JOHANNESBURG – Newly elected Cosatu boss Zingiswa Losi has called on the government to conduct a thorough skills audit in the civil service to determine how much corruption and bloated management has cost the economy.
In an interview with Business Report ahead of the Jobs Summit this week, Losi said the government should not start its mooted retrenchments at the lower levels of the public service.
She said it should look at how much the exit packages and golden handshakes that the government had paid to executives in the state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which are supposed to drive economic growth and employment, had crippled the civil service.
Losi said SOEs such as the public broadcaster SABC, power utility Eskom, arms manufacturer Denel, and national carrier SAA had crumbled because of poor management and corruption. “Who suffers at the end of the day when you are talking about retrenchments? It’s ordinary workers while the ones dispensing patronage receive golden handshakes.”
The two-day National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) Jobs Summit is expected to take place from Thursday. Last week, Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) said unemployment in the country increased to 27.2 percent in the second quarter with manufacturing shedding 13 000 jobs during the period. StatsSA said its Quarterly Employment Statistics showed that the economy lost a further 69 000 formal jobs quarter-on-quarter with manufacturing and mining industries leading the cuts.
Losi said the government and President Cyril Ramaphosa in particular should not expect to be treated with kid-gloves on retrenchments. While she supported Ramaphosa in the run-up to the watershed ANC national conference in Nasrec last year, the federation's stance on the mooted retrenchments remained the same. “We are here now, Nasrec is gone. We want to work now,” she said.
Attempts to cut jobs in the civil service would be met with fierce resistance by the federation. Cosatu had identified beneficiation and value addition among initiatives that could create jobs in the embattled economy. Cosatu would table these and other initiatives at the summit.
“We can't shy away from that debate because our own existence relies on the economy creating jobs rather than shedding jobs,” said Losi. The government had a responsibility to assist entrepreneurs and industrialists in reigniting the embattled economy.
She trained her guns on the much-touted black industrialists programme: “We are talking about black industrialists, but we are not industrialising. What are these black industrialists going to build their businesses on?”
Losi welcomed Ramaphosa’s ambitious bid to raise $100 billion (R1.4 trillion) in new investments over the next five years, but warned that the heavy reliance on foreign direct investment would not solve the country's unemployment problems. “We need to look internally and begin to pull our own people who have an understanding of our economy and the sectors that are key drivers of our economy,” she said.
“If you rely more on foreign direct investment, which is important, it is easy for them to pull out when they want to dictate terms and we are on the back foot.”
– BUSINESS REPORT