28 Days the Shook South Africa

The Lessons of the Public Sector Strike

Originally published as a special edition of Izwilabsebenzi (June 2007).

On 28 June 2007, the leadership of the majority of public sector unions announced their acceptance of the government’s final 7.5% salary offer. This effectively ended the politically most significant strike since the ANC came to power. In terms purely of percentages, government may be tempted to crow that the final settlement was significantly closer to its opening offer of 5.3% than to the unions’ 12% opening demand.

Original cover.

But the outcome of battles in the class struggle cannot be calculated by the simple laws of arithmetic. It is not a question of the size of the wage increase and whether it is within the government’s budget. It is determined by the dialectical interplay of relations between the working class on the one hand and the capitalist ruling class and its political representatives on the other. It is determined by the psychology of the contestants in particular struggles and by the impact of successive battles in different arenas on the relationship of forces between them nationally and internationally.

Whatever the figures of the agreement may say, the reality is that this strike swept through society like a tsunami, altering the political landscape, and decisively changing the relations between the classes. Despite their misgivings about the actual terms of the final settlement, the public sector workers emerged out of this battle with their confidence in their power restored; the government, and the capitalist ruling class behind it, with its confidence dented.

Relationship of Forces

Since government’s walk-out from the negotiations and the unilateral imposition of wage settlement in 1999, the balance of power appeared to have swung in favour of government. So emboldened had government become by the leadership’s spinelessness that they attempted to rub workers’ noses in the dirt of their 2004 defeat. Despite what was then the biggest public sector strike in SA history, they imposed a 5.3% increase – less than the 6% demand for which the public sector general strike had been called. To the injury of 1999, government had added the insult of 2004.

Their derisory opening offer of 5.3% appeared to have been calculated to remind the workers of the humiliation of three years before. This offer and the outrageous proposal for a four-year multi-term agreement clearly showed that government believed they could simply continue in 2007 where they had left off in 2004. They thought the union leaders’ cowardly capitulation was a sufficient guarantee of yet another triumph.

The combined effect of 1999 and 2004 was that the credibility of the salary negotiations and even the role of the unions themselves had, in the eyes of workers, been seriously undermined. With the Minister of Finance budgeting salary adjustments in line with inflation in advance of wage negotiations, and workers expected simply to accept this, collective bargaining had been reduced to at best, a rubberstamp, at worst a farce.

Over the last few years, under the Mbeki presidency in particular, through a combination of government intransigence and the political cowardice of especially (though not exclusively) the Cosatu leadership, public sector workers had experienced a number of setbacks. The union leadership had, amongst others, agreed to: the abolition of leg-and-rank promotion (a policy of systematic promotion which provided workers with a career path ensuring they would not stay on the same level for decades as tends to be the case today); signed an agreement allowing the government to unilaterally introduce a 16-notch performance-based salary grading system which opened-up workers to abuse by managers; provided for tiny, (notch-related) salary increases and, with so many notches, slowed career advancement to a snail’s pace; accepted, despite the HIV/Aids pandemic, the slashing of sick leave from 180 days to 36 days over a 3-year period; the exclusion of senior managers from collective bargaining resulting in a widening of the wage gap; multi-term salary agreements leading to demobilization and weakening the unions’ ability to fight back.

The union leadership had even failed to lift a finger as the government blatantly and wilfully defied its own law – the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.

Government Underestimates Workers

The government could not have been more wrong. 2007 was not 2004. The caravan of history had moved on. Encouraged by the upturn in the economy, the increase in the number of strikes since 2004 and the growing resistance of working class communities to corruption and poor service delivery in local government, public sector workers were determined that there would be no further retreats. They prepared for action to restore the balance of power in their favour by exerting enormous pressure on the leadership. The mood of grim determination led to the unions submitting a single set of demands as early as October 2006.

The outcome of the strike was about much more than increased wages and allowances. With the sound of a thunderclap, the public sector workers had forced society to recognise two inter-related and undeniable facts: the undiminished power of the working class and their willingness to struggle on the one hand, and the limits of the power of the ruling class and the government on the other. Regardless of how much, in monetary terms, workers had gained (through the settlement) or lost (through the application of the no-work-no-pay rule) what stood out at the end of the strike was the undeniable reality that, for the first time, mass action had forced concessions from government. Having opened with an offer of 5.3%, the government was compelled to increase its offer by more than 2 percentage points to 7.5%.


Despite this, many workers, maybe even a majority, viewed this outcome with dissatisfaction and even bitterness. There is a widespread feeling amongst workers that what was achieved does not correspond to the magnificence of the battle waged, the sacrifices made, and the support obtained from the wider working class. With public sentiment clearly in their favour, and government’s position seen widely as unreasonable, workers justifiably felt that they had had the upper hand. In the circumstances the feeling amongst workers, that defeat had been snatched from the jaws of victory, is understandable.

The DSM believes, however, that it is going too far to describe the outcome as a defeat. At the same time, as we explain elsewhere, we strongly disagree with those leaders, like comrades Vavi and Slovo, general secretaries of Cosatu and Nehawu respectively, that this outcome was a victory for workers.

The gains made during this strike are not to be found in the wage increase or improvement in conditions of service. These are modest at best. The most important gains of this strike lie in the restoration of the self-confidence of the public sector workers and the inspiring effect this had on the working class as a whole. It is to be found in the fact that it has further clarified the class character of the ANC, exposing the differences in the Tripartite Alliance, especially the conflict between the ANC and Cosatu, as class differences.

This has raised the class consciousness of the working class, and placed on the agenda again the vital question of their class independence, and the need for an independent political voice for the working class. The strike has also forced onto the agenda the question of leadership, the political role of Cosatu and its relationship with non-Cosatu unions. Like an investment with a maturity date, these benefits of the strike have the potential to pay huge dividends for working class struggle in the future.

The strike brought out into sharp relief, in the outlook and attitude of the public sector workers on the one side and the government on the other, a mutual recognition that this conflict had been over far more than wages and benefits. It had been a struggle over irreconcilable class interests.

This strike was a defining moment in the struggle between the classes and has drawn a line in the sand between them. The government’s hard-line stand in the negotiations, it’s dismissive attitude towards the workers’ demands, it’s hostile reaction to the strike, it’s unapologetic attempts to undermine the strike, it’s callous indifference to the implications of threats of mass dismissals of health workers and the display of apartheid-style kragdadigheid through police beatings, the use of teargas and rubber bullets – all served to re-affirm a realisation that has been taking root in the consciousness of the working class, at first slowly, but now more rapidly, about the class character of the ANC government – it is a government of the rich. Despite claims of being biased towards the working class and viewing it as the “motive force of the revolution” less and less does the government believe it has any special obligation towards working class people.

Government of the Rich

Much more than ever before, the government has itself become conscious of its role as the “matshingilane” of big business. Its attitude to key demands showed its awareness that its overriding responsibility was not towards the working class majority that voted it into power, but the capitalist class who for decades had opposed it. The ANC government has subordinated the interests of those that had supported and built it for decades, to those of the bosses who had accepted the ANC’s accession to office only as an unavoidable necessity for them. Its rejection, for example of the demand for a new minimum wage was based not on affordability, but, for fear of the potential impact on the outcome of wage negotiations especially in the private sector. The same applies to the rejection of the 12% demand.

Sometimes incidents that are in and of themselves of little consequence shed a light on events in such a way that their true significance is revealed. In previous salary negotiations, Mbeki made it a point to decline any proposals to increase his and his cabinet ministers’ salaries levels higher than what government was asking public servants to accept. If workers were expected to accept 6% then so would he and his ministers.

But that attitude has now been locked away in the trunk of yesterday’s pretensions. This time the Moseneke Commission recommendations completely ignored the negotiations. It could not care less what government was offering workers. Its proposals, released when the government’s opening offer of 5.3% was still on the table, were for an outlandish range of 30% for ministers to 57% for the president! Most significantly, Mbeki did not reject them – he merely referred them back, to be revisited, no doubt, once the storm of the public sector strike had passed

Political Significance of the Strike

The ANC’s claim that it represents the interests of all classes in society and is dedicated to the liberation of blacks in general and Africans in particular stands exposed as a fiction. The hollowness of that claim rings through the service delivery protests now breaking out regularly at a local level, as well as the virtual insurrection in Khutsong.

The policy of the new political elite (representing the aspirations of the mafikizolo capitalists – the aspirant black capitalists – and the interests of the predominantly white capitalist class into whose ranks they are being assimilated) is to subordinate the interests of the overwhelmingly black working class majority, to those of the overwhelmingly white capitalist minority.

The SA economy is capitalist. It is the one thing that even all the partners in the Tripartite Alliance agree upon. Furthermore, as Mbeki once again made clear at the policy conference, the ANC is dedicated to the preservation of this system. Whatever the intention of the ANC leadership, the government has to favour capital – no other policy is possible on the basis of capitalism.

The logic of this system is that it compels the rich to conduct a relentless class struggle against the working class. History has known no other type of capitalism – the class struggle is the common thread that has run through capitalism regardless of the various political forms of state under which it has functioned throughout its history. Whether the political form of government is social democratic, “national democratic”, military or a fascist dictatorship has always been a question of what was politically convenient or an unavoidable necessity. Having co-existed quite happily with white minority rule and enjoying the benefits of apartheid and the oppression and exploitation of the black working class, the rising strength and militancy of the working class made the bosses realise that the continuation of the apartheid political order posed a threat to the very existence of the capitalist system itself.

This is the reason they became converts to bourgeois democracy – to save their system. To their great relief they found in the ANC leadership social partners whose main objection to the apartheid political order was that it hindered the development of the aspirant black capitalist class – frustrating their ambition to become part of the white capitalist ruling class. The continued suffering of the working class majority is rooted in this fact. Capitalism cannot function in any other way except through the exploitation and oppression of the working class. This class reality informs every aspect of ANC government policy including on public sector wages. It is this fact that the red hot poker of the public sector strike has burnt into the consciousness of the working class

The impact of this strike will reverberate across the political landscape for years to come. It is clear that the stance of both workers and the bosses, especially in the private sector wage negotiations, was influenced by the public sector strike. Fearing that private sector workers’ confidence would be boosted by the determination of their public sector counter-parts, bosses outside the public sector made opening offers and settled mostly above the 7.5 % public sector workers accepted.

This strike was also marked by the prominent role played by women who make up a majority in a number of key unions. To the extent that the political terrain has been changed, public sector women, like their sisters-in-arms throughout history, have played a critical role.

Commenting on the widespread public support for the dismissed former deputy health minister, Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, Mail & Guardian editor Ferial Haffejee states that a tectonic shift has taken place in public attitudes.[1] We agree. But that shift was not brought about by the middle class who dominated the denunciation of the government’s persecution of the former deputy health minister. That shift was caused by the earthquake of the public sector strike which raised the confidence not only of the working class, but has also begun to radicalise sections of the middle class.

The public sector strike will not only contribute towards a further deepening of the divisions within the Tripartite Alliance. It will widen the differences also within each of its partners – the ANC, SACP and Cosatu. Within Cosatu in particular, it will bring the rank-and-file, seeking an independent political outlet for their class aspirations as they grow increasingly disillusioned with an ANC revealing itself as a party of the rich, into collision with a leadership desperately clinging onto an increasingly discredited Alliance. It will lay the basis for the dissolution of the Tripartite Alliance and, in time, for the emergence of a mass workers party and the development of a socialist programme.

28 Days that Shook South Africa

For a full four weeks SA’s million-strong public service had witnessed a magnificent demonstration of working class unity, solidarity and power. It was one of the longest strikes in the history of the labour movement. For the first time, all seventeen unions came together from across different races and political traditions. Unions ranging from politically conservative pro-capitalist staff association types, to the militant Congress of SA Trade Union affiliates with their socialist tradition, stood shoulder-to-shoulder in united action to make the same demand – a 12% salary increase.

According to estimates, by labour analyst Duncan Innes the public sector strike contributed, by the middle of the year, the bulk of the 11 million days lost through strike action so far in 2007. This is the highest since 1994. More accurate calculations by Nehawu’s Guy Slingsby, show that public sector workers by themselves contributed at least 14.4 million days lost and quite possibly more. This would mean that 2007 experienced by far the highest number of days lost through strike action since the ANC came to power.[2]

The strike was a crushing refutation of the claims of the latest ideas fashionable in academic circles: post-modernism. According to its followers like academic Sakhela Buhlungu of Wits University’s Sociology of Work Unit, changes in the composition of Cosatu’s membership following the influx of white-collar public sector workers in the early 1990s had diluted the federation’s class consciousness, militancy and fighting traditions.

Yet this strike reaffirmed the very opposite: that the public sector workers are indisputably an integral part of the working class. In fact the teachers – dismissed by these academics as preoccupied with cell phones, bonds and keeping their children in model-c schools – displayed the greatest combativeness of all the public sector battalions. Despite being reduced to a minority in the end, the National Professional Teachers Association (Naptosa) and the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu), whose ballots had produced 90%+ votes in favour of indefinite action, stood by their mandate and refused to sign the agreement.

Driven, as Fikile Majola, general secretary of the National Education and Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) admitted at a Ditsela seminar, by the rank-and-file, the public sector workers’ endurance and determination shocked and surprised not only government and the ruling class, but the union leadership as well.

Even the manner in which the strike ended was testimony to the power of the workers. Although the number of unions that agreed to sign the agreement on 28 June constituted a majority of Public Service Coordinating Bargaining Council (PSCBC) affiliates, the unions that initially rejected the agreement represented a majority of workers and therefore enjoyed a greater vote weight, frustrating the government.

For a few anxious days, Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi had a majority of union signatures but not a majority of votes. Pearls of perspiration continued to moisten the Minister of Public Service and Administration’s brow as her relief and confidence at the end of the earthquake of the strike was shaken by the aftershocks of the majority’s rejection of her final offer.

In those circumstances, she might have been forced into unilaterally imposing the offer. She had never been forgiven for doing so in 1999 and desperately wanted to avoid a repetition. Fortunately for government, after a few nail-biting days, and some furious lobbying, enough of the “bittereinders” were eventually persuaded to sign the agreement. After at first standing with the two teacher unions Naptosa and Sadtu, in rejecting the offer, the Public Servants Association (PSA) signed the agreement giving the government the majority it so desperately craved.


Fikile Majola has described the outcome of the strike as a victory for workers. This view was echoed by the Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi. Hospersa’s general secretary even went so far as to describe the government’s offer as “fantastic for the lower paid workers”.

The reason that, for the majority of workers, including members of unions that signed first, the outcome felt like a defeat, is that workers felt not only that they had repulsed all government attacks. They had also won the propaganda battle. Despite the rigorous implementation of the no-work-no-pay policy, management intimidation including threats of mass dismissals of any workers employed in jobs classified as essential services, tear gas, rubber bullets, stun grenades and a media propaganda campaign cynically exaggerating incidents of violence, the workers had held firm for a full four weeks – the longest strike in public sector history. In fact in a number of instances worker-control was established with access to and the functioning of institutions determined by shop steward committees. At KwaZulu Natal hospitals, the virus of solidarity led to police ceding control to shop steward committees.

There was a justifiable confidence amongst workers that their unity, solidarity and determination would force the government to accede to their demand for 12%, or at least something close to it. Apart from the unprecedented unity and solidarity in their own ranks, the public sector workers’ demands and the strike itself enjoyed overwhelming public support. This sympathy did not weaken despite incidents of violence including the alleged intimidation of learners, assaults on teachers who did not participate in the strike and allegations that intensive care units had been abandoned.

Overwhelming Public Support

Virtually all civil society formations, from churches and taxi associations to student organisations like the Congress of South African Students (Cosas), social movement organisations like the Anti-Privatisation Campaign and the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) publicly pledged their support and offered solidarity.

The government also suffered a number of setbacks. The Labour Court application by their local government counterparts, the South African Local Government Association (Salga), to stop the South African Municipal Workers Union from striking in solidarity was dismissed. Government’s own application for a blanket ban on strike action by all members of the Police Prisons and Civil Rights Union (Popcru) was also dismissed with costs. The TAC made a successful application for the reinstatement of nurses dismissed at an Aids Treatment Clinic in Khayelitsha in the Western Cape.

Support for the strike by taxi associations in KwaZulu Natal ensured a total shutdown on the day originally set aside for a general strike. This could have been repeated throughout the country if the union leadership had accepted an invitation from the taxi associations in other provinces to discuss what form the support should take.

Cosatu Affiliates Fail Public Sector Workers

The threatened general strike failed to materialise only because of the political inaction and sabotage of a leadership that was more terrified of the strike than even the government and the bosses. Scandalously, the Numsa leadership, led by the pro-Mbeki general secretary Silumko Nodwangu, attempted to hide their cowardice behind the fig-leaf of the legal argument that any solidarity action by Numsa would not satisfy the requirements of section 66 of the Labour Relations Act that a direct connection between the demands of the public sector workers’ demands and those of other workers must be shown.

To claim that a connection between the fight for a living wage in the public sector and their class brothers and sisters in the workers in the metal, engineering sector, energy and auto sector cannot be proven is self-evidently absurd. This is not an unfortunate misunderstanding of the law. It amounts to conscious strike-breaking. It is the language of the bosses. On this basis Cosatu would never have been able to call a single general strike in the past and would not be able to in the future.

Such was the level of public support that, despite prominent media coverage of incidents of violence, ordinary journalists who mingled with striking workers themselves were shocked by the poor levels of pay earned by teachers, nurses, police and admin workers and exposed this in the newspapers, radio and even occasionally on television. This recognition of the reality of the conditions under which government employees worked even filtered into the editorial rooms with a number of newspapers calling for increases ranging from 8% to10%.

Public Sector Strike Divides ANC

The impact of the strike was such that it divided the ANC and even cabinet. In spite of subsequent denials by Finance Minister Trevor Manual, his alleged support for a 9% increase strengthened the workers’ cause, damaged government and forced an embarrassed Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi to indignantly insist that she was the sole government spokesperson on wage negotiations. Even more embarrassingly, the ANC parliamentary portfolio committee summonsed Trevor Manuel and Defence Minister and ANC national chairperson Terror Lekota – both members of the cabinet mandating committee on wages – criticised them sharply and demanded an explanation as to why a better offer could not be made and the strike handled differently.

More significantly there was a clear sense that the majority of ANC members supported the workers’ demands, once again highlighting one of the issues at the centre of the ANC’s divisions – the gulf between the ANC as a party and the ANC’s government apparatus, with the latter dictating to the former. To the government’s dismay the ANC parliamentary portfolio committee chairperson expressed open support for the workers’ demands.

The government’s isolation from its own party was revealed in its unsuccessful attempts to dismiss en masse all health workers accused of striking. Its play at kragdadigheid was exposed as impotence – an attempt to exercise a power it did not have. Only 2,700 out of more than 20,000 were dismissed – the result of the open defiance by provincial ministers of health – all ANC members – of the orders of the national cabinet. The dismissals themselves were met with universal condemnation and horror that the government could even consider such action when the public health system was gasping for breath because of budget cuts and the incompetence of a health minister advocating insane ideas on health and the treatment of HIV/Aids.

Soldiers Support Strike

Perhaps the clearest indication of the profound impact of the strike on the consciousness of the working class as a whole was reflected in the stance taken by the soldiers union. The South African Security Forces Union had shortly before the strike won an important Labour Court battle against the SA National Defence Force compelling it to end its boycott of the bargaining council. Although they are not allowed to strike they staged a lunch-time march in solidarity.

SASFU’s statement of support for the public sector workers is worth quoting at some length:

[SASFU] declares … we are also public servants of an excluded nature because of our geographical position. However we are a Cosatu affiliate… We will remain [so] until the working class agenda runs in the blood and jugular veins of each worker in this universe. It is therefore a duty to for all our learned friends within various sectors to understand that soldiers are workers too. We need them to comprehend that the material conditions of the needy and the dispossessed are not a fleeting illusion but a reality [that] affects us as soldiers and members of the South African community.

As SASFU we say there can never be peaceful coexistence between a worker and an employer… Workers create the wealth of this country… SASFU is not only unconditionally supporting the public sector unions’ strikes but it is part of the strike…

Once more we declare to all soldiers that have conscience to heed this call, that this Cosatu strike is not an act of greed… it is a reiteration of what people designed during the Congress of the People in 1955, that the people shall share in the country’s wealth and that no government shall claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.

The Cosatu strike, in particular the public sector unions’ strike, is a legally protected strike. Anything against this strike is illegal. We therefore call on our members: not to be used as replacement labour as this will cause a reactionary blow against the honest plight of the working class to engage in protest marches, picketing and any other way of protest within the context of the laws of this country.

At one stage, the mood of the prison warders and police members of Popcru became so inflamed that they threatened to defy the ban on their right to strike because they are classified as essential service workers. In other words, in terms of public opinion, and the possibility of solidarity action, the balance of forces was overwhelmingly on the side of the workers.

Government Pleads Poverty While Economy Booms

This applied also to public reaction to workers’ demands. Sentiment was overwhelmingly against the government. This was a classic example of government’s own propaganda about its economic “successes” coming back to haunt it. On the one hand it was boasting about the first-ever budget surplus; on the other it claimed the workers’ 12% wage demand was unaffordable. Given that the combination of the budget surplus and yet another tax over-recovery, gave it an unexpected R11 billion, government’s cries about affordability lacked any credibility.

There is a sharp contradiction between government’s stand in the wage negotiations and its public commitment to ensuring that the benefits of the economic boom are shared through policies adopted with much fanfare like the Accelerated Shared Growth Initiative of SA (Asgisa). Government is clearly failing to practice what it preaches. But this is not simply a moral failing. It confirms that under a capitalist government, the interests of the rich will always take precedence over those of the poor.

At the same time as mass unemployment has continued, poverty increased and delivery of basic services compromised by corruption and incompetence, profits’ have reached dizzy heights. The value of shares on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange increased, according to the Sunday Independent[3] by nearly 300%. “Noah Greenhill, (senior general manager for marketing and business at the JSE) said five years ago the shares were worth R2 trillion; now they were worth R5 trillion … the highest was R5.9 trillion.” A trillion is a thousand billion, a 1 followed by 12 zeros! This is four times the value of the real economy – the goods and services produced by the labour of the working class!

The bosses have rewarded themselves handsomely with executive pay reaching levels never seen before. The Labour Research Service’s latest figures show that the wage gap is wider than ever. Labour columnist Terry Bell reports that according to the Labour Research Service’s annual Bargaining Indicators 2007 report:

…last year the average chief executive was paid more than R8 million a year, while executive directors, on average received more than R4.5 million. Even the average fees of R306,269 paid to non-executive directors was a huge leap compared to the R29,861 earned by workers on minimum wages (per annum) Researcher Saliem Patel points out that the that the average worker now has to work 273 years to earn what the average chief executive is paid annually!

Star Business Report, 10 August 2007

The background against which the public sector workers prepared for this year’s wage negotiations was therefore one of a sharp polarisation between the classes. As the increase in the number of strikes from 2002 had begun to show, the working class was determined to get a share of a boom that after all was produced by the exploitation of their labour.

In the public sector, the unions prepared much more thoroughly and backed their demands with research showing that government workers’ wages had fallen behind that of their counterparts in the private sector. In real terms their salaries were worth less than what they were twelve years ago. Scandalously, within government, supposedly the champion of the closing of the apartheid wage gap, the gap between the lowest and highest paid has actually increased from 13:1 in 1994 to 27:1 in 2007! The gap between ministers’ salaries and those of public sector workers is even greater. Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi’ s salary of R1.5m per year is more than 41 times that of a level 1 worker!

The government’s claims of economic “success” were reinforced by statistics indicating that growth had continued for an unbroken period of eight years so far. Through savagely cutting back social spending, the budget deficit inherited from the apartheid regime has been eliminated. The country has recorded a budget surplus for the first time not only since the ANC came to power, but for the first time since the Second World War.

The repeated drum beating about the economy’s performance when unemployment and poverty is deepening has only served to sharpen the working class’s sense of exclusion from the economic boom. Whilst the economy is creating dollar billionaires at the fourth fastest rate in the world, workers’ wages as a share of annual income has declined from 57% in 1994 to 46% today according to Cosatu.

All the factors outlined above – the unity, determination and the workers’ willingness to fight; the support of the working class as a whole; the overwhelming public sympathy; the divisions in the ANC and the isolation of the government from its own party; the rising tide of worker militancy; the economic boom – had created a unique set of favourable circumstances for a comprehensive victory. A clear call for a two-day or three-day general strike, properly prepared, would have received an overwhelming response. A general strike could have been called not only in sympathy with the public sector workers, but to unite all workers around the demand for a decent living wage. It would have forced the government onto its knees.

Leaders Capitulate

Unfortunately the leadership capitulated once again. Astonishingly Vavi and Slovo repeated government arguments that it was not just a question of the wage offer but the “package as a whole”. Arguments rejected all along by the unions suddenly became respectable.

The 7.5% offer may, on the surface appear to be a substantial improvement on the government’s starting offer of 5.3%. But the fact is that by the time that the 7.5% had been accepted, the official inflation rate (CPIx) had risen to 6.3% and has climbed by another two percentage points since. Interest rates have been increased for the sixth time in succession over less than two years and now stand at 13%. Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni has threatened to increase them even more.

The combination of CPIx, food inflation, escalating fuel and transport costs, the impact of the National Credit Act, and the increased interest rate means that, in real terms, any benefits from the 7.5% have already been cancelled out leaving workers no better off.

The cost of a basic food basket of meat, milk, maize, chicken, fruit and vegetables and bread has rocketed by about 70% since 2000… Caroline Ndoda, a Johannesburg mother of three told the Sunday Times she could no longer afford to buy her children clothes. Her grocery bill has increased from R200 a week to R500 now. She could no longer afford to buy red meat.

Sunday Times, 15 April 2007

The September reduction in the fuel price has not compensated for the overall increase of nearly 20% this year alone.

Nehawu/Sadtu Feud Divides Workers

They say that British workers are lions led by the donkeys of the Trade Union Council. It is difficult not to apply this argument to our public sector union leaders. Yet again the split in the Cosatu bloc was a key factor in a chaotic and divisive end to the strike. Disgracefully, the long-running tension between Sadtu and Nehawu leaders on occasion burst out into open conflict in front of other unions and the government.

It does not matter what view the Nehawu leadership may have taken over how aspects of the offer affected their members. The first principal of struggle is unity. It is an absolute scandal, sectarianism of the worst kind and a betrayal of the fundamental principles of trade union and workers’ unity on which Cosatu itself was established, to break ranks because the particular interests of one union are perceived to have been met. If Nehawu had not capitulated, Hospersa would have found it difficult to cut and run because on its own, it would have been isolated. The Nehawu leadership’s surrender saved the government from a potentially humiliating defeat.

Nehawu Leadership’s Claims Exaggerated

In any case the Nehawu leadership’s claims that their members had made substantial gains are somewhat exaggerated. Nehawu members have actually gained very little. The Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) will only begin to be implemented in 2009. In any case workers in other sectors will gain more than Nehawu’s members in the general public service sector.

In response to demands that salary notches be reduced from 16 to 7 and the difference in pay between notches to be increased to 5%, government made a minimal concession. It agreed to reduce them to 12 only, and to increase the percentages between notches to 1.5%.

The demand for a new minimum wage was rejected. Instead of abolishing salary levels one and two, government agreed only to promote a minority of these workers – less than a third of level ones and less than a quarter of level twos. More than 100,000 remain on the miserable slave wages paid on these levels.

The increases in the different types of allowances may appear substantial in percentage terms. But they are from a very low base. The increase in overtime pay for public holidays is not something to celebrate. All that has happened is that government has brought overtime policy into line with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. Since the BCEA became law, government has simply been ignoring it.

Rank-and-File Must Call Nehawu and Sadtu Leaders to Order

The Nehawu and Sadtu leadership have once again, as they have done since 1999, allowed yesterday’s grudges and political rivalries to create divisions and to undermine the unity of the workers. The Sadtu leaders may take pride in the fact that they were the last ones standing in this particular battle. But the fact is that on at least one previous occasion, they were the first to break ranks. If the Sadtu leadership refused to surrender this time it is because they were under far greater pressure from their rank-and-file. Teachers have been subjected to the harshest retribution through the rigorous application of the no-work-no-pay rule. In 1999 and 2004 many teachers had gone home with negative pay packets.

There was enormous anger amongst teachers over the 2004 capitulation. Teachers in Soweto, Lenasia, Eldorado Park, Ennerdale and Kliptown distributed a leaflet showing that they had drawn the correct political conclusions about the reasons for the calling off of the strike in 2004 – that the Cosatu unions had come under political pressure in the Tripartite Alliance to subordinate the class interests of the workers to the political interest of the ANC government. Their leaflet argued that it was time for Cosatu to pull out of the Tripartite Alliance.

The Sadtu and Nehawu leaders behave as if they are involved in some kind of competition to see who sinks onto their knees first. The membership of both these unions must not allow the bureaucracies to build a wall between them. They must set up inter-union rank-and-file committees to re-establish worker control, democracy and accountability.

Tripartite Alliance Paralyses Cosatu

The surrender of the Nehawu leadership is a direct result of the paralysing effect of the Tripartite Alliance on Cosatu. Supporters of the Tripartite Alliance claim that it must be retained to ensure the unity of the working class. But as the DSM has pointed out before, Cosatu’s continued membership of the Tripartite Alliance has the opposite effect – it causes disunity.

It is evident from the failure of most Cosatu affiliates (with the honourable exception of Samwu) to respond to the call for a solidarity general strike during the public sector action. It is the reason that the divisions in the ANC caused by the power struggle between Mbeki and Zuma have spilled over into Cosatu resulting in conflict both within and between affiliates. It is the reason for the ongoing attempt to oust president Willie Madisha.

The divisive effect of the Tripartite Alliance on Cosatu is further underlined by the furore over the R500,000 donation to the SACP that Madisha insists he delivered to general secretary Blade Ndzimande. Whatever the merits of the claims and counter-claims, the fact is that the divisions in the SACP, as with the ANC, are being imported into Cosatu compromising its independence.

SACP Denies ANC Capitalist

Astonishingly, the Cosatu leadership, under the direction of the SACP, continues to insist that the ANC is not a capitalist party. They criticise Gear and allege that the ANC’s economic policies were imposed by a “1996 class project”. Yet, as Mbeki has repeatedly made clear: the ANC has never stood for socialism. Even when it adopted the Freedom Charter, the nationalisation clauses were intended to fast track the development of, in Mandela’s words, a “prosperous non-European bourgeoisie”, that is, a rich black capitalist class. It was intended, in other words, as a strategy for the preservation, not the abolition of capitalism.

At the ANC policy conference Mbeki went even further in clarifying the ANC’s pro-capitalist character. Criticising the SACP, he pointed out that it had always been agreed that the ANC’s programme was the “national democratic revolution” and that of the SACP the socialist revolution and that it was improper for the two to take over each other’s programme.

As Mbeki has correctly asked before: if the SACP demands that the ANC adopts a socialist programme, what is the role of the SACP? Of course Mbeki did not directly state that capitalism is the ANC’s policy; he prefers to dress up the ANC leadership’s pro-capitalist polices in the radical rhetoric of the “national democratic revolution”. The SACP/Cosatu leadership in effect are aiding the ANC leadership with this ideological deception. But capitalism is the ANC’s policy. The policy conference’s rejection of an ANCYL proposal to describe big business as the “enemy of the revolution”, confirms this yet again.

Every aspect of ANC policy, foreign and domestic, almost without exception, confirms its class character. The government counts as an achievement that it is invited to participate in the meetings of the G8 club of imperialist powers; supports Bush’s war on terror to the point that they have collaborated in kidnapping and smuggling of “suspects”; voted against UN sanctions against the Burmese (Myanmar) military junta whose representatives were invited to Mandela’s inauguration; conferred the country’s highest honour on Suharto of Indonesia who waded into power in the blood of over a million trade unionists and Indonesia’s Communist Party members, a year before this bloody dictator was overthrown by the masses, invaded Lesotho and, of course, refuses to condemn Mugabe’s suppression of democratic rights, repression and electoral fraud in Zimbabwe.

The government’s approach to social spending as a whole and in particular areas of service delivery, from health, education, housing, electricity, water and sanitation through to transport and  roads and  telecommunications, has been to use these as an opportunity’ for self-enrichment for the emerging black capitalist class. But private profit and social need are like oil and water. This is the main reason for the collapse in the quality of social services, the escalation in costs and the rampant corruption.

Cosatu Approach Reformist

Unfortunately, no matter how sharply the Cosatu leaders may denounce Gear, the truth is that its critique of the government’s economic policy is not a thoroughgoing socialist one. Cosatu’s criticism is not of capitalism itself, but the absence of an “industrial policy”. Because the “industrial policy” Cosatu proposes is not designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with a planned economy democratically controlled by the working class, it can only have the effect of sewing illusions in capitalism. If the Cosatu leadership genuinely believes that socialism is superior to capitalism, and the only way to permanently eradicate poverty and raise the standards of living of all, they would use every failing of capitalism, of which there are no shortages, to argue for it to be abolished. They would put forward demands linking everyday struggles with the need for the socialist transformation of society.

Unfortunately the Cosatu leadership believes capitalism can be better managed so that it is more “developmental” and humane. If it is the objective of the socialist revolution to overthrow capitalism, then that of the national democratic revolution can only be to preserve it. To talk therefore of a “socialist oriented national democratic revolution” is to talk of a socialist capitalism. This is self-evident nonsense. By not campaigning for a socialist revolution now, the leadership is in effect collaborating in to the preservation of capitalism.

This explains why clear anti-capitalist demands do not feature in the various documents and in the proposed pact. This is why they put forward demands for what is in fact a capitalist “industrial policy” and support reformist SACP campaigns against red-lining, blacklisting and for the Mzansi account. In a number of key sectors of the economy the practices of the bosses and the policies of the government are crying out for a genuine socialist approach, a transitional programme linking tactics to strategy – the struggle for reforms with the struggle to overthrow capitalism.

The ANC government’s capitalist policies have had a catastrophic effect on the clothing and textile industry with tens of thousands of jobs lost and the near-destruction of a previously viable domestic industry. Instead of campaigning for the nationalisation of the industry, the Cosatu leadership has demanded quotas and supported the discredited “Proudly South African” campaign for the purchase of local products. The campaign has lost so much credibility that not even the bosses believe in it anymore with a number of companies allowing their subscriptions to lapse. The reduction in imports from China has in any case only led to increased imports from other cheap labour countries.

Cosatu should forge links with exploited Chinese workers and help them to build unions to combat the extreme levels of exploitation and child labour in China. Instead through the “Proudly South Africa” campaign Cosatu formed an alliance with the South African exploiters of their members’ labour.

Cosatu should campaign for nationalisation under workers control.

Since privatisation, the benefits of the formerly state-owned Sasol, now a highly profitable company, have been enjoyed only by its executives and shareholders. The government has just stood by as Sasol ruthlessly profiteers through the policy of Import Parity Pricing – the practice of charging for fuel produced in Secunda, Mpumalanga, as if it has been imported from Saudi Arabia. To add insult to injury, Sasol includes insurance costs against evaporation at sea in the price paid at the petrol pump.

Sasol, which has become a world leader in coal-to-oil technology, supplies close to 40% of SA’s fuel needs. Those profits could be used to subsidise the price of petrol in SA, to expand capacity to reduce dependence on imported oil. It could give the state control over what they say is outside of their powers – the fuel price. It would further remove the excuse used for what the SACP describes as the Reserve Bank’s “sado-monetarist” inflation-targeting interest rate policy. The government could enter into a trade agreement with Venezuela to buy oil at below world market prices. But they are terrified of the reaction of imperialism and big business at home for keeping the “wrong company”. That is why instead government echoes the views of bourgeois analysts that it has no control over the fuel price.

Public Sector Strike Divides the ANC

Although Mittal Steel, like Sasol, formerly state-owned, has been fined nearly R700,000 for excessive pricing, the reality is that it has made billions from import parity pricing – charging for steel, produced in the Vaal as if it has been imported. It will hardly feel any pain from the fine.

Cosatu should not just be demanding that Sasol, Mittal Steel, the textile and clothing industry be nationalised. They should demand that they should be placed under workers control and management. The SACP campaign for the banks to stop discriminating against the poor is the equivalent of asking the devil to stop committing sin. Instead of the routine denunciations of the Reserve Bank’s interest rate policies, Cosatu should be campaigning for the nationalisation of the banks under workers control.

Unfortunately support for nationalisation in Cosatu has consisted of little more than the resolutions adopted at the 9th congress. There has been no campaign. This is not really surprising. It stems on the one hand from the ideological confusion of a leadership over which the SACP exercises an influence far greater than its support in the rank-and-file. The SACP has become so terrified of being accused of “ultra-leftism” – that is of actually believing in socialism – that even after visiting Latin America they did not take up a campaign for nationalisation as has been done by Evo Morales in Bolivia and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Instead they criticised those within Bolivia and Venezuela who warned against making half-a-revolution and who demanded that Morales and Chavez go all the way. The SACP’s position amounts to viewing the socialist revolution they claim to stand for, as “ultra-left”.

The other reason for the leadership’s failure to translate their socialist rhetoric into deeds is that Cosatu and its affiliates’ investment companies themselves invest in industry where fellow comrades are employed, turning Cosatu in effect into employers over fellow workers.


Given the statistically favourable economic situation, and the undeniable reality of poverty, it became virtually impossible for the government to justify its rejection of the workers’ wage demands. Recognising that it was losing the war for the hearts and minds of the public, government resorted to deception. They dragged into the salary negotiations a plan – the so-called Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD) – still in its early draft a stage, claiming it was designed to address the problem of the skills shortage in the public sector, and to stem the tide of workers leaving the public service for overseas and/or the private sector. OSD was integrated into the salary offer with the aim of giving the impression that the package provided for more than the percentage increase by itself.

The union leaders should never have accepted the introduction of the OSD into the salary negotiations. The skills shortage and the exodus from the public service was in any case the result of the government’s disastrous neo-liberal economic programme, the Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy (Gear). The OSD is a belated, hastily and poorly prepared attempt to repair the self-inflicted damage done on the health service by the government’s neo-liberal policies and the cuts in public spending that it led to.

Reversing the impact of the criminal cutbacks in public spending after the adoption of Gear in 1996, and the subsequent exodus from the public service of thousands of teachers and nurses cannot be solved by simply tinkering with salary scales.

A complete overhaul of economic policy is called for; a massive injection of public funds aimed at increasing access to health is required. This means building’ more clinics and hospitals; building more training institutions and increasing enrolment, repairing infrastructure and acquiring equipment.

Commenting on the crisis at Frere Hospital, the former Eastern Cape MEC for Health, Trudy Thomas, explained that the national health emergency was precipitated by massive budget cuts in 1997. The Eastern Cape health budget

…started out with R2.5 billion in 1995 rising to R3 billion in 1996/7. Under the budget-deficit reduction dispensation, it’s 1999/2000 budget fell to R2.87 billion, much lower in real terms, after inflation and annual staff increases were factored in, than its first budget five years earlier!

Sunday Independent, 19 August 2007

Outlining the disastrous effect of the budget cuts – a moratorium on all building meaning that many pregnant women and sick babies would not be able to reach help in time; a reduction of the 1994 staff complement from 37,000 to 34,000 mostly professionals and senior management – Thomas points out that though the budget is now up to R7 billion, money alone will not reverse the damage because

…many health systems have completely collapsed and cannot use money infusions. To be absorbed and processed, money needs administrative systems, staff and skills…The attrition of competent administrators and supervisors and the mentorship of professionals has led to such deplorable staff behaviour and attitudes that women die in labour or deliver dead babies.

Clearly the creation of OSDs in the different sectors will not succeed in attracting and retaining skills as government claims. The damage done to the public service requires a comprehensive plan addressing not only human resource issues, but equipment, infrastructure, training and development and a massive injection of financial resources. This should be part of an ongoing process of the reconstruction and development of the public service and has no place in wage negotiations.

By embracing OSD, the unions are undermining centralised bargaining and also endangering workers unity even within the same union. Not only will there be different salaries for different occupational classes, but even within the same sector salaries will differ reducing the incentive for workers to struggle around common demands. OSD has the potential of introducing a new elitism and to undermine class solidarity.

Although the anger of the Cosatu rank-and-file supplied the fuel that ensured that the fire of the public sector workers’ discontent would bum for as long and as intensely as it did, it proved not to be enough to prevent another capitulation. The leadership’s surrender was mitigated by a magnificent struggle and some limited gains. But it was nevertheless a surrender.

The conduct of the Cosatu leadership, far more than those of the other union groupings, was highly damaging. Cosatu continues to be the most powerful organisation the SA working class has built. Cosatu houses the best traditions of the movement and continues to exert an influence well beyond its own formal membership. But Cosatu does not have a God-given right to occupy that role. The retention of its credibility and authority depends on its commitment to nurturing its revolutionary and socialist traditions.

It has not gone unnoticed amongst workers in and outside of organised labour, that non-Cosatu unions with a conservative history like PSA and Naptosa, were in the end prepared to go further than for example Nehawu, Cosatu’s second biggest public sector affiliate. By placing itself at the front of the queue of capitulators, Nehawu provided a cover for the conservative unions to cave-in, effectively breaking the strike.

The rank-and-file must reclaim Cosatu from the hands of a leadership that is blinded by its political allegiance to the Triparite Alliance whose party political partners, the ANC and SACP, are both sources of divisions in the federation. This is undermining its cohesion and ability to carry out its historical mandate – to promote and defend the interests of the working class and to fight for socialism.

To be able to play that role, Cosatu must reassert its class independence. The ANC leadership’s interest in retaining the Tripartite Affiance is to enable it to continue using Cosatu’s political credibility to promote its capitalist programme. Remaining in the Alliance is to engage in class collaboration.

It also exposes workers to being used to promote the factionalist aspirations of the competing groups of power-mongers in the ANC. This is the reason that a leadership that has committed itself to restoring the ANC’s alleged historical working class bias, recoiled from lobbying the ANC policy conference even though it took place in the middle of the strike. The Cosatu leadership did not want to embarrass the ANC with working class demands.

Support for Zuma?

Claims, like those of Jovial Rantao[4] that the unions deliberately made a demand for 12% knowing that the government would never accede to it, and used the strike to fight Zuma’s battles are cynical, reactionary and confirm the anti-working class prejudices that have qualified him for promotion at the capitalist newspaper he is employed at. He has nothing to say about the outrageous 30% to 57% increases recommended for ministers and the president. This is apparently perfectly acceptable. Only senior journalists like himself and the elite are apparently entitled to a decent income.

The truth is that the overwhelming majority of workers genuinely went on strike over the demands the unions made. By being directed against government as employer, public sector strikes anywhere in the world are inherently political. Given the political divisions over the presidential succession race that have spilled over from the ANC into broader society, it would be surprising if it did not in some way, affect, influence and colour workers’ perceptions of a strike that was after all directed against the government’s wage policies.

But to claim that workers could be so easily hoodwinked into losing four weeks’ pay to march behind the Zuma banner, is to hold workers in contempt. In fact an attempt by union leaders to sing pro-Zuma songs on one of the Johannesburg marches was met with a very muted response. Only in KwaZulu Natal did pro-Zuma sentiment find expression amongst strikers. But even here, the class issues overshadowed the Zuma issue by far and in all likelihood served as a lightning-rod for working class discontent.

The reality though, is that unless the rank-and-file reclaims Cosatu and its affiliates, the federation will always be vulnerable to being used by leaders who have their own political ambitions as the support for Zuma by the Cosatu leadership demonstrates.

As we have stated before, a Zuma presidency will be no more beneficial to the working class than Mbeki’s. Zuma, who, like Mbeki resigned his SACP membership in the early 1990s, has made it abundantly clear that he supports the ANC’s economic policies. These are capitalist policies. Zuma, apart from his other serious shortcomings on gender and cultural issues, is a capitalist politician. That disqualifies him from any support from the working class. The same applies to all his rival capitalist presidential candidates.

The central task facing the working class today is the creation of its own independent political voice – the creation of a mass workers party on a socialist programme. The ANC has become the main party of capital. Its rivals, who in any case, do not stand the remotest chance of ousting the ANC, offer merely different versions of the same capitalist policies.

The 2007 survey of political opinion in the working class by Cosatu’s research arm, Naledi, shows that there is growing support for a workers party. Within Cosatu support for the idea sits at nearly one-third. If working class opinion outside Cosatu is taken into account, support for the idea is even higher. The idea of a mass workers party would have been strengthened by the public sector strike.

The DSM calls upon the Cosatu rank-and-file to develop a programme to restore worker-control, democracy and socialism within Cosatu. The practice of leaders, at all levels, from shop stewards at the workplace to national office bearers, being elected on the basis of cliques must come to an end. All candidates for any position must be required to produce a platform or election manifesto outlining their position on all the key questions facing the working class today. If their constituency is satisfied with their positions, they must then be elected subject to the right of immediate recall.

Leaders should be considered fit for office if they stand, amongst others, for the following:

  • For a decent minimum living wage – abolish all salary levels below R4,500 a month.
  • No multi-term agreements.
  • Withdraw all union investments in industry and place them under direct union control by elected worker representatives without any fees except normal shop steward travel or lost pay allowances.
  • An end to commercialisation and commodification of basic services.
  • Scrap all arrears for electricity, water, sanitation and rent.
  • No to privatisation – restore all privatised services back to local government control.
  • For a national health service free at the point of use.
  • Abolish all education fees – free education from pre-school to university.
  • Nationalise under worker control and management Sasol, Mittal Steel, Eskom, Telkom the clothing and textile industry and the banks.
  • Scrap the arms deal.
  • Cancel the apartheid debt.
  • For a decent unemployment benefit for the jobless.
  • For Cosatu to be withdrawn from the Tripartite Alliance and to lead the formation a mass workers party on a socialist programme.


The leadership must be commended for ensuring that the unions went on strike as one force, remaining united until the end. As a demonstration of the seriousness of the leadership to ensure that the strike had an impact, Nehawu, for example, set up a command centre to co-ordinate the strike, to manage publicity, and to establish mobile groups of workers to picket, to shore up morale and generally provide leadership where this was required.

Particularly commendable was the development of minimum service level proposals in essential services for shop stewards to negotiate with management at workplace level. This was an effective way not only to overcome the problem created by the government’s deliberate foot-dragging on this issue in the bargaining councils at a national level. It also demonstrated that the leadership understood that a strike, particularly in the public sector, is a battle for the hearts and minds of the public as much as it is a power struggle between the government as employer and labour. It was the correct response to cynical arguments government used to convey the impression that striking workers were cold blooded, greedy individuals who considered the right to strike to be more important than patients’ right to life.

However, there were also several tactical shortcomings which contributed to the chaotic manner in which the strike collapsed. The tactic of calling an indefinite strike was, in our view, a mistake.

The indefinite strike call was clearly an attempt by the leadership to demonstrate to the rank-and-file that, unlike in 2004, they were prepared to sustain the action until the government met their demands. But the leadership had clearly not anticipated that government would be as unyielding or their own members so determined. They seemed not have realised that their 2004 capitulation would have given government every reason to believe that the leadership lacked the courage and the workers the stamina to sustain a strike for any longer than a two or three days.

In the light of this lack of strategic planning and organisation, some strikers used force to prevent the strike from coming under stain. Although the media and political commentators like Christine Qunta[5] cynically exaggerated the incidence of violence, the fact is that there was enough violence to enable them to exploit it in support of their own anti-working class agenda.

The DSM believes that a clear strategy could have prevented unnecessary conflict resulting from a lack of clarity on the union leadership’s strategy and tactics. The overwhelming majority of workers supported the strike; but it was not clear whether the indefinite strike meant exactly that. Some leaders believed that the notice was indefinite but the action intermittent in a rolling mass action campaign.

In the circumstances, both government and the union leadership were caught completely off-guard by the willingness of the workers to struggle and to endure the hardships of losing pay. However, unlike in the private sector, the impact of a public sector strike is not as immediate. The ability of the state to absorb the shock for a period is reinforced by essential service laws prohibiting certain categories of workers from striking. In the case of this particular strike, government refused, as they had been doing for years, a demand by the unions to negotiate a minimum service level agreement hoping this would enable the ban on striking for such workers to blanket entire sectors.

As we pointed out in the leaflets we distributed during the strike, it would have been much more effective to have issued an indefinite strike notice but to plan the action itself as a rolling campaign as some leaders explained. This could have entailed regular days of action on a once- or twice-weekly basis. These actions could then have been used to build up towards a two- or three-day general involving the private sector. The opportunity was there. The public sector strike coincided with wage negotiations in the private sector. The mood was there.

But the leadership was clearly not prepared for the situation that unfolded. Astonishingly, they struggled even to co-ordinate a revision of their joint demands. Once the government had dug in its heels, the leadership appeared to be bewildered. They had clearly (mis)calculated that the impact of the strike would send the government into “shock and awe” and they would agree to 9 or 10%.

When this did not happen, the Cosatu leadership desperately tried to bring the Alliance structures and the ANC secretary general, Kgalema Motlhante into the process behind the scenes. When this failed, they floundered. There was no Plan B. In the end the inter-union solidarity broke down with different union groupings putting forward different revised demands.

Although, for most of the four weeks morale did not flag and the fighting spirit remained strong, this could not continue indefinitely unless there was a clear strategy to escalate the strike through solidarity action with private sector workers and consolidating the support of working class communities.

In fact the leadership failed to appreciate the importance of having a strategy that actively cultivated public support, relying instead on spontaneous but passive sympathy. In our view there was a possibility of turning the impact of the strike on, for example, schooling, from being a potential weapon in the hands of the government, into an instrument for consolidating working class support. This could have been done by organising lessons outside of the official school timetable particularly for grade 11 and 12 learners preparing for matric.

But the unions called hardly any community meetings to explain the issues. In Khayelitsha in the Western Cape, the local Sadtu leadership failed to address a meeting they had called leaving many community members confused and vulnerable to government propaganda. When a DSM comrade attempted to do explain the issues of the strike, the leadership closed the meeting prematurely.

During the strike, learners from twenty high schools organised themselves into an organisation called Gunecrophi – an acronym for the Western Cape townships of Gugulethu, Nyanga, Crossroads and Philippi. Initially opposed to the strike because of fears over its impact on their schooling and preparation for exams, Gunecrophi marched in support of the public sector workers after the DSM’s intervention to explain the issues in the strike.

The strike could have been used as a concrete basis for bringing the Coalitions Against Poverty into existence. These coalitions could have drawn together all working class community-based organisations, from the marginalised fishermen and women at the coast to communities resisting eviction from their land by mining companies; from student organisations to communities fighting pre-paid meters and water and electricity cut-offs.

The SA working class has a rich tradition of linking workplace and community struggles. But to the leadership, it is as if this history is hidden in book sealed with seven seals. Apart from the lack of a campaign to consolidate community support, there were no leaflets, posters or community rallies. There were not even initiatives to seek interviews on community radio stations. Although Cosatu news gave regular updates, these have a limited reach. The leadership generally sat and waited to be called by the media. Inevitably the stamina of the workers began to drain away and many workers reluctantly accepted the leadership’s call for an end to the strike.

The calling of an indefinite strike reduced itself to trying to compensate for the opportunist capitulation of 2004, with ultra-left posturing in 2007. In the circumstances, the magnificent inter-union solidarity gave way to unseemly squabbling between the different union groupings and even within the Cosatu bloc. In the end, the unions settled for much less than they could have gained.

© Transcribed from the original by the Marxist Workers Party (2021).

[1] Mail & Guardian, 17 – 23 August 2007

[2] Debate, 25 July 2007

[3] 19 August 2007

[4] Star, 13 June 2007

[5] Star, 13 June 2007

Government threatens right to strike…

General Strike to Support Public Sector Workers

Originally published as a special edition of Izwilabsebenzi (24 August 2010).

  • For class independence and workers unity!
  • Cosatu out of the Tripartite Alliance Now!
  • Build a Mass Workers Party on a Socialist Programme!

A week into the public sector strike and it has become abundantly clear that the conflict between public sector workers and the government is in reality, in the words of the front page headline of the Times A WAR BETWEEN SOUTH AFRICA’S CLASSES.[1] The government’s refusal to accede to the public servants’ legitimate demands has nothing to do with affordability. It has everything to do with making workers pay for the concessions forced upon government by the 2007 strike, to break the power of the trade unions and to legitimise the exploitation of workers.

Original cover.

Since last year’s belated settlement of the 2007 public sector strike, the capitalist press has been on an unrelenting and venomous offensive against the increases workers won. All the ills of poor service delivery and low economic growth are blamed not on the government and the neo-liberal capitalist policies for which the capitalists have praised it so lavishly. The virtual destruction of the education system, the low metric pass rates and the crippled health service are blamed on educators and health workers.

Class War

The public sector strike is protected. This means it is a legal strike in terms of the Labour Relations Act. No employer, including the government, may discipline let alone dismiss a worker for going on a protected strike. Contrary to government claims, even workers employed in essential services have the right to strike. Government has deliberately sabotaged negotiations on minimum service levels for essential services by putting forward provocative proposals that would render the right to strike meaningless and penalise trade unions R1 million for non-compliance.

This strike was called only after protracted negotiations in which the trade union leadership, especially in Cosatu, had bent over backwards to avoid it; agreeing to postpone negotiations until after the World Cup, collaborating with the government in the expulsion of the Public Servants Association from the negotiations after it had declared a dispute, holding ballots even though it is not a legal requirement for a protected (legal) strike, holding political meetings with their Tripartite Alliance ANC partners at the highest level in a desperate attempt to arrive at a deal which they could sell to the workers. Had the Cosatu leaders bent over backwards any further they would have been flat on their backs!


The government’s response has been:

  • to have teachers shot at with rubber bullets
  • to deploy police with water cannon to disperse health worker pickets
  • to use the apartheid Illegal Gatherings Act to arrest scores of workers
  • to call in the army in to take over services with soldiers deployed as strike breakers
  • to obtain a Labour Court interdict against all eight public sector unions effectively declaring the entire strike illegal with costs being awarded against the unions
  • to condone the call by the ANC Youth League for the arrest of Sadtu Gauteng leader Ronald Nyathi
  • to claim that all workers employed in essential services are prohibited from striking
  • to prepare to unilaterally implement its offer threatening the very foundation of collective bargaining, the Labour Relations Act and the country’s constitution

The most sinister threat of all has come from none other than President Jacob Zuma himself. Like some tin pot dictator of a banana republic he has declared that there is no such a thing as an indefinite strike and threatened workers with mass dismissals. If anyone is guilty of intimidation it is Zuma! With riot police and the army let loose, and a protected strike in effect declared illegal by the president, how far are we from verbal threats against democratic rights, to the execution-style killings as in the case of the four so-called “illegal” miners at the Aurora mines owned by Zuma’s son and Mandela’s nephew? Democracy is threatened by a person who is the president of the country and, as president of the ANC, the leader of the so-called National Democratic Revolution!

This dispute is no longer simply about wages and conditions: it is about the right to strike itself and the democratic rights won in the struggle against apartheid. As in all class struggles, the public sector dispute is about how the surplus wealth produced by the labour of the working class is distributed between the working class on the one hand and their exploiters, the capitalist class, on the other.

It is now clear that wage settlements at higher levels than for public sector workers in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) (Eskom 9%, Transnet 11%) and Local Government (13%), were reached before the World Cup to isolate the public sector workers. Samwu’s offer of solidarity action to support the public sector workers must be taken-up by all unions inside and outside Cosatu. Cosatu’s section 77 notice to Nedlac to strike against the electricity price increases is directly linked to the public sector workers’ demands – to protect themselves from the onslaught of the increases in the cost of basic goods and services that will inevitably follow the enormous increase in electricity tariffs granted to Eskom. All trade unions, independents as well as of all federations, must now mobilise their members in a 48-hour general strike followed by a rolling campaign of mass action until the government meets the public sector workers’ demands.


Every single one of the vile accusations levelled against workers by the government and its capitalist backers must be rejected with the contempt they deserve. Claims that workers’ demands are selfish and unreasonable come from billionaire business men/women and tenderpreneur politicians enriched overnight by big business BEE handouts and the looting of the state.

Government’s cynicism is breathtaking! Affordability was not a consideration when, upon taking office, a Zuma administration that portrayed itself as pro-poor, spent millions on luxury cars, and proceeded not only to ape but outdo the contemptible behaviour of the Mbeki administration. The government spent R97 billion on “travel and procurement, including spending on conferences, parties and team building exercises […] in 2008”.[2] Like their predecessors, government ministers and senior officials continue to spend hundreds of thousands of rands on five-star accommodation and pointless conferences. Ministers and government officials continue to use their positions to loot the state, tendering for government contracts through companies owned by them, their families and friends, creating what Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has described as a “predatory” government.

Lack of money was not an issue when SOE executives awarded themselves massive salary packages. Eskom increased salaries and bonuses in the year to March by 50%. Fired Eskom CEO Jacob Maroga even received a bonus, not for excellent performance but because he performed poorly and needed to be incentivised to do better! Senior government department managers went on a spending spree buying tickets worth millions for friends and families. Government felt free to spend billions on the Word Cup knowing all along that they would cut the budget for public servants’ salaries to fund it. Government talks about priorities. How can the R35 billion Gautrain, which can only be afforded by the rich, be more important than the efforts of public servants to overcome poverty?

According to Treasury’s official figures, R33 billion was spent on the World Cup. Analysts say it could have been anywhere between R50 billion and R80 billion if spending by host cities is included. R6 billion was spent on three white elephant stadiums that may have to be demolished because running costs are so high that tenants cannot be found for them. FIFA boasted that this was the most profitable World Cup in history with income exceeding €1 billion (R9 billion) for the first time ever. Yet the corrupt FIFA bosses were effectively allowed to take over the country, exempted from taxes, and allowed to stop even small traders from benefitting from the event. Government boasts that 66,000 construction jobs were created and billions paid out in wages benefitting poor households. But as the Human Sciences Research Council’s Centre for Service Delivery points out, “four of every five of all 2010 workers are back on the street, with no skills transfer”.[3]

The government has agreed to pay national planning commissioners who will retain their positions in academia and business while working part-time for the NPC up to R160,000 a year to attend ten (10!) meetings with accommodation and travel expenses paid for by the state. This equates to R13,333 per month, more than twice the lowest paid government worker’s monthly pay of R4,946! The government’s argument that it cannot afford the increases workers are demanding is merely an echo of the voice of their capitalist masters. Their common refrain is that low wages, along with the right of the bosses to hire and fire as they please, will lead to more job creation. Yet the austerity measures they are adopting includes freezing posts – abandoning yet another of the agreements signed in 2007. The logic of this argument is that the cheap labour system that under-pinned apartheid and that continues today should have led to full employment. Yet a million jobs have been lost since the recession began in 2008. Only four out of ten adults are employed. Of these, 70% earn less than R2,500 a month. Evidently workers are not poor enough for the liking of the capitalist class.

With no end to the crisis in sight, and with an economy continuing to throw more onto the scrap heap of unemployment, those fortunate enough to have jobs like civil servants, have to increase their meagre salaries to support not only themselves but jobless family members who fall into the wrong age group to qualify for government’s miserable social welfare grants. Workers on average support eight to ten dependents.

There IS money!

The government’s stance on the workers’ wage demands shows it is acting as the agents of the capitalist class, whose interests they consciously represent. There is no truth to the claim that there is no money. The problem lies in the government’s neo-liberal capitalist policies. The government gives money to the capitalists and then turns around to tell us there is no money for wage increases. Capitalists have enjoyed a bonanza of R70 billion in tax breaks as government has reduced corporate taxes from 45% in 1994 to 28% today thus reducing tax revenue. Government continues to follow these policies despite the fact they have plunged the world economy into the deepest crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Neo-liberal capitalism requires cut-backs in social spending including especially on wages, whilst allowing capitalists free rein to profiteer to their hearts’ delight.

The government pleads poverty yet has eased exchange control regulations enabling the capitalists to smuggle billions out of the country. According to research done by the Corporate Strategy and Industrial Development Programme (CSIDP) at Wits University “As much as 23% of SA’s wealth went abroad in 2007”. These outflows amounted to R450 billion that could have been used for domestic investment, job creation arid economic development.[4] Their research reveals further that capital flight, which also occurred under apartheid, has worsened since 1994. Not only has the government like an obedient doorman opened the country’s borders for capital flight, it has actually condoned the criminal activities of these capitalists as they plunder the country’s economy. CDISP points out that the allegedly independent Reserve Bank has offered these capitalist thieves an amnesty for a 10% fee through a “voluntary disclosure programme” coming into effect on 1 November.

Anti-Working Class Bias

At the same time such is the desperation of the poor that workers have resorted to the dangerous practice of illegal mining to survive. Yet whilst the capitalists are offered “stay out of jail” cards for serious economic crimes, four zama-zama miners who engaged in illegal mining to survive after the Aurora mine owned by Zuma’s son and Mandela’s nephew, had failed to pay workers for months, were ruthlessly gunned down at the Grootvlei mine. The Aurora spokesperson justified this as necessary to protect their assets!

Whilst banks are treating the debt counselling programme with contempt and ruthlessly pursue indebted clients, repossessing homes, cars and furniture, government encourages big business to loot the economy. Whilst workers striking for a decent wage are attacked with water cannon and rubber bullets, the capitalists are forgiven for a fee with no guarantee that they will fully disclose their crimes. As a result “more resources have left SA than have been retained for investment and job creation.”[5]

Arcelor Mittal’s acquisition of Imperial Crown Trading (ICT) for R9 billion, enriching amongst others Zuma’s son and deputy president Kgalema Motlhante’s girlfriend, reveals in the most repulsive manner this government’s class character, its priorities, its slavish worshipping of big business and contempt for the working class. Arcelor has now been placed in a position where it can continue to buy iron ore for next to nothing, whilst charging prices for steel produced in SA as if it is imported (import parity pricing). Rather than pay even half the market related price for iron ore that ICT had increased it to, they threatened to shut down the Saldanha Bay steel plant and destroy 4,000 jobs. Profiteering through import parity pricing is practiced in many other branches of industry including cement and food. Sasol produces 40% of SA’s fuel needs yet is allowed to charge pump prices as if the fuel is all imported. The cellular monopolies have been allowed to get away with only minor reductions in inter-connection fees that bear no relationship to the cost of switching calls between different networks. There is no tear gas and water cannot for Cell C, Vodacom and MTN executives for their contemptuous defiance.

More than a year after the release of the report into of the commission into banking industry fees, its recommendations, amongst others that penalties for debit order defaults (from which the banks make R1 billion a year) should be capped to R5 per transaction, has not been implemented. The Competition authorities are unable to cope with the flood of price fixing for which the culprits are fined but get away with because they simply pass the penalty on to consumers through increased prices.

In the meantime more than a year after 100 allegedly “illegal” miners died in the Harmony mine in Welkom, there has been no inquiry. As Terry Bell points out

…the dead were working miners. They did not descend clandestinely, by ropes deep down forgotten shafts, deep beneath the ground. In their overalls and wearing lamp-bearing hard hats, they went down in the mine company cage to do the job they were paid for. Only their employer was not the sub-contractor licensed by the mine-owners to [employ workers] to dig and die for gold.

Star, 20 August 2010

These zama-zama mineworkers were killed whilst in the employ of labour brokers. Yet the ANC government fears capital so much that it cannot bring itself to implement the Polokwane resolution to ban labour broking.

Political Conclusions

We cannot accept that we must tighten our belts because of an economic crisis we have not caused. The capitalists and their government must take full responsibility. The 2008 world financial crisis was no more than the trigger for a crisis prepared by the mounting contradictions of capitalism that had been building-up for decades before then. The crisis was accelerated by the bosses’ neo-liberal policies. In SA, the newly-elected ANC government flirted briefly with the mildly social democratic reformist RDP, before retying the knot of capitalist economic policy history with the neo-liberal “normative economic policies” of De Klerk’s Nats, by adopting Gear in 1996 – a policy with which Zuma’s government has continued where Mbeki left off.

Like the lightning before a thunderbolt, the public sector strike has illuminated the political landscape with blinding clarity. The past few weeks have revealed beyond doubt the class character of this government. As the political managers of a capitalist system in crisis, the ANC government is acting as a loud speaker for the bosses who are determined to make the workers pay for the crisis of their system.

The stance of the Zuma administration on the public sector workers strike has erased all distinction between it and the Mbeki administration. Baloyi’s incremental approach to salary negotiations, including, preceding the current R70 increase in housing with an insulting R10, is not a personal failing. It is necessitated by the objective reality that this government governs on behalf of capital. Astonishingly Baloyi thinks that citing the Mercedes Benz luxury cars used by the apartheid regime legitimises his and other present-day elected representatives using the same “tools of the trade”. On behalf of government he blackmails workers with the argument that their demands will prevent job creation. This is as ridiculous as Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi’s argument that it is legitimate to offer workers low wages because it raises their consciousness.

Baloyi is now poised to mimic Fraser-Moleketi’s unilateral implementation of 1999. He is preparing to do so by a deliberate misrepresentation of the constitutional facts by claiming falsely that 21 days after signing the agreement the resolution “becomes implementable”. The Public Sector Central Bargaining Council (PSCBC) constitution says no such thing; in fact without a majority after 21 working days, the resolution falls away and negotiations have to start afresh. Is it an accident that Baloyi has recruited the services of Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi’s 2007 bouncer, Kenny Govender, to prostitute the PSCBC constitution and unilaterally implement the offer?

Fraser-Moleketi’s unilateral implementation in 1999 detonated an explosive reaction from not only the public sector workers leading to the first anti-government protest by public sector workers since the ANC came to power. Announced during a special Cosatu congress sitting at the time to elect a successor to Mbhazima Shilowa, (released to become Gauteng premier) it also led to calls for a 48-hour general strike, averted only after opposition by senior SACP leaders in the public sector unions.

A unilateral implementation would be a declaration of war. It would inflict irreparable damage on the credibility of collective bargaining. Government calls upon workers to accept increases that by its own admission will still leave workers on low pay, because of the current adverse economic conditions. Government will give workers jam tomorrow when the economy picks up. But when is this tomorrow? All the signs are that things are getting worse. The country is bleeding jobs. Manufacturing is shrinking. Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus has poured cold water on claims that there is an economic recovery underway. In fact she is warning of a double dip recession pointing to the slowdown in Europe which accounts for one third of SA’s exports. The World Bank predicts that the world economy will take from five to fifteen years to recover ground lost during the 2008 recession holding back a SA economy so closely integrated with the advanced capitalist economies.

Leaders in Denial and Collusion

Unfortunately, despite the incisive criticism of the government by Cosatu general secretary Vavi, the Cosatu leadership continues to cling to the illusion that the ANC is a “revolutionary movement with a working class bias”. The deafening silence of the SACP, has forced Cosatu leaders, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, president S’dumo Dlamini and Nehawu general secretary Fikile Majola to all express their disappointment. The SACP’s response has been to insult the Cosatu leaders in stating that “people cannot whine like hungry babies”.

The Cosatu leadership’s denialism about the class character of the ANC is the reason that the preparation for the strike has been so hesitant, confused and chaotic. The leadership did not want this strike and still do not. Nehawu general secretary Fikile Majola openly admitted that they feared the effect that a strike would have on the federation’s relationship with Zuma. Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini’s performance on television following Zuma’s denunciation of the strike was pitiful. Instead of condemning Zuma for stating in effect that workers do not have the right to strike, comrade Dlamini was almost apologetic for stepping on Zuma’s toes. Incredibly, he conceded government reserved the right to fire workers for engaging in a protected strike complaining only that he had a problem with the timing of Zuma’s statement. The Mail and Guardian revealed shockingly that the Cosatu leadership’s deal with the government was to accept the current offer but after they had been given an opportunity to strike first![6] The deal fell through because government tabled the 7% and R700 offer prematurely!

The relationship between the Cosatu leadership and the ANC government is increasingly seen both inside and outside the federation as collusion with the employer. The actions against public sector workers are consistent with the increasingly vocal demands for banning trade union rights for soldiers, health workers, police and teachers. There has always been an authoritarian undercurrent flowing through the veins of the ANC. The capitalist crisis has provided the conditions for that current to rise to the surface.

It has become impossible to defend a relationship in which the government as employer has become openly hostile to worker rights and unapologetically pro-capitalist. Cosatu’s standing in the eyes of working class is being eroded by Cosatu’s collaboration with a capitalist and by definition anti-working class government. This is why the action by the conservative Public Servants Association, a former white union with no tradition of struggle has been much more in tune with the mood of workers on the ground than the Cosatu leadership’s.

“Leading” Without Strategy

In fact Cosatu’s call for an indefinite strike is an attempt to recover lost credibility. Whilst an indefinite strike corresponds to the depth of rank-and-file anger, the DSM believes that the action was not properly planned. It would have been better to declare the action as indefinite but initially to organise the action to take the form of rolling mass action with workers coming out on strike once or twice a week. This would make it possible to sustain the action over a longer period and complicate the ability of the state to impose the no-work-no-pay rule.

Moral Authority of Strike

There appears also to have been no properly thought-out strategy on how to deal with the essential service issue and the inevitable propaganda offensive from the state and media. We do not believe it is helpful for comrade Majola to merely predict that people will unfortunately die. Of course the government will engage in hysterical denunciations and attempts to demonise the workers. The Health Minister has already denounced the health workers as “murderers”. This is sheer hypocrisy as the needless hospital deaths are a daily occurrence anyway as a result of the government’s criminal policies. Against the government’s declining popularity, its kragdadigheid will not win it public support.

But a strike is a battle for the hearts and minds of the especially the working class public. Our struggle must be conducted in a manner that maintains the moral high ground.

The success of the strike does not depend on complete shut-down of the health service, but on the establishment of at least elements of workers’ control in the running of aspects of the health service for the duration of the strike. Strike committees at hospitals should engage management in agreeing for example on emergency admission policies and the staffing of critical facilities like ICUs and operating theatres. We must be seen to be conducting the strike in such a manner that we do not unnecessarily endanger patients’ lives. Hospital managements would find it difficult to refuse to enter into such agreements with strike committees.

The public is acutely aware that the crisis in the health system lies entirely on the shoulders of government. The strike gives us an opportunity to reinforce that understanding. We must not let our actions be seen in the same light as those of the government.

As in KZN in 2007, health workers should circumvent the government’s obstruction of a minimum service level agreement at the PSCBC by entering into direct negotiations at the place of work to agree on a minimum service.

In the absence of such a strategy it becomes virtually impossible for the public including fellow workers in other unions to distinguish between fact and deliberate misrepresentation by government when there are reports of doctors being chased from operating theatres, pregnant mothers in labour being denied admission, critically ill patients left to die and new-born babies abandoned. This has the potential of undermining the moral authority of the strike.

Similarly, we do not believe it is in the best interest of teachers and public sector workers as a whole to open themselves up to the accusation that they do not care about the consequences of the strike on learners especially those preparing to write matric. The government was highly irresponsible to re-arrange the school calendar to accommodate the World Cup. However, support for the strike would be strengthened by teachers reaching out to learners and parents to make arrangements outside school premises and hours to assist particularly the matrics.

Despite the propaganda offensive by government and the media they have not succeeded in turning the public against the strike. In the absence of a clear strategy to counter the state propaganda, the unity of the unions, badly managed before the strike, is bound to fracture as is shown by the decision of two teacher unions, Naptosa and SAOU, to order their members back to work. The weight of state propaganda has proven too much for these unions.

The government appears to have learned nothing from 2007 in relation to health workers. After mass dismissals they were forced to re-instate them. The threat to dismiss health workers en masse is self-defeating. It may satisfy their authoritarian thirst for power. But it will aggravate the crisis in the health care system.

Workers Need Own Voice

The public sector strike represents a turning point in the political situation. The Polokwane illusions have been shattered. The Zuma coalition lies in ruins with bitter recriminations against the SACP by the ANCYL, criticism of the SACP by Cosatu, insults against the federation by the SACP, attacks on the Zuma cabinet by Cosatu and Malema appearing to turn against Zuma.

The Cosatu leadership has lost its political sense of smell. The ANC is not only riddled with a corruption infecting the federation, drawing it into the factional strife that is tearing it apart, it is a consciously pro-capitalist party obliged to attack the working class in defence of a system in crisis which has won the SA the world cup of inequality with the biggest gap between rich and poor on earth. As we had predicted, the Zuma coalition would not be able to re-invent the ANC as a pro-working class party. Again as we foretold, the Zuma coalition consisting of formations resting on incompatible class forces, has no long term future and was bound to collapse.

Cosatu is in mortal danger unless it breaks from the Tripartite Alliance. Cosatu is trapped in class collaborationist partnership. From having been the best of friends in the battle against Mbeki, Cosatu the SACP and the ANC Youth League, the most charitable thing that can be said now is that they are the best of enemies.

Unless Cosatu is taken out of the Tripartite Alliance the federation will disintegrate. Already five affiliates are on a crisis watch list. The task of taking the federation out of the Alliance cannot, however, be left in the hands of the leadership. The rank-and-file must spearhead the process.

The attack on the public sector workers is merely the opening-up of another front in the class war against the working class by the ruling capitalist class. In the private sector the capitalist weapons of choice were mass retrenchments, lay-offs and short-time with the onset of the recession. Now in the public sector the bosses, through the agency of the political managers of their system, the ANC government, are continuing the offensive to make workers pay for the crisis of their system. It confirms the unity of purpose between the ANC government and its capitalist masters.

As the working class we need our own voice. For Cosatu workers the first step is to take the federation out of the Tripartite Alliance prison, and to reach out to the entire working class; in other unions, the unemployed, communities involved in service delivery protest and students fighting against financial exclusion, to begin the building of a new mass workers party on a socialist programme.

  • We call upon workers in all unions to form support committees to defend public sector workers
  • For a 48-hour general strike to support the public sector worker
  • Lift the interdicts against all unions
  • Meet the workers’ demands in full
  • Cosatu out of the Tripartite Alliance now
  • For a mass workers party on a socialist programme

© Transcribed from the original by the Marxist Workers Party (2021).

[1] 11 August 2010

[2] Times, 20 August 2010

[3] Sunday Times, 22 August 2010

[4] Business Day, 21 August 2010

[5] Ibid.

[6] 20-26 August 2010