Message of Support from the South African Communist Party by Comrade Thulas Nxesi, Deputy Chairperson

25 October 2013

Comrade President
Leadership of SADTU - national, provincial, regions and from the branches
Invited guests and representatives of the Alliance
Fellow educators
Comrades

Let me begin with revolutionary greetings from the 13th Congress Central Committee of the South African Communist Party.

I always say that it is good to come home. SADTU was my mentor for 20 years. SADTU trained me and educated me - both in organisational skills, and politically - and together, as the teachers of South Africa, we built, for the first time, a mighty non-racial, democratic teachers’ union.

SADTU was built on the following pillars:

Democratic, worker-controlled, militant trade unionism;

Professionalism - understood to mean the need to transform the education system and to build People’s Education, whilst delivering quality education to all our children, and

A political commitment to a wider vision of national liberation and the struggle for socialism

As SADTU, you always saw the bigger picture and you were a leading part of that wider movement for national liberation, and after 1994 for transformation

Since 1994, as the Alliance and ANC-led government:

we have built a universal, free and compulsory education system;

we have extended schooling to include Grade R;

we have doubled the number of university students and graduates, and

we currently feed 9 million school children daily.

Building on these solid foundations, we look to the teachers of South Africa - in partnership with government, learners, parents and communities - to continue to focus their efforts on building quality learning and teaching.

In the time available I want to briefly cover the following:

The second phase of transition

The Red October Campaign

The need for disciplined unity, and

The way forward towards elections in 2014

1. The programme of the ANC and the Alliance going forward: The Second Phase of Transition

At Mangaung, as the ANC and the Alliance we said that we need to intensify our efforts to achieve a radical transformation in the second phase of transition - where the focus is on social and economic empowerment of all our people.

Crucially, this includes the following:

Combating fraud and corruption;

As part of our national democratic revolution:

addressing the land question; and

Driving economic growth and job creation.

Combating fraud and corruption

We need to enforce zero tolerance of fraud and corruption - and reject tenderpreneurs - both within the broader society and government.

I am pleased to be able to report that in the Department of Public Works we have made serious progress in combating fraud and corruption. As a result of investigations by the SIU (Special Investigations Unit) we have been able to move against corrupt elements - dismissing senior staff members and instigating court action to reclaim monies wrongly obtained.

We are saying to the criminals: you can run but you can’t hide.

Comrades, I am sure that you were as happy as I was with the Finance Minister’s Medium-Term Budget Policy Speech this week - in relation to clamping down on perks and wasteful spending of politicians and senior officials. We cannot justify some of this spending - especially when many of our people still live in poverty.

As Minister of Public Works I have been very much aware of the lack of controls - and we have been working to finalise a set of Norms and Standards to control spending in relation to ministers’ housing. This will go into the revised Ministerial Handbook that Minister Gordhan spoke about.

The 1913 Native Land Act and the Land Question

Comrades, it is exactly 100 years since the passage of the infamous Native Land Act when 87% of the land - including all the best farming land - was reserved to whites.

The DA believes that racial oppression ended in 1994. From the side of the SACP, we would say: ‘It’s more complicated than that. Political exclusion was only one facet of the national oppression of black people. The many ways in which black people were discriminated against, held back and denied opportunities - also have to be addressed - including the Land.’

The SACP welcomes government’s intention to move with speed towards the establishment of the Land Management Commission and the Land Valuer-General Office, so that we can do away with the practices of inflating land prices caused by the “willing buyer, willing seller” principle - and fast-track land reform.

By the way, comrades, we may be able to learn something from the agrarian model adopted by our Zimbabwean neighbours - essentially breaking down large-scale farms and promoting more intensive small-scale farming.

This is not a call for an illegal land grab. In South Africa we have a constitution which recognises and facilitates the process of land restitution. (Chapter 2: Bill of Rights; section 25: Property). The constitution also requires that we pass a new Expropriation Act to govern this process.

The Department of Public Works is responsible for this piece of legislation. It will come as no surprise to you to hear that it is being opposed at every turn by the DA.

At this stage in our national democratic revolution we define ourselves by our approach to the Land Question and the Expropriation Bill: you either support an orderly and constitutional process of land reform - or you continue to defend privilege and vested interests.

Infrastructure: driving economic growth and jobs

As we move towards elections in 2014, it is inevitable that we will debate the record of the present leadership of the ANC in government. And it is right and proper that we do this.

I would argue that in key areas of economic policy we have seen significant shifts - with the objective of combating poverty and inequality and creating jobs.

I have personal experience and knowledge as a member of the PICC (Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Council) of the National Infrastructure Plan to drive inclusive economic growth and development; and to lead the struggle against the triple evils of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Major long-term Strategic Integrated Projects (SIPs) have been developed to promote regional economies and job creation. Examples include:

SIP1: [convened by the Minister of Public Works] aims to unlock SA’s northern mineral belt centred in Limpopo through key infrastructure provision in Waterberg and Steelpoort districts, initiate new energy and industrial development, develop a new city around Lephalale, shift coal transport from road to rail in Mpumalanga and increase rail capacity to Richards Bay whilst supporting regional integration.

SIP6: Integrated Municipal Infrastructure Project - to assist the least resourced districts to address all infrastructure, maintenance and services backlogs.

SIP 13: Education - to build new schools - initially focusing on the replacement of mud schools in the Eastern Cape. Also, upgrading of schools - 100 in each province per year - through the Schools Beautification Programme.

Going forward, government has announced a Four Trillion Rand (Trillion = 1000 x 1 million) infrastructure roll-out to drive economic growth and job creation.

2. Red October

Red October Campaign - by the way I am talking about the real Red October, not the attempt of some reactionary whites to hijack the name of Red October for narrow ethnic (racist) purposes - to protest how they are being oppressed by a black government. They have no idea what real oppression is!

In the Red October Campaign, comrades, we are going back to two important themes that we have campaigned about in the past:

the financial sector campaign,

and the land campaign.

The Financial Sector Campaign

Our original financial sector campaign brought us a number of gains:

the original credit amnesty;

progressive legislation in the form of a National Credit Act and the National Credit Regulator (NCR) which monitors the mainstream financial players, as well as dealing with the illegal activities of the Mashonisas.

the launch of the Mzansi account, a product that has reached up to 10 million initially unbanked, mainly the poor and the working class.

we now have Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) in many townships.

This year, our Red October Campaign on the Financial Sector will renew the struggle to defend the gains made, hold financial institutions to account, and to protect the interests of working people. In particular we are pushing for implementation of the new credit amnesty.

Comrades, the first task is to strengthen the organisational capacity and presence of the Financial Sector Campaign Coalition (FSCC) in leading these struggles. This means that we have to mobilise activists, the trade union movement, the alliance and progressive NGOs and Community Based organisations to play an active role in the affairs of the FSCC.

Land and Agrarian Reform

Comrades, I have spoken about the Land Question - in relation to the Second Phase of Transition. AS the SACP we know seek to implement on the ground as part of the Red October Campaign.

We now have the critical task of building local people’s land committees which amongst others must focus on comprehensive rural development, with a particular emphasis on building a women’s rural movement.

Our interventions must also seek to strengthen the presence of the progressive trade union movement amongst the workers in the agricultural sector.

3. Unity and Discipline

As trade unionists we say “Unity is Strength”. A very simple truth, comrades:

Unity of our organisations

Unity of the working class - under the leadership of the federation and the SACP

Unity of the oppressed - under the leadership of the national liberation movement led by the ANC

Above all unity of this mighty Alliance which delivered political freedom in 1994 - and which remains the only vehicle capable of deepening the national democratic revolution and delivering real social and economic emancipation to all our people.

We forget this simple truth at our peril. Unity can never be taken for granted comrades - it has to be constantly guarded and nurtured.

The bourgeois media derives great satisfaction from reporting on divisions within our movement - and those comrades who rush to the media to attack other comrades - or who provide anonymous leaks - they fall right into the hands of our enemies.

On this issue of unity, the Mangaung Conference confounded our enemies. In the best traditions of the Alliance, the national liberation movement united behind elected leadership and an agreed programme. Our job is to now implement that programme.

The current state of COSATU

The SACP reaffirms the critical importance of trade union independence, we need a militant, and robust trade union movement - not a conveyor belt for Alliance partners, or for the ANC-led government. Militant union independence, however, should not be confused with a liberal notion of sustained anti-governmental opposition.
We call on COSATU to get its house in order - but it is COSATU itself that must do this.

Any factional interference from outside, whether it be from the ANC or the SACP - or from media and NGOs - will not assist. We say: HANDS OFF COSATU! We say COSATU must be given the time, space and respect by ALL of US outside of the federation to deal with its own internal issues.

Discipline

Comrades, we maintain unity by maintaining discipline:

For teachers this means maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards;

Where it is alleged that comrades do not maintain these standards, then they must be subjected to a disciplinary hearing and due process.

When allegations were made against myself, some years ago when I was GS of SADTU, COSATU was requested to carry out an investigation and hearing - which was convened by COSATU NOBs led by its General Secretary Cde Vavi. It was necessary that I go through that process in order to clear my name.

Not long ago, when there were allegations in relation to SIHOLD which was led by Cde Maluleka (the then National Treasurer) as chair of the board, and myself as a board member - we were subjected to a forensic audit. We complied and we had nothing to fear.

Many leaders - Slovo Majola, Lindelwa Dunjwa - were also suspended and subjected to the same processes; Comrade Peter Malepe (then acting President of COSATU) was also investigated; so was Joe Nkosi the 1st V.P. of COSATU. These are internal procedures and processes prescribed by the constitution of the organisation. It is quite normal, and disciplined comrades comply.

Even when comrades are found guilty of charges, we require that they maintain discipline. It is opportunistic and completely unacceptable when such comrades then threaten to break away from the union for their own personal gain - effectively dividing workers against each other, and weakening their ability to engage with the management. Such elements must be exposed. Anybody in SADTU who wants to form another teachers’ union must be exposed, and leadership must go to the ground to engage and explain the position to members.

4. The 2014 elections

The last CC of the SACP pledged its full support to the ANC-led election campaign.

As we prepare for elections in 2014, I like to make the following points - especially to the ‘Doubting Thomases’:

First, it is your right and duty to criticise government officials and representatives when we do not deliver. I would urge you to do this through the Alliance structures and through Ward committees.

I would be the first to admit that mistakes have been made. A large part of my job as Minister of Public Works is exactly to address these mistakes, to investigate wrong-doing and to root out the tenderpreneurs and corrupt elements. The same process is happening in other departments.

Thirdly, and this is the most important point: never forget that it was the Alliance - led by the ANC - which after decades of struggle and sacrifice - brought down the cruel Apartheid regime.

That same Alliance - ANC, SACP and COSATU - remains the only vehicle that is capable of taking forward our national democratic revolution to ensure that in the second phase of our transition we deliver real economic and social transformation to all our people.

I thank you.

Viva SADTU!