WSF (1999): “Fight Privatisation”

WSF (1999): “Fight Privatisation”

From Workers Solidarity, magazine of the Workers Solidarity Federation, volume 5, number 1, second quarter 1999. Complete PDF is here

Privatisation is the policy of the ANC government and is organised by ministers such as Stella Sigcua, who has promised that the process will speed up. In the middle of August, Minister of Public enterprises, Stella Sigcau, said that privatisation must go faster in South Africa. She says that the big government-owned companies must be sold to big business companies.

The government companies that are going to be sold include

* ISCOR (iron and steel)
* ESKOM (electricity)
* Post Office
* Railways
* Sun Air
* Water services
* Government services like ambulances.
* Egoli 2000– government services in Johannesburg are set to be privatised by ANC.

Workers must fight privatisation because it means

* retrenchments and flexibility in privatised jobs

* It is not empowerment because it only helps the rich.

* cuts in social services (water, refuse collection, sewerage, electricity, trains etc.) to poor areas

Public sector unions are the key to fighting ANC’s privatisation plans. This requires trade union independence.

SAMWU: Fighting Privatisation In South Africa

In South Africa, the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) has been at the forefront of efforts to fight privatisation. SAMWU has managed to block the privatisation of refuse removal in Khayalitsha, Cape Town. It has also fought against privatisation in Nelspruit and on the KwaZulu-Natal Coast.

But every step of the way the union is being undermined by the ANC and its minister of local government and provincial affairs, Mohammed Valli Moosa. Despite a promised national framework agreement, called the Municipal Services Partnership Framework Agreement, which was signed by COSATU, and the national and local government, privatisation has gone ahead. The Agreement stated that COSATU would be consulted on privatisation, and also stated that the government must be the preferred supplier of local social services.

Despite this agreement, the ANC government has secretly set in motion plans to privatise water delivery in the Dolphin Coast municipality in KwaZulu-Natal. The company which has won the 30-year contract is called SUAR International. Unions across the world hate this company. When it took over water services in Gdansk City in Poland, it raised prices so high that the government had to intervene to make sure ordinary workers got water supplies.

Privatisation: COSATU Leaders’ “Two Hats”

COSATU is officially opposed to privatisation. It recognises that privatisation benefits the rich and penalises the broad working class. Sadly, COSATU’s opposition to privatisation is weakened by two factors. Firstly, COSATU is involved in union investment companies. Sometimes these companies target privatised industries for purchase. For example, COSATU is getting involved in buying Aventura Resorts, which is being privatised. So COSATU is wearing two hats here. How can it fight when sections of the leadership are buying privatised companies?

Secondly, COSATU is very closely tied to the ANC.  We recognise that before 1994 the ANC was a very progressive mass movement. But since then, it has broken many promises. One of the big broken promises was privatisaton. But the Alliance binds COSATU to the ANC – at the very time that the ANC is implementing the anti-worker privatisation policies. It is Sam Shilowa – the future Gauteng premier- who will have to implement privatisation.This contradication must be solved- it is the public sector unions – centred on COSATU – are the key to the struggle against privatisation.