Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov better known as Lenin best describes the current social, economic, health and climate crisis as capitalism a “horror without end”. The Corona virus has accelerated, intensified and exposed class antagonisms associated with the capitalist mode of production. General productive activities, labour relations, the mobility of people and goods have been halted with an exception of those classified as essential service. The decision of rating agencies to downgrade South Africa during a global crisis is a reminder that capitalism and its institutions are not compatible with existing socio-economic conditions.
The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) together with the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) recently exposed the brutal class divide of South Africa’s healthcare system. In various hospitals, doctors, nurses, security officers and cleaners are forced to combat Covid 19 with insufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The South African government must be commended for its crucial role in curbing the spread of the virus. However, the decision to advance a free-market developmental path in a form of GEAR (Growth, Employment and Redistribution) from 1996, not only weakened but virtually collapsed South Africa’s public healthcare system. Many countries that have privatised their health sector are failing to address the devastating effects of the virus. The nationalisation of private healthcare for the NHI (National Health Insurance) is essential for revitalising and correcting the structural inequalities in the country.
SATAWU is equally concerned with the animal-like conditions that transport workers, security officers and cleaners have been subjected to during the lockdown. Our members have reported cases of extreme violation of labour legislation and abuse which include but not limited to: employers forcing workers to take annual leave, threats of retrenchment, not providing PPE’s and refusal to pay full salaries. The employer’s noncompliance leaves us with no option but to advance countervailing action in order to safeguard the interests, dignity and human rights of our members, families and communities. Similarly, no member of SATAWU will take part in productive activities in an event that employers violate occupational health and safety (OHS), COIDA (Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act) and Covid 19 measures put in place by the Department of Health (DoH).
SATAWU is disturbed with the rise of domestic abuse during the lockdown. Gender based violence and femicide is a constant reminder that capitalism in its very nature is a male-controlled system. We call on all gender activists within and outside the labour movement to be in the forefront of waging a counter offensive against capitalism and its elements of racism, colonialism, xenophobia, stratification and inequalities. Accordingly, the emancipation of women cannot be separated from the overthrow of bourgeois relations.
The President of the Republic of South Africa and various government departments have encouraged the general population to maintain social distance, stay at home and regularly wash their hands to curb the spread of Covid 19. This directive is, however, impractical in congested working class localities plagued with social ills ranging from poverty, unemployed and lack of proper housing, water and sanitation. These conditions may on the contrary accelerate the spread of the virus. SATAWU welcomes plans from the Department of Human Settlement to “de-densify” overcrowded informal settlements. The urgency to relocate the poor in order to mitigate the spread of Covid 19 exposes the country for underinvesting in infrastructural development and redistribution of basics services to the poor. Clearly, a human centred developmental path was abandoned for a market regulated society.
Finally, we support the South African Communist Party (SACP) and COSATU’s decision to reject a loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) in order to fight the coronavirus. A loan of this nature coupled with our economic crisis may subject our State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) to privatisation. Private sector prescriptions are not assisting in turning them around. This is a ripe time for government to open up to left solutions in reorganising the country’s SOEs. We believe that workers at plant level through the assistance of progressive academics, left activists and community movements will provide needed solutions in steering our SOEs towards a qualitatively different path.
Generally, the system is failing and a new one is struggling to be born. Nevertheless, the survival of humanity demands change in the structure of the economy and existing social relations.
Issue by: Comrade Jack Mazibuko (SATAWU General Secretary): (082) 660-4793
: Comrade Anele Kiet (SATAWU Deputy General Secretary): (073) 684-1912