Trade unionist Zwelinzima Vavi has warned workers to start organising themselves against exploitation after “multibillionaire” President Cyril Ramaphosa made it clear that mines and monopoly companies have nothing to worry about.
Vavi was addressing the National Congress of the Transport Action Retail and General Workers Union’s Congress on Saturday in Durban, also known as To Have Oppression Removed (Thor).
He was once again critical of the budget speech presented by Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba on Wednesday and what it would mean for the next year under a Ramaphosa presidency.
“They have no worries whatsoever; they [now] know more than before that their mines, monopoly industries, the oceans and even the land will remain firmly in their hands,” said Vavi, general secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).
“Those who accumulated property under colonialism and apartheid will continue to be the owners of that property.
“Those whose land was dispossessed and who have no property will continue like before being the property-less and landless class,” he told delegates at the conference.
Vavi told Thor delegates that 76% of South Africa’s workers are not in a union and are vulnerable because they can’t negotiate their pay or protect their rights.
He said Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) and Gigaba’s budget left those exploiting the working class “ecstatic” because nothing would change.
“They know that there are no major policy changes to even threaten the status quo. In fact, they are colluding with the ruling class to make sure that the workers forget about their own challenges,” he said.
“To them now that Jacob Zuma is no longer the president, things must return to ‘normal’.”
Vavi said in this time of “fragmented” unions, there will be a campaign by workers to oppose the one percentage point increase in value-added tax (VAT) that Gigaba announced this week, and a strike over the new minimum wages.
“If we don’t take up heightened mass mobilisation against the neoliberalism, we should not blame workers who will again replace one butcher of the working class with another butcher of the working class in the 2019 general elections and beyond.”
Vavi was kicked out of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) for “gross misconduct” in 2013 after initially being a staunch supporter of President Jacob Zuma.
He has thrown his weight behind the National Metalworkers Union of South Africa (NUMSA) which was kicked out of Cosatu for resolving to break its alliance agreement to support the African National Congress during general elections and has worked with Numsa’s general secretary Irvin Jim to build Saftu.