Cosatu: The president has left us with no other option but to strike

Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said while Wednesday’s planned action would not affect the economy as deeply as it ordinarily would due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members had no other option but to withdraw their labour.

FILE: Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - As the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) prepares to lead protests against corruption and other issues across the country this week, its leaders have dismissed suggestions that the action will be detrimental to the economy.

Between April and June, 2.2 million South Africans lost their jobs, while the economy recorded a massive decline in the same period.

On Wednesday, Cosatu and other federations and trade unions are embarking on a strike against corruption and government’s failure to increase public servants’ wages for the year.

Speaking to Eyewitness News in a wide-ranging interview, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the economy was already on its knees and a single day strike will not harm it any further.

“People that we talk to seem not to be listening,” Ntshalintshali said.

WATCH: Why Cosatu is protesting during COVID-19

A stone-faced Ntshalintshali – with a fisted hand to emphasise this point – explained that while Cosatu’s action would not affect the economy as deeply as it ordinarily would due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members had no other option but to withdraw their labour.

He said despite many discussions, government seemed incapable of leading the country out of the crisis that had affected many citizens’ quality of life.

“In these issues, and unless we do something, it’s (the economy) going to go away anyway and it is better to raise the consciousness of the people now before we lose everything. Corruption is now like a cancer, it’s gone to a stage that unless something is done, unless the limb that has got that particular disease is cut off, we will lose the whole body,” he said.

WATCH: Cosatu: We also question our support for the ANC


The labour federation has challenged President Cyril Ramaphosa to stop fearing to shake the tables within the ANC and put first the interests of South Africans who he vowed to serve by leading the country out of its multiple crises.

The federation has been criticising Ramaphosa and his administration for months now as the economy continues to plummet and corruption thrives under his watch.

Wednesday’s planned action will be its first national strike against the Ramaphosa-led government.

Ntshalintshali said they had been perplexed by how Ramaphosa had failed to use his power to dismiss ineffective ministers and other leaders in government who weren’t committed to serving the nation.

He recalled a particular meeting at the National Economic Development and Labour Council where Ramaphosa told them he was equally frustrated when labour shared its problem with his Cabinet and the failure of the business sector to implement resolutions taken at the Jobs Summit two years ago.

“We need to go to the president and say if you have problems being your own organisation where you think you are powerless, remember the other 11 million South Africans who are not ANC members who you took an oath promising to serve them, serve them, and if you are going to be removed, be it so. But you can’t be an accomplice because of your organisation and people unwilling to do something, and that’s where we are,” Ntshalintshali said.

WATCH: Cosatu: Ramaphosa making the right noise, but the soldiers are not rallying behind him

Despite the overwhelming support and public confidence the president enjoyed when he came into office, more and more South Africans and organisations have taken issue with his failure to fire inept individuals in his administration and those who are suspected of corruption.

Cosatu said it was concerned that while individuals linked to major corruption deals in the state were currently being arrested, it could take a while before anyone is sent to jail.

Numerous business and political leaders were arrested by the Hawks this past week following investigations after they were implicated in evidence presented before the state capture commission.

However, Ntshalintshali said they were concerned about the National Prosecuting Authority’s capacity to handle the cases with the speed required to send the right message to criminals.

“Our view is that they must move with speed so that when they arrest, so that when they arrest, they are
ready to prosecute,” he said.

WATCH: Cosatu: SA could become a mafia state if nothing is done


Political experts and several international reports have been ringing the alarm about the accelerating decline of the economy and the state’s inability to perform some of its fundamental functions – with some projecting the country will be a failed state by 2030.

Ntshalintshali told Eyewitness News that while there was a lot that could still be done to save the government and create jobs, the country was edging closer to a failed state.

The term refers to a state that ceases to perform its functions, cannot control its national boundaries and is composed of feeble and flawed institutions.

Ntshalintshali explained that a change in trajectory by the government could save the day.

“We are not there as yet, many fundamental things are in good place in dealing with those particular issues. We are making sometimes the right decisions and fail to implement and sometimes you have ministers working in isolation.
When we fail, we fail in a manner that will be a total failure,” he said.

Just last month, Cosatu described Ramaphosa’s administration as feeble and dysfunctional.

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