Wednesday, September 14, 2016

COSATU President, Sidumo Dlamini's Opening Address to the COSATU International School, 12th September 2016 at Boksburg
12 September 2016

Cde Chairperson,
Minister of Labour, Midlred Oliphant,
Alliance leaders,
Our International Guests and friends,
Fraternal organisations
Esteemed delegates

We are gathered here today at this important International School of the federation under the theme: Decent work, Industrialisation and Job creation in Africa. This school is part of the work the federation is undertaking to reposition itself as the primary centre of workers struggle in our country and a trusted ally of our friends internationally.

We take this moment to convey very special words of welcome to our dearest friends and comrades from the whole African continent, who are with us today and those, for reasons beyond their control, who couldn’t make it, but expressed full support for this school. We know very well dear comrades that your presence here today means affirmation of our common bond, solidarity and shared views about the future of our continent and its people.

In the same vein, we dearly welcome our comrades, brothers and sisters from CUT in Brazil. We are proud to have you amongst us. Our relationship goes a long way and our countries share so much in history. We take this opportunity again to express our total rejection of the coup against President Dilma Rousseuff, by the rightwing using false pretexts of accounting improprieties, to stage a political overthrow of a sitting leader. We stand with you at this critical hour of need comrades. We also welcome the Director of ILO, Joni Musabayana, as ILO is our partner in this joint initiative and always a reliable partner whenever we need them.

We are in this Conference because the highly successful 12th National Congress of the federation held end of 2015 issued a directive that we need to re-evaluate the world we live in and under. We need to take stock of what is happening, what has happened and what will happen around us and beyond. Workers from different affiliates of COSATU asserted that we must reposition the federation in a changing country and changing world, but first understand what is changing and changing from what to what. We are back to basics.

This International School is so timely for that and we must make the fullest use to reflect on that effectively. But what are the primary features of this changing world and what does it mean for us?

According to ILO World Employment and Social Outlook Report, under Trends 2015, “by 2019, more than 212 million people will be out of work, up from the current 201 million”. This spells doom for jobs, let along decent jobs. We live in a world in which every possible means to replace work with machine, anti-labour exploitative practices and work methods, laws that reinforce and entrench starvation wages and deny workers the right to organise, have become the norm.

Vulnerable employment account for 1.5 billion people or over 46% of total employment. In both Southern Asia and Sub Sahara Africa, over 70% of workers are in vulnerable employment.

Global economic growth in 2016 is estimated to stand at 3.2%, 0.4% points lower than the figure predicted in some key emerging commodity-exporting countries, in Argentina, Brazil and the Russian Federation. In addition, growth in developing countries, at only 4.2% in 2016, is at its lowest level since 2003.

Seventy-five percent of the world’s poorest countries are located in Africa. For the past two years, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa’s second largest country, has also been ranked the poorest in the world with a Gross Domestic Product (based on purchasing-power-parity) of $394.25 in 2013.

According to Gallup World, in 2013, the 10 countries with the highest proportion of residents living in extreme poverty were all in sub-Saharan Africa. Extreme poverty is defined as living on $1.25 or less a day. In 2010, 414 million people were living in extreme poverty across sub-Saharan Africa.

According to the World Bank, those living on $1.25-a-day accounted for 48.5 percent of the population in that region in 2010.

Approximately one in three people living in sub-Saharan Africa are undernourished. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimated that 239 million people (around 30 percent of the population) in sub-Saharan Africa were hungry in 2010. This is the highest percentage of any region in the world. In addition, the U.N. Millennium Project reported that over 40 percent of all Africans are unable to regularly obtain sufficient food.

In sub-Saharan Africa, 589 million people live without electricity. As a result, a staggering 80 percent of the population relies on biomass products such as wood, charcoal and dung in order to cook.
Of the 738 million people globally who lack access to clean water, 37 percent are living in sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty in Africa results in over 500 million people suffering from waterborne diseases. According to the U.N. Millennium Project, more than 50 percent of Africans have a water-related illness like cholera.

Every year, sub-Saharan Africa loses $28.4 billion to water and sanitation problems. This amount accounts for approximately five percent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP)—exceeding the total amount of foreign aid sent to sub-Saharan Africa in 2003.

Thirty-eight percent of the world’s refugees are located in Africa. Due to continuing violence, conflict and widespread human rights abuses, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that 11 million people, including stateless people and returnees, exist in Africa.

Fewer than 20 percent of African women have access to education. Uneducated African women are twice as likely to contract AIDS and 50 percent less likely to immunize their children. Meanwhile, the children of African women with at least five years of schooling have a 40 percent higher chance of survival.

Women in sub-Saharan Africa are over 230 times more likely to die during childbirth or pregnancy than women in North America. Approximately one in 16 women living in sub-Saharan African will die during childbirth or pregnancy. Only one in 4,000 women in North America will.

More than one million people, mostly children under the age of five, die every year from malaria. Malarial deaths in Africa alone account for 90 percent of all malaria deaths worldwide. Eighty percent of these victims are African children. The U.N. Millennium Project has calculated that a child in Africa dies from malaria every 30 seconds, or about 3,000 each day.

From the Borgen Project by Jordanna Packtor. Some of these figures are not as recent, but they remain largely the same in reality.

Now, this is almost a signal or clue for all of us gathered here today as to what reality or concrete conditions are we talking about and what work remains for us ahead. However, this cannot happen in isolation or in the air. We have a very fluid or evolving situation here at home and we must also explain it theoretically and practically. What are the differences and similarities between what is happening in Venezuela, Brazil and most parts of Latin America and what is happening in our own country and various parts of the continent. What are the common and differentiated experiences and what lessons do we extract out of all that.

We live in the age of aggressive international monopoly capital, a force for the ruthless exploitation of the worlds resources. In our own country, of course, with mistakes and own goals, we have seen the emboldening of rightwing capitalist forces emerging to reassert their agenda with unprecedented confidence and arrogance.

The shifts and changing landscape in the recent local government elections reflect a new chapter in the life and history of our country, whose impact shall depend on how we respond ourselves. If we respond with astute political acumen, the enemy will be forced to retreat, but if we continue with self-inflicted pains and own goals, we must be ready for the worst.

As we face our own difficult moments, we shall not waiver from expressing our ongoing profound solidarity greetings to all fellow workers and oppressed people, wherever they are. Our struggle is their struggle and their struggle is our struggle. We shall win or perish together.

In this regard, we express fraternal greetings to the oppressed and struggling masses of Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Palestine under Zionist occupation, Western Sahara under Moroccan occupation and Cuba under the incomplete removal of the blockade by the US.

We further expressed our full solidarity with all struggling for climate justice, fair and just trade, right to development and food, end to hunger and poverty, elimination of inequalities and unemployment, landlessness and starvation wages, exploitation and plunder, as well as the big crime happening in front of us, the massive profiteering from diseases and the suffering of the people by pharmaceutical industries.

These are our struggles and daily they must keep us focus on the real issues facing workers and not side shows that divert our energies and distract our work. We are at war against all that harms workers and the poor and this is what we are gathered here for.

May we have successful deliberations and all the best, as we await the historic outcomes that shall constitute our marching orders in rebuilding further this giant federation of South African workers and towards a stronger and united African trade union movement.

Issued by COSATU

Sizwe Pamla (National Spokesperson)
Congress of South African Trade Unions
110 Jorissen Cnr Simmonds Street

P.O.Box 1019
South Africa

Tel: +27 11 339-4911 Direct 010 219-1339
Mobile: 060 975 6794

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