COSATU remains tone-deaf to South Africa’s unemployment crisis

03 May 2024 in News

by John Steenhuisen MP – Leader of the Democratic Alliance

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) response to the Democratic Alliance (DA) picket outside of their headquarters yesterday demonstrates that the organisation has become indifferent to the plight of the majority of South Africans who remain without a job and are utterly tone-deaf to the issue of unemployment.

It is no surprise that its obsession with ANC palace politics has seen the COSATU membership base decline significantly, from approximately 6 million in the 1990s to 1.8 million today.

For all its posturing about the advances made for workers and workers’ rights, COSATU fails to acknowledge that the reckless policies it has forced, together with its unholy alliance partners, the ANC and SACP, have created a situation in which there are far fewer South African workers today than there were 30 years ago.

COSATU is too busy celebrating the advances made for its current membership base, which includes mostly well-paid civil servants that they do not care about how their system of exclusion has locked millions of South Africans, particularly young people, out of jobs.

The truth is that COSATU remains tone-deaf to South Africa’s unemployment crisis. They have chosen to double down on their job-killing policies of race quotas, trickle-down redress, and forcing employers to prize only high-skilled workers rather than create opportunities for all. The harsh truth is that South Africa is a developing economy whose growth under the Unholy Alliance has flatlined, with a largely unskilled workforce that cannot be absorbed.

If the Alliance’s policies have been so effective, then why has South Africa’s unemployment rate ballooned, inequality risen, and more people have been plunged into poverty?

Contrary to COSATU’s claim that the DA is trying to abolish the minimum wage, we understand the need to protect existing workers’ wages. However, we believe that a targeted exemption from the minimum wage through our Youth Employment Opportunity Certificate is the best way to protect existing wages while unlocking the door to South Africa’s economy and jobs for the approximately 11.7 million of our citizens who remain unemployed.

The 11.7 million unemployed South Africans currently confined to a minimum wage of R0 would relish the opportunity to get their foot into the door, earn a wage, and be enabled to build a livelihood for themselves and their families. Instead, they are forced to rely on the state for a grant or, worse, sit at home, wondering where their next meal will come from.

For all of COSATU’s claims that the DA is a privileged organisation that only protects the rights of the few – this is blatantly false. The DA is the only true party that loves workers, so we are trying to create as many new South African workers as possible. This is demonstrated by the DA-led Western Cape, which has had South Africa’s lowest unemployment rate for over a decade and which created nearly 79% of all net new jobs in the country over the last five years.

Instead of trying to manipulate South Africans into believing that the DA is an elitist organisation, they would do well to acknowledge the privilege that exists in their own backyard. President Cyril Ramaphosa and Deputy President Paul Mashatile are quintessential examples of the exclusive economy created by the Unholy Alliance. Both reside in mansions in Bantry Bay and Constantia, respectively, far removed from the plight of the unemployment crisis that they and COSATU have created. The greatest irony is that both have chosen to live in DA-run municipalities.

It is time that the Unholy Alliance took a cold, hard look in the mirror and confronted the uncomfortable truth that its policies are the enemies of the South African workers. If COSATU wants to use the privilege card, it must ask itself why a tinier and tinier elite of politically connected cadres, including its own leaders, have been continually re-enriched since 1994 and why increasing numbers of ordinary South Africans are joining the unemployment queue.

The DA will not cower to the Unholy Alliance, and we will continue to champion the rights of both the unemployed and workers instead of protecting the minority of cadres who have profited off the backs of the impoverished.

We know that South Africa is on our side, and we will not relent in our pursuit to rescue it from an Unholy Alliance that is tone-deaf and entirely out of touch with the real plight of its workers and the reality of our developing world economy.

Only the DA can rescue South Africans from the unemployment queues and put them into jobs.