President Cyril Rampahosa has committed his administration to improve the lives of working people after the May 8 elections, saying that it wanted to improve on the gains made through the creation of a national minimum wage.
Ramaphosa used his address to the main May Day rally, convened by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Clermont, Durban, to promise mass job creation hand-in-hand with better wages and working conditions.
Congratulating the congress for its work in ensuring his government had implemented the minimum wage of R20 per hour, Ramaphosa said there was a commitment to provide the current minimum wage was improved.
Describing May Day as “your day to remind society” of the role of working-class people in making the country work, Ramaphosa said the interest of workers could not be subjugated to “other interests, greed, corruption or even patronage”.
He said many workers around the world did not have the basket of rights that South African workers enjoy, with had come during the past 25 years of ANC government. “Our country rests on our shoulders.”
Ramaphosa said the economy needed to be transformed further to ensure that “everybody has a share in the inclusive growth we hope to get”.
Foreign investment was increasing and he said this would be used to build the economy and create jobs, with R300-billion already pledged by several investors since he took office last February.
At the same time, state entities like Eskom, where billions were stolen, were being cleaned up, he said.
The ANC would continue to make sure that the resolutions of the ANC conference in December 2017 on expropriation of land without compensation took place, he said.
Reiterating his message on state looting —“We cannot carry on with corruption in South Africa,”— Ramaphosa said the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture would continue to ensure that the people who had looted the state were brought to account.
In her address, Cosatu president Zingisa Losi traced the history of the federation, saying that it remained a “”fighting” trade union which had its roots in the Durban strikes of 1973.
Losi said while more needed to be done to improve the working conditions and rights of the working class, the ANC government had ensured that significant gains had been made since it took power in 1994.
These included the extension of the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) to workers who had previously been denied this support under apartheid, the creation of progressive labour relation legislation and the recent passing of a national minimum wage.
Losi said Cosatu believed it was in the best interest of workers to campaign for and vote for the ANC, noting that it was Ramaphosa’s administration which had started a process of dealing with state capture and corruption by appointing the Zondo commission.
The event started several hours late as organisers waited for the stadium to fill up — it was still empty when Ramaphosa arrived after 11am — to avoid the president addressing an empty sports field. But the main stand at the 6 500-seat stadium was still empty when Ramaphosa finally began his speech.
Speaking later SACP secretary-general Blade Nzimande also defended advances made under the ANC, saying that government had electrified 7-million households between 1994 and 2014.
A vote for the ANC, Ramaphosa said, would be the best way to further the interests of the working class after May 8. But he warned that the SACP was not giving the party a “blank cheque” by campaigning for it again.
Nzimande said the SACP backed Ramaphosa’s drive for international investment in South Africa to offset the financial losses incurred through state capture and to build the economy in general.
However, cracking down on state capture and saving money was “no excuse to go back to 1996 and the neo-liberal programmes”. Instead, he said; “We want a developmental state.”
Nzimande said the unbundling of Eskom should not be used to slash the salary bill at the state-owned entity, which he also said should not be privatised.
Nzimande praised Ramaphosa for his efforts to end the use of organs of state security for party political purposes, saying; “We must never again allow our state institutions to be stolen.”
After several years of tension between the two groups, Nzimande said the SACP was working with the ANC as it was the only party which had a similar vision for the creation of a developmental state. But he did note that the SACP wants its alliance with the governing party, and Cosatu, changed so it can deliver more gains from the working class.
Nzimande challenged Ramaphosa to ensure that his new administration introduced decent housing subsidy benefits for civil servants and to bring National Health Insurance (NHI) to reality.
He also called on the ANC to ensure that the representatives it sent to Parliament after May 8 were people of integrity.