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Issue #1721      March 2, 2016

Symptoms of a dysfunctional system

SACP-COSATU bilateral statement

The South African Communist Party and the Confederation of South African Trade Unions senior leaderships, led by SACP general secretary comrade Blade Nzimande and COSATU president comrade Sidumo Dlamini respectively, met in a high-level bilateral on February 19. The two formations shared perspectives on the current national and international situation.

Everywhere, monopoly capital seeks to make its own crisis the crisis of the working class, of the urban and rural poor, and of a wide array of the middle strata. In South Africa the offensive against the organised working class persists as capital and its ideologues seek to respond to falling profits and sluggish growth by dismantling the hard won rights of the trade union movement.

The bilateral also identified the emergence of a parasitic bourgeoisie that seeks to entrench itself within key sectors of the state and particularly within strategic state-owned corporations as an imminent threat to our democracy, our broader movement, and indeed to the ability of our democratic state to drive forward an inclusive and sustainable growth path. Our two formations committed to exposing and fearlessly dealing with those associated with state capture through parasitism in public sector formations and indeed within any of our own movement structures.

The SACP and COSATU delegations agreed that the situation called for a closing of ranks between our two formations, and for the intensification of joint political, ideological and mass campaigning work.

Indeed, in the current circumstances, the two working class formations within the ANC-led alliance have particular responsibilities. The bilateral agreed that, in the coming week, we will take back to our respective decision-making structures (the SACP Central Committee and COSATU Central Executive Committee) a proposal to campaign around the transformation of the financial sector and link this to the struggle for a comprehensive social security system.

Over 10 million credit-active South Africans have impaired records, being three months and more in arrears. Unsecured credit in South Africa grew from R40 billion (AU$3.5 b) in 2008 to R172 billion (AU$15 b) in 2014. Much of this credit is for immediate consumption. An estimated 40 percent of loans from micro-lenders is to buy food. Sity-five percent of consumers of non-mortgage loans earn less than R8,000 (AU$695) per month. With mass retrenchments in the mining sector, with rising food prices, the household debt crisis will deepen. It is a crisis that is affecting the unemployed, the under-employed and casualised, unionised workers, families supporting students, and, indeed, large swathes of the so-called new black middle class; whose middle-class status is typically only possible through unsustainable indebtedness.

This situation is a symptom of a dysfunctional financial sector and of the failure to provide affordable housing and accommodation, public transport and public health-care. The situation is further aggravated by the predatory behaviour of capital with the collusion of corrupt elements in the courts and police. There is widespread abuse of garnishee orders, for instance, and of housing evictions. The struggle for a transformed, people-friendly financial sector and the review of the appropriate approach to provident fund reform are both inextricably linked to the need for a comprehensive social security system that responds to the reality of our situation.

It is a situation in which mass unemployment is not a temporary phenomenon for many, and in which worker retirement funds and different social grants are typically not used only by the individual recipients but are needed to support extended households.

The bilateral reaffirmed that both the SACP and COSATU will be actively supporting the ANC in the forthcoming local government elections. It is critical that both the neo-liberal centre-right DA and the dangerous, demagogic EFF are roundly defeated. In expressing our support for the ANC, our two formations warned however that we will not be able to support candidates thrust upon local communities through perverted, undemocratic processes that are in flagrant defiance of the ANC’s own clear nominations procedures.

We call on the ANC national leadership to ensure that where they have occurred these practices are reversed. The bilateral noted the Constitutional Court hearing earlier this month into the powers of the public protector. We expressed our full support for the Constitutional Court.

Next article – Irish voters grade austerity

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