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Cosatu says it’s open to talks on letting go of some struggling SOEs

The union federation said SOEs were in a crisis and in need of sober analysis and national debate.

Cosatu national leaders briefed the media on 28 November 2019 on the outcomes of their central executive committee meeting. (From R-L) Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi, secretary-general Bheki Ntshalintshali, second deputy-president Louise Thipe, and first deputy-president Mike Shingange. Picture: Twitter/@_cosatu

JOHANNESBURG - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) said on Thursday it was open to discussions on the viability of some state-owned entities (SOEs) while maintaining its anti-privatisation stance.

Conceding that some SOEs were a burden on the economy, the governing African National Congress alliance partner even suggested that some entities be collapsed back into government departments.

Cosatu leaders briefed reporters on the outcomes of its central executive committee meeting this week. The union federation said SOEs were in a crisis and in need of sober analysis and national debate.

Cosatu believed that it was only through a thorough interrogation of the mandates, functions, and developmental role of the over 700 state-owned companies that a decision could be reached about their necessity.

“We can’t be satisfied with the fact that they are not working when they used to be working. Is it because of the growing population or management issues that they are struggling? We need to get to the bottom of why they are not working.

"If we don’t address why SOEs are struggling, whichever solutions you come up with could exacerbate the problems,” said Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi.

In the same breath, Cosatu said SOEs it considered as the “commanding heights” of the economy should remain under state control.

“But what we are clear about as Cosatu is for them to remain under the control of the state, for example, Eskom,” said Cosatu’s first deputy president Mike Shingange.

The federation confirmed that it remained open to strategic partnerships of some SOEs with the private sector.