Cosatu warns Lekota over BEE comments

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday warned Cope president Mosiuoa Lekota that if he continued threatening the rights of the workers he would be in for a “big surprise”.

Zet Luzipho, Cosatu KwaZulu-Natal secretary, said the federation was “perturbed by the consistent threats” from Cope, particularly those made at a recent rally.

“His [Lekota’s] statements are serious threats to the hard won rights of the workers in this country.”

Lekota told a rally in Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal on Saturday that black economic empowerment (BEE) only benefited a select few and left the poor without jobs.

“BEE is not empowerment. Empowerment must be about giving—start from the poorest of the poor. A child from Umlazi must have the same possibility as anyone else.”

He said if BEE did not empower the children of South Africa then it was not empowerment.

Lekota said people should be hired on the basis of expertise, knowledge and skills rather than the colour of their skin.

“We need the best engineers, the best plumbers, the best medical personnel.
We need people who are skilled and have the expertise in these fields. If all the Cope members don’t know how to run the city of Durban, we must hire a city manager. It doesn’t matter which political party he’s from. We must hire him”.

Luzipho said Lekota’s comments about doing away with affirmative action suggested that workplace equity plans would be a thing of the past.

“This goes further to suggest that there will be a downward variation of the rights of workers because our labour market is too rigid and expensive.”

Lekota also spoke out about public servants, like policemen, who he said used their jobs to serve the party they followed.

“We know the SA Police Service are aligned to a union and that union is affiliated to a political party ... but the Constitution says they may not in the course of their duties advance party political interests.

Luzipho said workers’ rights to freedom of association were enshrined in the Constitution and that public servants used their “hard-earned salaries” to pay their subscription to the unions.

“We now understand why there is absolutely no transformation in the SA National Defence Force.”

Lekota is the former defence minister.

“We therefore wish to warn those who think that they can easily erode and attack worker’s rights to think again because they may be in for a huge task and surprise,” said Luzipho.

He called on all workers, regardless of their political convictions, to stand up and defend their constitutional rights.

“As workers we have nothing to lose but our exploitation.” - Sapa

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