Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
At a dinner in Washington in 1982, the President of the American Federation of Labour – Council for Industrial Organisation (AFL-CIO), Lane Kirkland, declared: “Nothing so frightens totalitarian regimes, left to right, as the power of workers united in a free trade union movement.”
Mr Kirkland then proceeded to bestow on me, and posthumously on Dr Neil Aggett, the George Meaney Human Rights Award. To me, he said: “In recognition of your outstanding leadership of the black people of South Africa in their struggle for equality, for your relentless opposition to the brutal system of apartheid, for your consistent advocacy of non-violence as an instrument of change in South Africa in spite of the unprecedented provocations and violence facing you, for your dedication to the ongoing struggle for human rights, and for your unwavering commitment to freedom for all peoples.”
But the words that remained with me for years to come were his initial declaration of the power inherent in the trade union movement to strike fear into a totalitarian regime.
I am certain I would be lambasted if I called South Africa’s Government under the African National Congress a totalitarian regime. But it would be fair to say that the ANC is bent on centralising all power within its own hierarchy, that it secures political power through propaganda campaigns, and that it is marked by personality cultism, the desire for control over the economy, control over the media and restriction of information.
It would also be more than fair to say that the ANC is terrified of COSATU, its trade union alliance partner.
For eighteen years, the ANC has bowed to pressure from COSATU. President Mbeki’s administration abandoned the promising policy of Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) when COSATU took to the streets shouting “We do not want GEAR! Asifuni GEAR!” GEAR gave way to the Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative of South Africa. But COSATU then developed its own economic policy, which continually reroutes any positive economic direction emerging in South Africa.
So it is not surprising that the ANC Government is paralysed to implement the Youth Wage Subsidy, despite the overwhelming public support behind this job creation initiative, because COSATU opposes it. It is not surprising, but it is, as the IFP’s Youth Brigade points out, extremely selfish. If COSATU’s core interest is job protection, rather than job creation, why is it standing in the way of a job creation strategy while South Africa flounders in an unemployment crisis?
This is not just about unemployment. It is about gross inequality and severe poverty. We are talking about people who have no income, no means of production, no opportunity, no security and no prospect of change. And that is a secondary crisis to having no food, no clothes and no shelter. I wonder what the late President of the AFL-CIO would make of the latent power of the unemployed, united in a free movement, to threaten the power of our Government.
What could happen if every unemployed South African joined a movement to withhold support from the ruling Party until it makes good on its endless promises to create jobs? There is power in the people. If the people stood united and said, “No Support Without Action”, the ANC would surely move very quickly to create even the semblance of political will to act.
Why do people accept the ANC’s rallying call to vote for the ANC so that the ANC can create jobs, when year after year after year the ANC fails to create jobs? The ANC demands support before they are willing to earn it and, once they have support, they see no need to earn it.
The ANC has heard the cry of the people and recognised that jobs are tied to votes. But they have twisted their response into a policy of cadre deployment, whereby political affiliation becomes the pre-requisite for appointment.
Cadre deployment is crippling the institutions of Government. It is evident in municipalities across South Africa, where qualifications and competence are secondary considerations to whether or not the applicant for a position is a card-carrying member of the ANC.
It is hardly surprising that 95% of municipalities across the country have failed to receive a clean audit report. Maladministration and mismanagement of funds are natural consequences when municipalities are staffed with unqualified, unskilled, inexperienced cadres.
I was amazed by a malicious media article concerning the Ulundi Municipality, which is among the 5% that secured a clean audit report from the Auditor General. The article repeated accusations by the ANC and NFP that the Municipal Manager was only appointed because she is my daughter.
This despite the fact that for five years she competently managed one of only thirteen municipalities across South Africa that is not hanging its head in shame right now over its audit report. Ulundi Municipality has in fact received unqualified audit reports every year since 2007.
The Mayor made a comprehensive response to the accusations, describing the skills, experience and qualifications that her Municipal Manager brings to the table. She pointed out that she was the preferred candidate based on the interview scorecards of NFP, ANC and IFP panellists. But more than any of this, under her management, Ulundi Municipality has excelled.
Even in the Western Cape, where the Democratic Alliance heralds itself as the most efficient administration in South Africa, 28 of its 30 municipalities failed to receive a clean audit report.
ANC led municipalities fared worse still, with five provinces failing in every single municipality. So it is ill-advised for my political opponents to point fingers at my daughter because she is my daughter. It only highlights how genuine cadre deployment is destroying governance in South Africa.
The problem is, for every person who finds employment based on their ANC membership, five or six more people are brought into the ANC’s fold.
Because, in South Africa, an employed family member generally supports five or six dependents who are old enough to work, but cannot find jobs. This phenomenon is perpetuated by South Africa’s high level of unemployment. One wonders then if the ANC has sufficient motivation to address unemployment.
If power is more important to the ruling Party than the dignity and wellbeing of the people, God help our country.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP