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ANC Secretary General May Day Rally address

1 May 2013, Qwaqwa

Comrade General Secretary of COSATU, comrade Zwelinzima Vavi;
Leadership of the Federation from the national, the provincial and the locals;
The South African Communist Party (SACP);
The South African National Civics Organisation (SANCO);
The Leagues of the ANC;
The structures of the Mass Democratic Movement; and
Workers on whose day we are gathered here today.

This May Day occurs at a time when the Congress movement is hard at work trying to change the lives of our people for the better. This is more significant today because the country is under attack from those who hate progress and also those who wish the nation to deny progress made over the last nineteen years. We meet at a time when those opposed to our movement invest in agitating for discontent from every corner of our country and the world. This is what is at the heart of trying to delegitimize our liberation movement, discredit it, weaken it and ultimately defeat it.

The workers of South Africa must tell the world that today cannot be compared to apartheid. Workers should inform the country and the world that no one can claim that nothing has happened over the last nineteen years. Even the most conservative analysis that leads to global ratings, recognise South Africa as one of the countries in the South that are on the rise. The Davos Global Competitive Index rates South Africa number 52 out of 144 countries. We are rated number one in Africa and number three among BRICS countries. We must, in this regard, work hard to retain our top ratings in the areas of banking, audit standards, corporate governance, and others which feature in the top ten.

We must work hard to improve further in areas where we are rated in the thirties and forties, as it is the case with our research institutions and innovation.

We must get our heads together on areas where we are rated close to the bottom. When we are boasting of robust industrial relations, even describe it as militancy, the international community notices the rise of anarchy in both strikes and protest. The destruction of property, life and limb is not seen as militancy. As a result when it comes to employer-employee relations we are rated at number 144 out of 144 countries. The alliance can redeem our country from this destructive spiral towards anarchy. Yet if this continues COSATU, as a disciplined force of the working people, is going to be weaker. COSATU unions will never survive bargaining without rules. What we saw in both the mining industry and the agricultural sector are signs of this reality.

Another area that needs our attention is education. We are rated at 143 out of 144 in Maths and Science teaching, 140 in higher education and 133 in basic education. These ratings, excluding Maths and Science teaching, are a significant improvement compared to the past ones. Progress is being made and we must ensure that we continue building on the work done. Our matric results have improved in three consecutive years.

In the interest of the Black child the squabbles between SADTU and the Department of Education must be addressed and settled. It is the Black child who suffers and pays a price. The proposal to make education an essential service means that all role players must take education serious. This is not about teachers having no right to strike. It is about the Department, the parents, the learners and the teachers protecting the right of the child to learn and, therefore, develop.

The UNDP’s Human Development Report refers to the progress made by the developing economies from the South. This fast development is described by the United Nations as the *rise of the south*. The report suggests that *“Although more developing countries have done well, a large number of countries that have done particularly well- what can be called the “rise of the South”. Some of the largest countries have made rapid advances, notably Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey. But there has also been substantial progress in smaller economies, such as Bangladehs, Chile, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda and Tunisia”*.

This illustrates that the world is watching us close and recognises the progress we are making. It is the people of South Africa who suffer from self hate, who consistently talk of the prospects of a failed state.

The three notable drivers the United Nations identifies as responsible for these advances are; a proactive developmental state, tapping of global markets and determined social policy and innovation, demonstrated by the transformational development experiments of many countries in the South.

The National Development Plan is a confirmation of such transformational development experiments. For the first time in our history we have a medium term plan, a twenty year window of planning. We are still far behind our competitors like China that have a fifty year plan, broken down into five year chapters, for purposes of implementation. It is their commitment to implementation and to correct mistakes in the process that makes them the fastest growing economy in the world. In our case we cannot even take the first step until, conceptually, COSATU agrees.

Let us highlight some aspects of the NDP to show workers that development is an irrefutable argument. Out of the seven areas that need to be attended to, the NDP highlights three areas that need urgent attention:

  • Need to raise employment to close to full employment by 2030. Key interventions identified are; lowering the cost of living for the poor households, improving business environment, increasing infrastructure investment, focusing on sectors with strong domestic linkages, and wage moderation in the middle and top of the income spectrum. This requires better coordination within government on economic policy. As we roll infrastructure programme lowly-skilled workers must be prioritised.
  • Improving the quality of education. This priority is informed by our appreciation of the improvement in access and slow improvement in quality. The need for expanding the FET education system is also high on the agenda. Every worker understands that for every engineer we need about ten artisans. For this to be reality we will need cooperation among all of us, otherwise we are paying lip service.
  • We need a capable and developmental state for the programmes to be implemented. Skills are critical for state to perform and recruitment of young graduates must be part of improving the skills profile.

As the governing part we have the responsibility to be at the cutting edge of mobilising society behind the NDP. We are not closing our eyes to the reality of many sectors being uncomfortable with some issues in the NDP. We must address those as we implement and in the process we will consolidate successes and discard failures. Development is an irrefutable argument.

As a movement we have an obligation to improve our capacity as well. The 53 rd National Conference has declared this as the decade of the cadre. There are clear tasks given to the NEC of the ANC to ensure that the set results are achieved.

  • The movement must continue to produce a contingent of cadre that is conscious, competent, committed, disciplined and conscientious.
  • We must develop a cadre who will be able to drive the second phase of the transition, through a systematic academic, ideological and ethical training and political preparation.
  • The rolling out of the political school should fulfil this task.
  • The movement must consciously develop and implement a programme to raise the level of literacy, education and skills among its members.
  • We have been asked to pay particular attention to workers and students and generate a new crop of intellectuals.

The values of our movement must be upheld, that is, selflessness, humility, integrity, respect, sacrifice, discipline and unity. The cadre of our movement must be prepared to serve the people. The establishment of the integrity commission is part of the effort to uphold these values.

When we have this kind of a cadre we can talk of the second phase of the transition. This phase must radically deal with the three contradictions in society; those of racial oppression based on race, super-exploitation based on class and patriarchal power relations in society. Our commitment to building a united non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa remains as strong and as practical as ever. The radical programme we are talking about must focus on economic and social transformation, wherein the wealth of our country should benefit all the people. The state must play its role in the redistribution of wealth. It must take more ownership and control of the strategic sectors of the economy. This programme will require more boldness on the part of the ANC.

As a movement we must be decisive in dealing with corruption, which is an inhibiting factor to the delivery of services to the people. Resources that should be used for the improvement of lives of our people get into the pockets of a few. Corruption is the biggest enemy of development.

We must help the Federation understand that the divisions and open fights among its leaders are not in the best interest of the workers. Any fight between a president and a general secretary of any organisation is disastrous. When unions do not respect each other and raid each other’s membership, collective bargaining is weakened. Comrades must be facilitated to talk to each other in one room and not howl at each other in public.

We must report that we are engaging the various unions. We encourage them to work for unity in the federation. This is even more important when the federation, in particular, and the movement in general, are under siege. These leaders do not have the luxury to engage in these antics.

Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.

On behalf of the ANC we wish you a successful May Day and a very active workers month.

Thank you.

Issued by: African National Congress