivery of public goods to be rested with the private sector.

Your mandate is to construct a developmental state and the state will not be developmental by declaration or legislation, or by decree. It depends on what the state does and how it does it. In our case, a state will be developmental if it develops its capacities to address the terrible legacy of apartheid and capitalism and ensure that the dream of the freedom Charter that the people shall share in the country`s wealth becomes a reality.

This task of keeping our deployees in government accountable in ensuring that the dream of the freedom charter becomes a reality cannot be undertaken if we have divided and weak organisation.

In this regard please allow me to report that as COSATU we are currently seized with the task of working to achieve the unity and coherency of the federation based on asserting and reaffirming the founding principles of the federation which include one industry one union, one country one federation, worker control and democratic centralism, paid up membership and international solidarity. It is very clear in our mind that workers expect nothing less from us but a united COSATU based on our founding principles. This we promise we will do without fail!

This task of uniting COSATU is not just about uniting COSATU but it is also about uniting the Alliance based on an understanding that the golden rule in a political struggle is always to isolate the most dangerous enemy, while at the same time strengthening to the maximum the progressive camp based on a clarion call of War to the enemy and unity amongst our people!

Within the same wavelength we are also busy with preparations towards the Central Committee which is different from the other Central Committees because it is held before the COSATU Congress which will be marking the 30th anniversary of COSATU.

It is for this reason that this will be a Central Committee which will not only be doing a mid -term review but it will also be assessing the work done at least since our 8th Congress when we adopted the 2015 Plan as we prepare to account to the 2015 Congress next year. This Central Committee will also be assessing progress made in the implementation of the Freedom Charter.

The overarching objective of our forthcoming Central Coming will be to build on the work already underway to consolidate on building the unity of the federation based on our founding principles.

We are confident that we will emerge from the Central Committee more united. We want to tell anyone who is listening that we will build and unite COSATU with and without those who want to destroy it!

We will give no space to those want to divide the federation. We know that there are even people who are building their political careers riding on the crest of our divisions.

We will unite this federation of Elijah Barayi and Moses Kotane with every joule of energy we have!

Comrades as we come to this Congress we have seen that like COSATU, in the recent past you have been in and out of courts and so far you have been winning these court battles waged against SADTU.

We know that it is not SADTU which has all of sudden taken its battles to courts but you have been dragged there in defence of this glorious trade union of Mathew Goniwe , Raymond Mnguni and Don Pasquallie. But it doesn`t mean that your victory in courts is guaranteed perpetually.

It is important that this congress must spend some time about the phenomenon of taking our organisations to court.

It must be said that all South African citizens and peoples of the world have a right to justice and when they see that justice is not being done they have a right to approach the courts to seek justice.

But people who choose to join organisations which have constitutions have a responsibility to first to explore internally built constitutional mechanisms to resolve whatever challenges.

Even if this was the case comrades, we have got to look at this matter differently when it comes to the organisations particularly organisations whose primary strategic task is to represent workers and to fight against the legal, socio -economic and political bases upon which workers exploitation is founded.

It is interesting to note that sometimes we say courts are instruments at the service of the ruling class and when it suits us we conveniently rush to courts to square up on our internal political battles.

Comrades must be reminded that in the first place workers form unions as organisations whose primary pre-occupation is to fight for their rights as workers and they do so because they do not have resources to go to courts and they know that in many occasions` courts and similar institutions have always favoured those who have financial resources and have continuously failed them.

What is common about these court battles is the leadership battles. Comrades should be reminded that workers do no form unions in order to elect leaders but they form unions as organisations who should fight for their rights.

The election of leaders into positions should never be elevated as being primary above the organisation, to a point where comrades are prepared to kill or die or take the organisation to court for positions of leadership.

We know of many organisations which got destroyed at the point of leaders taking each other to courts.

Taking the union destroys the principle of unity upon which any trade union is built and entrenches the politics of individualism where individual leaders get imposed to stand as immovable movers above the organisation.

Courts are institutions of those who have financial resources. When a union is taken to court it has a responsibility to defend itself and that means using money which should be allocated to advance workers agenda. If the union can choose not to defend itself it may be destroyed by the very same legal processes. But courts are not a place where we should be squaring up on our internal political battles.

Working class organisations cannot be led on the bases of loosing or winning court battles. Comrades must remember that winning an election is one thing and even if you win such an election in the court, what counts is not victory but the credibility which is required to unite and pull the organisation together towards achieving its defined objectives.

In other words , it is possible to win a leadership position but in the process loose the credibility which is suppose to come with leadership role you have to play in taking the organisation forward.

It is possible for a clique or faction to win an election but in the process destroy the very same organisation they have been fighting to lead. We have practical examples of organisations who have gone that route and today they only exist in splinters and also exist as a shadow of their past.

Actually this emerging tendency of taking our organisations to courts exposes the existing dishonesty within our ranks and the extent to which there is pre-occupation about our positions then serving workers. We have ceased to be servants of workers and have become the positions of leadership we got elected into during congresses.

Being elected into a position of leadership is no longer seen as an opportunity to serve workers but it has become equivalent to employment , an opportunity to network with those in business allowing us to access resources.

It has become a step ladder to a window of opportunities and to a door of limitless power. This is why people cease to be comrades when it comes to elections instead they become lobby groups whose relationship is not defined about what we are struggling for but by bargaining over positions at the expense of principles.

Comrades get elected only on the basis of whether they had access to financial resources or not. In the process comrades get destroyed and our organisations get divided. The only person who wins is the service provider, the business people who get mobilised to fund factional manoeuvres.

This conference must discuss and find a way on how this can be stopped!

The theme of this Congress says the task from this Congress moving forward is to "Restore the Character of SADTU as a Union of Revolutionary Professionals, Agents of Change and Champions of People`s Education for People`s Power in pursuit of Socialism".

This is a heavy responsibility which this congress imposing a heavy responsibility on the shoulders of members, the leadership which will emerge from this congress and all of us who are associated with SADTU.

What is this theme really saying? This theme is giving us two instructions:

The first instruction is that the task of this 8th Congress of SADTU is to restore SADTU as a trade union

This means that this Congress is reminding all of us that SADTU is first and foremost an organisation which has been formed on the basis of those who understood that fighting for the improvement of working conditions, fighting for the improvement of salaries and job security can never be won with individuals working alone.

It is a reminder that unlike insurance companies which provide a service to passive clients, SADTU is a trade union which operates on the basis of unity of its members and coordinates activities which get implemented by members themselves as their own liberators.

This is the reason why we have site stewards, where the real power of SADTU lies all over the country.

It means if we are to restore the trade union character of SADTU we should deploy resources which will be required to stimulate the necessary activism at the site and branch level.

But this theme is also reminding us that SADTU is not a political organisation but it is a trade union and must function as a trade union. Trade unions are mass organisations which dominantly functions of the basis of continuous consultation with members to solicit mandates. Representative democracy becomes applicable within the context of the parameters imposed by the wide mandate. That is why from time to time trade unions go back to renew mandate from members.

This is the very reason we are holding a congress today. We have observed with concern that there are many within our ranks who think it is possible to configure SADTU into a political organisation and we want to say very openly changing a trade union into a political organ is suicidal. If you want to do that you rather first dissolve the trade union and reconstitute it as a political organisation.

As COSATU we knew about the limitations of a trade union and where we want to achieve political objectives we work in alliance with two leading political formations in our county which is the ANC and the SACP and we accept the leadership of the ANC in the National Democratic Revolution and also accept and appreciate the political leadership of the SACP in our struggle for a Socialist South Africa. We will refuse to do things in a manner that seeks to replace the role of our political allies. So when this Congress instructs that we should assert the trade union character of SADTU that must be encouraged.

It was in this context that COSATU`s 11th Congress declared that our focus should be on building worker controlled trade union and reiterated our clarion to organise or starve!

The COSATU 11th Congress also said that we should embark on a concerted organisational drive to consolidate, build and further democratise our organisations; extend our organisations to areas where workers are currently unorganised; and to act decisively to combat practices, or conditions, which lead to worker disunity or fragmentation of our organisations.

It instructed all of us to go back to basics, focus effectively on workplace issues, organisation and recruitment, deliver service to our members, and implement our 2015 Plan!

It argued that it is only through building powerful, unified organisation that workers will have an effective engine to drive the changes we want to see at the workplace, in the economy, and at a political level.

It said that we should entrench deeper forms of accountability and worker control; we should stop bureaucratisation of our structures, at affiliate or federation level, by ensuring that we remain a campaigning mobilising organisation; stop divisive and undemocratic conduct in our unions, which attempts to undermine worker unity, or create splinter unions.

Secondly the theme instructs that we should restore SADTU not only just as a union but as a union of revolutionary professionals who are agents of Change and Champions of People`s Education for people`s Power.

In this regard I want to draw the attention of the Congress to a research report released early in January 2013 by food for thought titled save our children which revealed that 165 million children are malnourished worldwide. It explained that malnutrition is the underlying cause of death for 2.3 million children per year, an average of one death every 15 seconds.

The report also shows that 38 percent of children from the least developed countries have had their growth stunted by malnutrition.

Those of our revolutionary health professionals and cadres operating in the terrain of health to save lives and those who are health activists will know that a poor diet leads to stunted growth, which contributes to significant cognitive deficiencies.

One study cited by the report states that children stunted at age five are 19 percent less likely to read the sentence, "The sun is hot."

They are also 12.5 percent less likely to write such a sentence.

Children at age eight who are malnourished are 20 percent less literate than their counterparts who have access to a nutritious diet.

The report also indicated that malnourished children score 7% lower in maths tests and are 19% less likely to be able to read aged 8. 38% of children from the least developed countries have had their growth stunted by malnutrition

Well nourished children are 13% more likely to be in the correct grade at school, boosting lifelong skills .Better childhood nutrition could cut stunting by 1/3 and reduce health issues, from diarrhoea and pneumonia to deaf-mutism.

The poorest 40% are 2.8 times more likely to suffer the long-term effects of malnutrition than the richest 10%

Poor health and education limit job prospects. Childhood malnutrition cuts future earnings by at least 20%

In total, current childhood malnutrition could cost the global economy $125bn when today`s children grow up

Good health and jobs break the cycle of poverty and ensure that every child gets a chance to thrive

By improving health and education, good nutrition leads to a more skilful and dynamic workforce

Fixing malnutrition now could bring economic benefits over 100 times as large as the costs of interventions

A separate report released by the International Energy Agency found that over 1.3 billion people globally have no access to electricity and 2.6 billion do not have clean cooking facilities. Of these people, 95 percent live either in sub-Saharan Africa or developing countries of Asia; 84 percent live in rural areas.

These findings, when read and understood in the context of the reality of poverty, unemployment and inequality taking place at a world scale are an indictment of the economic system and world governments which have created appalling social conditions for the majority of the world`s population.

All this is happening within the context of the deepening global capitalist crisis which comes with the heightened imperialist aggression whose central axes is the intensification of exploitation of working men and women all over the world, which is being clearly marked by a denial of rights and the abuse of the workers in return of increasingly lower wages.

The actual manifestation of this offensive is cuts in real wages; Intensification of work periods; deregulation and increase in working hours; deregulation of labour relations; widespread casual labour, particularly among the women and young workers; overexploitation of migrant workers; appropriation of labour productivity gains by capital; increase in the retirement age; cuts in pensions and retirement benefits; Increase in unemployment rates; Regression of social and labour rights; and the denial of the right to bargain collectively and to strike

The socio political manifestations of the heightened brutality of imperialism is the centralization and concentration of capital and wealth; the financialisation of the economy; the systematic attack on the social functions of the State achieved through relentless struggles by workers ; the commercialization of all spheres of social life, in a logic of privatizing all that can bring higher returns to capital; the attacks on international law and sovereignty of the States and the centralization of political power and its submission to economic power and to the strategies of militarization of international relations,

All this put together is a demonstration of the extent to which Capitalism can mercilessly destroy the future of our nations.

What then should be the task of the revolutionary professionals?

The first strategic task to be undertaken by the revolutionary professionals is ensuring ideological clarity to defend, develop and apply Marxism -Leninismto understand who is on our side and what are the forces ranging against us, and developing a programme for transformation and of building a working class biased transformation programme.

This means building the capacity of SADTU and all our formations to fight a consistent ideological war in every corner of our country, in all the strategic centres of power in our society, inside government, in the state institutions including in education institutions.

We must fight with everything we have and to confidently table socialist alternative as a practical call for a total break with orthodox neoliberal policies, which have failed our country and the world. We must inspire our people that an alternative to the failed capitalist system is nothing else but Socialism.

When parents of the children you teach cannot afford to put food on the table for their children and only relying on school feeding scheme because food prices have increased and a majority of them are unemployed, when there is an increased in child headed house - holds , when there are children at school who fail not because they are incapable but because they lack the necessary nutrition to enhance their cognitive development , it is the task of revolutionary professionals to point out to the solution of a need for parents to rely on their collective efforts such as building cooperatives.

When revolutionary professionals get to the class to teach economics or health, agriculture etc, you must at the same expose the criminality, the mercilessness and inhumanity of capitalism as a system that is based on greed and of having caused all the misery we see in the world today and incapable of resolving the challenges confronting humanity.

When there is a continued drop -out rate because of learner pregnancy , increase in learner drug abuse and youth criminal activities because these are the shot cuts and the only way out to get money for food in their families, when the salary of a teacher becomes inadequate because you have to spread it throughout the unemployed members of the extended family , you must know that your responsibility is not just to infuse the neo liberal mantra to learners but to make them question the economic system that have brought misery to their lives , their families and communities in which they live.

It is you the revolutionary teachers who are better equipped with the science and art of using the power of a written and a spoken word to develop capacity for our people to be their own liberators and to point a way out of the misery imposed by capitalist economic crisis.

The test of quality education and of teachers as professional revolutionaries will be the extent of focus and ability to build capacity for the learners to find solutions to the challenges confronting the world and to develop their ability to change the world for the benefit of humanity and preserving the environment as whole.

We expect to see SADTU members and leaders participating in the branches of the Alliance and leading developmental programmes in our communities, as it is happening with professionals in Latin America who work with communities to find solutions to the burning questions of the day.

In Latin America it has been young lawyers and advocates who went out to defend their parents when they got arrested after land invasions. In South Africa it should be the teachers who use the advantage of a more than 7 hour contact with learners to infuse revolutionary thinking to our youth.

This is a task which SADTU cannot outsource. It is yours comrades take it and move with it!

Thirdly, the theme of this 8th Congress also instruct that this Congress should come up with a programme to build SADTU into a union which will consciously work to execute all these task within the context of a vision to achieve Socialism

In this regard SADTU should work even more closely with the SACP. We have people saying the SACP of today is not the same as the SACP of Moses Kotane, of JB Marks, of Chris Hani and Joe Slovo. A lie has been consistently peddled that the SACP has not provided theoretical guide to the revolution.

This is a lie the South African Communist Party continues to consistently provide ideological clarity based on an understanding that communists have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.

The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only:

  1. in the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.
  2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

It is in this context that the South African Communists have continued to produce theoretical guides to illuminate a way forward in the challenges of our time.

Very recently when we were confronted with the global economic crisis, on amongst others the SACP tabled a document titled Responding to the Capitalist Crisis - key challenges facing the working class movement and our government.

This was also followed by another document titled a discussion document on rural development.

In its 13th Congress the SACP tabled came up with a document titled "The South African Road to Socialism". This document deals with reasons for pursuing Socialism , the continues relevance of colonialism of Special Type, The SACP and State Power, the SACP and the South African Economy , the SACO and the workplace , the SACP and communities , the battle of ideas, strengthening organisational capacity of the SACP as a vanguard Party in all key sites of struggle.

The only people who can say the SACP has not provided a guide are those who don`t listen or who simply do not read documents or who are not actively participating in the many campaigns which is the SACP has been undertaking.

SADTU cadres as people who have been professionally trained in the art of the written and spoken word should read these document and many which the SACP has produced ion the past and in recent times. You must critique and articulate these policy documents and implement them in practice. This is what will help to build Marxism - Leninism as a tool to find solutions in the challenges of our times. It is you as SADTU cadres who should go out and tell all who cares to listen that the SACP continues to provide leadership in the struggle for Socialism.

As Amilcar Cabral said that every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories."

This Congress must also at the same time resolve on what more needs to be done to strengthen the organisational capacity of the SACP on the ground.

This will include the provision of resources which we know that SADTU is doing but more importantly to swell the ranks of the SACP, participate and lead the campaigns of the SACP in your own right as SACP members and as SADTU develop joint programmes with the SACP.

You must consciously and deliberately open space for young teachers and Learner Representatives Council members to be exposed to Marxist - Leninist Literature and encourage them to join and be active in the structures of the Young Communist League.

Building Socialism requires commitment and patience and an understanding of the difference between what we desire and what is possible and to work to deepen and intensify the struggle to convert possibilities into reality

Follow the teachings of Amilcar Cabral when he said" Educate ourselves, educate other people, the population in general, to fight fear and ignorance, to eliminate little by little the subjection to nature and natural forces which our economy has not yet mastered…. …Demand from responsible Party members that they dedicate themselves seriously to study, that they interest themselves in the things and problems of our daily life and struggle in their fundamental and essential aspect, and not simply in their appearance. Learn from life, learn from our people, learn from books, learn from the experience of others. Never stop learning.Responsible members must take life seriously, conscious of their responsibilities, thoughtful about carrying them out, and with a comradeship based on work and duty done".

We wish this Congress all the success.