11 February 2022
The Federation of Unions of South Africa (FEDUSA) has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s announcement of a package of practical measures that have been taken to revitalize the economy during his State of the Nation Address on Thursday evening. Low economic growth and investment in the country as well as unreliable electricity supply have heightened the unemployment statistics. If there is one thing we all agree on it is that, the present situation that we are in now, of deep poverty, unemployment and inequality is unacceptable and unsustainable, Fedusa will carefully monitor the new social compact programme. The President said we have given ourselves 100 days to implement these plans, focusing on economic reconstruction, this must be the single most important issue tabled last night.
These include the vital plan to restructure Eskom to end rolling electricity blackouts, ensuring energy surety and safeguarding stability of energy by augmenting intensive focussed maintenance and operational programmes to improve the reliability of its ageing fleet of coal-fired powered stations, and to ensure we meet the Green Agenda by 2050.
Massive repositioning of Durban as a hub port for the Southern hemisphere and the development of Ngqura as the container terminal of choice can only succeed should the collective social compact of trust and consultation be honoured. FEDUSA and its affiliate in the ports, the United National Transport Union (UNTU), equally enjoying majority membership, must be consulted throughout this process to hold true to the promise that none is left behind, as the President said repeatedly.
Reversing the decline of SOE’s is to be greatly welcomed, but FEDUSA would like to see full participation of it’s unions in the process who have been embroiled in many legal battles in particular at Denel, Transnet, Metrorail, the National Ports Authority and others. Cable theft and vandalism on the freight rail network and rehabilitating the passenger rail network in 10 priority corridors is long overdue and must be given both the conviction, political will and urgency, after the economic injustices that have been endured by commuters for years, whilst crippling the service with the intent of complete destruction. Transnet has reported an average of 650 cable theft incidents per month with an average of 120 km of overhead cable being stolen. FEDUSA will continue to pressurise Government to reinstate the Railway Police Unit and the interim deployment of the SANDF to secure state assets. The prescribed sentence not exceeding a period of 30 years imprisonment outlined in the Criminal Matters Amendment Act, remains a farce as none of the 600 suspects arrested have received the full might of the law. Unless decisive and full punitive action is taken, railway infrastructure will continue to be viewed as a treasure chest fuelled by the demand for copper globally.
FEDUSA is delighted by the localisation commitments announced, but government must ensure that more goods and services are procured locally, especially by the State. The ease of doing business for SMME’s is particularly welcomed after the fatal blows dealt during lockdown when hundreds of small business were shut down permanently. The expanded access to finance, adjustment of the eligibility criteria and payment within 30 days is progressive, but will be closely monitored to ensure effective implementation.
The commitment and demonstration by the President to advance the buy local agenda can only foster greater buy – in to the local manufacturing sector, as workers in Pietermaritzburg, Gauteng and Cape Town belonging to the National Union of Leather and Allied Workers *(NULAW), one of the oldest affiliates of FEDUSA, appreciated the recognition of their skilled craftmanship.
The President’s announcement that the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant will be extended by another 12 months when it expires at the end of March is welcomed. However, as this cannot be sustained in the long term, the promise to find an alternative – most probably in the form of a Basic Income Grant, is a progressive measure.
Following much criticism of apparent inaction against corruption, including the PPEs scandal, it was a great relief that the President announced that a formal plan to layout the actions that will be implanted in response to the Zondo Commission Report will tabled at the Cape Town City Hall in June this year, In addition, implementing concrete measures to enhance the protection of whistle blowers is welcomed. The true test of success ultimately lies in the definitive prosecution and recovery of the billions of looted funds. Orange overalls must become the new trend.
In an environment where up to 75 percent of young people are unemployed, it is a great relief that the National Youth Services Programme is poised to create more than 500 000 employment opportunities for the youth. FEDUSA however insists that these work opportunities must eventually be translated into permanent jobs.
For interviews please contact:
Ms Riefdah Ajam
FEDUSA General Secretary
079 696 2625
Mr Ashley Benjamin
FEDUSA Deputy General Secretary
083 258 4433