Item 1051 - Address at COSATU 8th National Congress, 15 September 2003

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ZA COM MR-S-1051


Address at COSATU 8th National Congress, 15 September 2003


  • 2003-09-15 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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COSATU 8th National Congress, 15-18 September 2003

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  • English

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President of COSATU, Comrade Willie Madisha
General Secretary, Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi
Members and Delegates
Honoured Guests

This 8th National Congress of COSATU takes place at a very crucial moment in the life of our nation and the development and consolidation of our young democracy.

I am deeply honoured to be your guest here this afternoon and to be allowed to share a few thoughts with you. I have always appreciated the consistent kindness and consideration with which COSATU and its leadership had treated an old man without power or position. It says something, I think, about the persistence in our workers’ movement of those great values of human solidarity which had traditionally been at the core of workers’ struggles across the world.

Thank you for the opportunity of once more sharing in such a moment with the organised workers of our land.

We have long passed the stage where we think and speak of one political formation being the so-called vanguard of the struggle. The world has become too complicated and complex in its problems and challenges for us to imagine a single social force leading the charge for fundamental social change. As in all human enterprises partnerships, alliances and multilateral approaches represent the most effective means of achieving the desired social objectives.

Within those alliances of forces working for fundamental transformation and a better life for all, the organisation of the workers have a crucial role to play, ensuring that the poor and the working people remain at the centre of our national efforts, thinking, planning and execution.

The exact tactical and strategic manner in which COSATU performs that social and political function might have changed in the present conditions, but the basic responsibility remains unaltered.

The approach has certainly changed from the old oppositional activism directed at an illegitimate minority government to one based on dialogue, debate, conversation and co-operation with a partner in alliance; but COSATU will fail if its voice is not clearly heard on the side of the workers in this on-going grappling with the issues and challenges of social change and development.

In human affairs no single person, organisation or social formation ever has a final or an absolutely correct position. It is through conversation, debate and critical discussion that we approach positions that may provide workable solutions. Not only workers, but all democrats look towards COSATU to be a vibrant force and a strong voice within that alliance of forces that our history has chosen to lead in the transformation of our society.

We are fast approaching our third democratic election in the year in which we shall also be celebrating ten years of democratic rule.

We are confident that workers will once more demonstrate their sure understanding that it is the ANC led government that has in the space of a mere ten years brought about more positive change in their living circumstances than all the preceding governments put together. Our people know that much, much more needs to be done and that it will not happen overnight for all our basic needs to be met. They also know, though, that we have made significant progress in bringing basic social services to millions of people who were previously not even considered worthy of such facilities.
Above all, this people’s government, led by the ANC and backed by the tri-partite alliance, has restored the dignity of our people, freeing them from the indignity of bondage in their own land.

Unemployment and continuing job losses of course remain the major problem facing our country and our workers. There are few things with a greater assault on a person’s dignity than not being able to work when desperately looking for a job. If there is one area where the need is greatest for concerted common effort amongst all in our society, it must be around job creation and employment opportunities.

Being part of an open globalised economy - something that we cannot escape - has significantly contributed to our economic growth not being accompanied by sufficient job creation. There is no way that we can stop the world and try to get off it; we are inextricably part of that global economy.

What our leaders - the President, the Ministers of Finance, Trade and Industry, Foreign Affairs and others - are increasingly doing is to challenge the in-built inequities in world trading regimes and organisations. Our President has established himself as a leading voice on behalf of the developing world in challenging the avarice of the developed countries, seemingly uncaring about the increasing poverty amongst the already poor parts of the world.

HIV/AIDS represents another daunting challenge to our country, and our workforce will be hugely affected by the pandemic. COSATU has already played a major role in confronting, acknowledging and tackling this threat to our national future. Your voice as an organ of civil society had been hugely influential in shaping the outcome of the national debate we had on this matter. Your constructive challenge to employers had been an exemplary part of facing and dealing with HIV/AIDS.

We proudly salute you, and call on you - the members and leaders of COSATU - to be as committed fighters in this war as you were in the struggle against apartheid discrimination and exploitation. The war is no less serious and the enemy no less threatening.

Comrade President, you honoured me at your National Congress in September 2000 with being the first recipient of your highest honour, named after your first President the late Elijah Barayi. Today you are bestowing that award on four comrades, each of them much more deserving than that first recipient you chose three years ago.

This is one gathering where no one needs to be reminded what giants of our struggle you are honouring in Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani and John Nkadimeng. Sadly the first three are no longer with us but their memory will live on as long as freedom loving men and women inhabit this country and continent. Comrade Nkadimeng, now as a member of the Central Committee of the SACP, continues the heroic work of those three fallen comrades - strengthening the Alliance, consolidating our democracy, and advancing the cause of the poor and the downtrodden.

We salute our comrades and we salute COSATU for honouring them.

May you have a stimulating and fruitful Congress. May the spirit of debate and open discussion continue to grow within your organisation, within the Alliance and in our society at large. The strength of our struggle was built on that spirit of debate and collective leadership and action. Carry that tradition forward in your organisation.

And may your deliberations bear fruit for the working and poor people of our country. We shall only real have the fruits of our freedom when all of them are freed from want and hunger.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 24/02/09 by Razia Saleh




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