Cosatu’s nationwide stayaway is a stand against the ‘predatory elite’

Trade union federation Cosatu has called on all workers in the government and private sector not to go to work on Wednesday and instead join a march against state capture and corruption.

“It’s a total stayaway and everyone in the country, whether you are part of Cosatu or not, you are protected,” Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

“We are calling not only ministers, but citizens, whether you are in the churches, business or government, if this call makes sense to you, then you should participate.”

Cosatu’s mass action is supported by the South African Communist Party (SACP), which has already written to its members in Cabinet and in government in favour of  the protest and stayaway.

“As the SACP, we are writing to our deployees in government, particularly those in the national level – those who are ministers and others – that tomorrow the SACP is deploying them to work at the marches,” deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said.

“We do not want ministers to go to Cabinet tomorrow. They must apologise to Cabinet tomorrow. We have given that instruction from the SACP headquarters to all our members, even those in provinces. MECs, if you are working tomorrow, give an apology to government; there is enough time. Tomorrow we are saving our revolution.” 

Corruption has become “endemic” in Zuma’s adminstration and Cosatu has lost all hope that the president will act against people who are implicated in looting or state capture, the federation said.

“Ordinarily we would be reporting them to the president and say ‘remove minister A, B and C’. But the president has not been able to do that. So, in essence, we have lost confidence in the president, for him to be able to correct those that we report to him,” Nthsalintshali said.

Mapaila said the party had identified Zuma as the “elite predator” among those looting the state – “the Guptas and others inside the movement who have accepted this particular agenda”.

Thirteen marches are set to take place on Wednesday. In addition, Cosatu and SACP leaders plan to expose the extent of state capture and corruption and take action against the people implicated.

“Workers have said that wherever they know about corruption and state capture, they want to conclude the day’s work tomorrow by going to the police station to lay charges against them,” Ntshalintshali said.

Prominent people who would be exposed tomorrow include Water Affairs Minister Nomvula Mokonyane and SAA board chairperson Dudu Myeni, Ntshalintshali said.

“Ms Myeni has been nothing but a one woman tornado that has created havoc and chaos wherever she has been deployed. She is currently working with Ms Nomvula Mokonyane to collapse Umngeni Water [Board] by tearing the rulebook to shreds and running the entity like a spaza shop,” the federation said in a statement.

The nationwide stayaway is protected by Section 77 of the Labour Act and was approved by the National Economic Development and Labour Council. The protected stayaway prevents any company or government department from taking action against employees who don’t show up for work.

Cosatu said workers who face threats of disciplinary action or dismissal from their bosses should report the intimidation to its offices.

Business Unity South Africa (Busa) and Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) have backed Cosatu’s call to take a stand against state capture and corruption, Ntshalintshali said.

“Businesses have indicated that ordinarily they would not support a call of this nature. But Busa and the BLSA have come out strongly and said what Cosatu is calling for is something they can associate with. Of course they are worried about the impact on the economy, but you can’t judge until it’s happened.”

In a statement Busa said it “unequivocally endorses the call for the state to act decisively, in-line with the Constitution and the rule of law, to root out the scourge of corruption.”

Additional reporting by Given Sigauqwe.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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