COSATU is the scene of the crime of South Africa’s unemployment crisis

Issued by John Steenhuisen MP – Leader of the Democratic Alliance
02 May 2024 in News

Note to editors: The following speech was delivered today by the Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen, outside Cosatu House in Braamfontein.

Colleagues, members of the media, fellow South Africans,

Behind me is the scene of the crime of South Africa’s unemployment crisis. The almost 30 years in which the Unholy Alliance between COSATU, the ANC, and the SACP has governed South Africa, has caused record unemployment, and brought misery upon millions of citizens robbed of the dignity of a job and the ability to provide for their families.

In 1994, South Africa’s national unemployment rate was 20%. Today, this figure sits at 33% – 40% if you include the number of workers in South Africa who have given up hope of ever finding a job. In 1994 we were a nation famous for a peaceful transition to democracy. In 2024, we are a nation infamous for our spiralling unemployment rate.

And while COSATU continues to trumpet the same old outdated socialist ideologies, pretending to have the interests of South Africa’s workers at heart, the dire state of our economy, and the ever-growing unemployment queue, are proof that the Unholy Alliance at the helm of our country has failed and betrayed the workers of South Africa.

Far from being on the side of the workers, COSATU has proven itself, time and time again, to be on the side of the ruling ANC cadres and elites. And it is COSATUS’s Unholy Alliance with the ANC and the SACP which has twisted and contorted the South African economy, under an onerous and irrational labour regime, to create an exclusive, sluggish, and uncompetitive economy where the workers have been squeezed out and have no access to opportunity to build a life for themselves.

Simply put, COSATU has never been on the side of workers in South Africa. It is an organisation that has continually and systemically worked against the South African worker, acting as a chokehold on our economy, and a boot against the neck of job-seeking citizens.

We must confront this hard truth. We must adequately diagnose the problem of South Africa’s economic decline and unemployment boom if we wish to administer an antidote. Bad policies have consequences, and the Unholy Alliance of COSATU, the ANC, and the SACP have unleashed a nightmare of economic doom upon the people of South Africa.

The Unholy Alliance continues to champion broad-based black economic empowerment, even though black South Africans are 10% poorer today than they were 10 years ago.

The Unholy Alliance continues to champion a system of race quotas, using draconian race-based legislation to hoard what’s left of a shrinking economy for the privileged few, instead of growing an economy in which all South Africans can claim their stake.

The Unholy Alliance continues to implement an inflexible minimum wage, even though small businesses cannot afford to pay it, and millions of new jobs are lost in an economy where workers are desperate to be paid a wage that would still amount to more than their monthly social grant.

And The Unholy Alliance continues to practice cadre deployment, the very system which enabled the wholesale capture of the state, and pooled public money paid by a dwindling tax base from which the ANC cadres and elites continue to gulp.

Yesterday, COSATU claimed that the DA’s Economic Policy will reverse the gains made by the ANC over the last 30 years. I am here today to tell COSATU that it is their Unholy Alliance that has cost South Africa its economy and has dashed the hopes of millions of South Africans of ever finding a job.

COSATU is not on the side of South Africa’s workers. COSATU is only on the side of the ANC and the SACP, and the majority that the Unholy Alliance has enjoyed since 1994, and which has allowed them to lay sole claim over South Africa’s economy and its resources for themselves.

When COSATU endorses the ANC at every election, they are not doing so because they believe the ANC to be the vehicle of South African employment. They are doing so because they know the ANC to be the vehicle of their own personal enrichment.

There are 10 million unemployed, and 30 million grossly impoverished South Africans listening to COSATU bigwigs talking about the progress they have made over the last 30 years, while struggling to find work. And I have a message for those millions of citizens who have all but lost hope.

South Africa’s economy does not belong to COSATU and its Unholy Alliance with its corrupt partners in crime. It belongs to each and every job-seeking South African who wants to build our country and make a contribution to our future. Where COSATU and its Unholy Alliance have shut the door on South African workers, the DA’s Economic Policy holds the key to open it and allow all South Africans to access a life in which they have meaningful work and a meaningful life.

The DA’s Economic Policy recognises the need for a minimum wage to ensure the adequate remuneration of skilled workers, but we also understand that targeted exemption from the minimum wage is crucial in our developing economy to lift millions of citizens out of poverty, and allow them to earn some money to enable them to be self-sufficient, and gain a foothold on the opportunity ladder.

The Unholy Alliance talks about the minimum wage as if it is the best way of addressing unemployment, but in the South African context, the inflexible minimum wage only acts as a barrier to increased hiring by businesses. Simply put, when a business cannot afford to pay the minimum wage to its staff, it cannot afford to hire staff at all. This means that instead of creating jobs for South Africans, the minimum wage forces businesses to banish job-seekers to a life of poverty, instead of allowing them to earn the money that a business can afford to pay.

South Africa does not have the luxury of being so economically exclusive to implement such a strict minimum wage. We need a system that both protects workers, but also understands that in our developing economy, any job, regardless of its pay, is the best way of lifting citizens out of crippling poverty.

The DA’s Economic Policy has a solution to this problem.

When the DA is the anchor party of a new national coalition government after the 29th of May, we will introduce a Youth Employment Opportunity Certificate to give unemployed youth a leg up in the labour market.

This certificate will allow holders to choose to opt out of the national minimum wage created and implemented by COSATU and the Unholy Alliance, and enable unemployed young people to gain valuable work experience, earn a wage rather than be reliant on the state for a social grant, and allow them to move up the opportunity ladder by gaining the work experience of which the minimum wage continues to rob them.

We will do this while protecting those already in employment by leaving the minimum wage at its current level. This will ensure that those who are already employed will not see a decline in their wages, while allowing more unemployed persons to progressively gain a foothold on the employment ladder and lift themselves out of dire poverty.

This progressive, and tailor-made approach is the best way to resolve the unemployment crisis created by COSATU and the Unholy Alliance.

But ridding South Africa of a government that hoards opportunity and resources for itself is also the best way of providing access to opportunity for South African citizens. This is why the DA will outlaw the practice of cadre deployment when we get into government, ensuring that we build a capable public service that serves the people and not the politicians.

Finally, we will grow a thriving and jobs-rich economy by doing away with non-sensical export tariffs and opening up failed state-owned monopolies such as Transnet and Eskom to private investment.

But South Africans must be careful when they vote in this election, because the Unholy Alliance is about to get bigger. Should the ANC go into coalition with the EFF and Jacob Zuma’s MK party, a Doomsday government will be the final nail in the coffin of South Africa’s flatlining economy. And as South Africa sees a flight in foreign investment, our economy will crash, and any remaining jobs under the Unholy Alliance will completely dry up.

And this is not fearmongering, or swart gevaar as the ANC and its popcorn allies have tried to claim. Just last month we saw the Rand plummet in light of surging support for Jacob Zuma’s MK party. The reality is that an ANC-EFF-MK coalition will kill the South African economy, and any remaining jobs with it.

But South Africans have a choice on the 29th of May to elect a government of hope into power that will change our country’s fortunes for the better. Because while the Unholy Alliance, and the threat of an ANC-EFF-MK Doomsday coalition threaten what’s left of our ailing economy, it is the DA that will put it in ICU.

Where the DA governs in the Western Cape, we are growing a thriving economy that provides meaningful work to people. It is not by coincidence that the Western Cape’s unemployment rate is the lowest in South Africa, at a full 11,7% lower than the national unemployment rate.

It is not by coincidence that the Western Cape created 79% of all net jobs in South Africa over the past five years.

It is because the Western Cape is run by the DA, and we are a party that knows how to run a thriving, jobs-rich economy, and this is shown, time after time, with each survey and study that is conducted. And this is done even in the face of COSATU and the Unholy Alliance’s chokehold on the national economy. Can you imagine what our country would look like if the Unholy Alliance were replaced by the DA to manage our economy?

But South Africans no longer need to imagine this, because they can make it a reality on the 29th of May. If you have never had access to a job in your life, and if the Unholy Alliance has only made your life miserable while ANC cadres and elites continue to get richer, then it is time to vote out COSATU and its Unholy Alliance once and for all.

It is time to vote in a DA-led coalition government that has proven that it knows how to manage the economy and create real, meaningful jobs to address South Africa’s unique unemployment crisis.

It is time for the Unholy Alliance to fall, so that 30 years of jobs promises under the ANC, can turn into 5 years of jobs delivery under the DA.

Only when South Africa rids itself of COSATU’s yoke, will the Unholy Alliance fall. And only when South Africa votes for the DA as the anchor party of a new national coalition government, will South Africans finally gain access to the jobs it has been promised since 1994.

COSATU does not own the South African economy. And South Africans do not owe their allegiance to the Unholy Alliance. If we want real, meaningful jobs in a thriving and investor-friendly economy, then it is time for South Africa to abandon the Unholy Alliance and vote DA.

Thank you.