Pretoria - Cosatu has warned the ANC that if it continues to privatise state-owned entities (SOEs) such as SAA and Eskom it would suffer a massive loss of membership and electoral support.
The trade union federation issued the warning yesterday following its three-day central executive committee meeting, which ended on Wednesday.
The warning came less than a week after Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan insisted that the government was continuing with its deal of giving equity partner Takatso Consortium a 51% share of SAA.
During his budget speech on Friday, Gordhan slammed moves by political parties to oppose the deal, saying: “Concluding the transaction will ensure the viability and survival of SAA.”
But Cosatu is adamant that the ANC erred with its latest “ongoing attempts” to privatise SOEs under the guise of poor performance. The federation said people needed to be up-skilled and capacitated to lead these SOEs.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali dubbed the move as “camouflaged privatisation” of SAA, Transnet, Denel, and Eskom.
Ntshalintshali urged South Africans to fight against the planned privatisation, saying the move by government would lead to more job losses in the public sector.
“The central executive committee has noted the alarming and ongoing attempts by the government to privatise most of the SOEs through backroom tactics like unbundling and the cutting off of funding to facilitate their collapse.
“The Post Office, Eskom, Denel, SAA and Transnet are some of the SOEs that are being dismantled and collapsed so as to prepare them for their privatisation,“ he said.
Ntshalintshali said Cosatu intended to discuss the privatisation of SOEs with the ruling party, saying it and other issues “bother and alienate workers”.
“There is also an urgent need to close the gap between the masses and the ANC, and confront the reality that the people on the ground are losing confidence in the capacity of the ANC to drive transformation.
“Another challenge is the deliberate hollowing out of a developmental state by the ANC government. On the one hand there is a continuity with the neo-liberal agenda in the state, while at the same time there is talk of a move in the direction of the developmental state.
“Some people in government are privatising state-owned entities for their own benefit. They would always want certain companies and individuals to occupy such spaces,” Ntshalintshali said.
According to federation deputy president Mike Shingange, Gordhan’s insistence to clinch a deal with Takatso Consortium for the sale of SAA was part of the government’s plan to privatise SOEs. Shingange, however, said that the sale would not succeed because of conflicting views about it between the National Treasury and Gordhan.
In its statement, Cosatu said: “The reality is that the state has been taken over by private interests, and the statement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that the government does not create jobs demonstrates this fact.
“There are also policy initiatives that have been introduced in the public service, including the drive to reduce the public service wage bill. This underlines the fact that in practice there is little evidence of any commitment to building the developmental state.”
The federation said a materialist analysis of the state demands that the economic beneficiaries over the past 24 years be specified. Those who benefited were the ones who wielded state power, and thus were responsible for the socio-economic trends that have emerged over the years.
“The analysis of trends in income distribution, unemployment, poverty, health, education, housing, and access to basic utilities over the past 28 years points unambiguously to the capitalist character of the state.
“The analysis also shows that this state, while it represents an advance over the apartheid capitalist one in the sense that it has reduced the brutality of exploitation, has nevertheless facilitated the deepening and escalation of exploitation under more humane conditions”
ANC national spokesperson Pule Mabe was not available to comment.