Workers are under siege from cruel system - Vavi
COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi last night called on members to be vigilant, saying allowing the federation to be a lapdog would weaken the alliance.
Vavi was speaking at the launch of Sowetan Dialogues - a partnership with Xstrata - at the University of Pretoria.
The union leader said the federation's elective congress, which he referred to as a "do or die", would tell whether members are looking for a lapdog or for critical voices.
The lapdog union could weaken the alliance in the same manner that co-opted unions in the Soviet Union failed to save the soviet regime from collapse, thereby opening the door for the United States to wield unrivalled power in the world, he said.
Vavi said Marikana was a warning to Cosatu unions not to keep a distance from their members as that could result in situations similar to the labour revolt of the early 1970s, where workers established new unions because existing ones had been co-opted.
The lessons for Cosatu, Vavi said, were that workers will not be beholden to unions on the basis that those unions share a history with Chris Hani, but were failing to heed Hani's call.
"The marginalised majority and the less-paid workers in the country were under siege from a very cruel system which urgently needs to be transformed. The people have begun to ask difficult questions, like whether we have not reached a point where they as the poor can conclude that the benefits of democracy were not reaching them," said Vavi.
He also lambasted mining bosses, who he said earned exorbitant salaries while mineworkers, particularly rock drillers who work under difficult conditions underground, earned salaries that were not worth their labour.
Vavi also highlighted the plight of domestic workers, farm workers, security guards and other low-income groups earning as little as R13 an hour.
"All those workers will indeed say they are under siege from a very cruel system. Workers would say they are under siege from bosses who exploit them every day," said Vavi.
Cosatu holds its elective congress from September 17 to 20 in Midrand. New leadership will be elected at the congress.