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Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)

The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on

By Marienna Pope-Weidemann - Red Pepper, October 13, 2017

The fatal police shooting of 37 striking workers at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine in August 2012 was the worst recorded instance of police violence in post-apartheid South Africa. Five years on, there have been no prosecutions and no real improvements – no compensation for the families living in grief and dire poverty.

There has also been no apology, although staggeringly Lonmin has created a commercial out of the incident. But as always with the Marikana story, the most important characters were left out.

A few weeks after the massacre there was another death in the community. Amidst a brutal crackdown Paulina Masuhlo, a powerful community leader, died after being shot by police. Paulina’s death helped galvanise the birth of Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana.

As well as demanding criminal prosecution for the killings and compensation for the families, Sikhala Sonke also carries forward the demands those workers died for: a living wage and dignified conditions.

The Role of Labour in the Fight Against Climate Change

By Asbjørn Wahl - International Transport Workers Federation (ITF), (hosted by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy) November 2016

The climate crisis is steadily coming closer. At the same time, we face a deepening economic crisis, as well as social and political crises. This creates an increasingly serious situation for the future of humanity.

However, given that the various crises have many of the same root causes, going to the core of our economic system, this can contribute to strengthening the mobilisation of social forces needed to break the current trend-–in favour of a democratic and planned development of society.

Action to combat dramatic climate change will require major societal transformation. In other words, we have an all-out battle on our hands over how to organise society. Solutions to the climate crisis do exist. We have most of what is required in terms of technology, knowledge, and competence to avert a climate disaster. It is the power to translate words into action that will pose the greatest challenge.

Since economic growth and ruthless exploitation of natural resources are embedded parts of a capitalist economy–indeed, any capitalism without growth is a capitalism in crisis-–a narrow focus on individual issues of environmental policy will not suffice. Nor will we be able to combat the climate crisis by making individual choices. A system critical approach is needed. We need democratic control of the economy. This means that we are not only faced with a threat, but also an opportunity-–an opportunity, not just to prevent a climate catastrophe, but also to fight the economic and social crises which are currently eroding and threatening the living conditions of millions upon millions of people. In particular, this also provides us with a foundation upon which to build extensive social alliances in search of a different kind of society.

Read the report (PDF).

Numsa National Executive Committee (NEC) statement

By Karl Cloete - NUMSA, July 23, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) held its ordinary and scheduled National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting, from Tuesday 21 July to Thursday 23 July, at Vincent Mabuyakhulu Conference Centre, Newtown, Johannesburg.

The NEC was attended by the National Office Bearers, elected NEC members from our nine Regions, as well as representatives from our sub-structures, namely our Youth Forum; Gender and National Education Committees.

The NEC received a comprehensive analysis of the current political and organisational challenges confronting the union.  We spent considered time hearing different perspectives, openly debating and collectively agreeing on solutions which will best serve our members.

'For a class struggle approach to climate change and energy transition'

By Karl Cloete - Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, February 2012

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following paper was presented on October 10, 2012, at a conference at Cornell University. NUMSA is South Africa’s second-largest union, with almost 290,000 members in the smelting, manufacturing, auto and electricity generation industries.

Our starting point as NUMSA is that to effect an energy transition, we as the global union movement DO need a perspective to guide us as well as strategies to be utilised by the movement. While such a perspective and accompanying strategies will definitely not come fully formed and in one go, we HAVE to keep working on them through discussions, through struggles, through experimentation and through learning from experiences of those in the forefront of energy struggles (within and outside of the labour movement).

Those who were at our February 2012 International Conference on Building a Socially Owned Renewable Energy Sector will know that in our head office in Johannesburg, we have a huge banner with the words: No Revolutionary Theory, No Revolutionary Movement! The slogan on the banner captures how much we, as a union attach to having a perspective that acts as a compass to our daily work. Our message to this roundtable is simple: Without a solid perspective on how to effect an energy transition, there will be no transition.

COSATU Issues Draft Policy Statement Against Fracking and Tar Sands Mining

By COSATU - July 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.


The discussions on shale gas extraction in South Africa (SA) have incited lively debates amongst activists, government officials and communities. These are all informed by divergent ideological paradigms and competing interests. The president and minister of finance have provided the South African citizenry with a clear picture of government’s stance on this contentious matter. This perspective was captured in both the state of the nation address and the budget speech of 2014. For example, in the budget speech delivered to parliament in February, Gordhan (2014:21) stated that “we will pursue the exploration of shale gas to provide an additional energy source for our economy”. His sentiments were echoed by the president when he told South Africans that: “Nuclear has the possibility of generating well over 9000 megawatts, while shale gas is recognised as a game changer for our economy. We will pursue the shale gas option within the framework of our good environmental   laws (Zuma 2014).

The above-mentioned quotes indicate that the South African government supports shale gas extraction. This position has produced two contending reactions from the population. The first supports government’s position on the basis that it will improve energy security and decrease dependence on imports (Warren 2013; Zhenbo et al 2014). Proponents also argue that shale gas exploration will create employment, and replace other harmful sources of energy (Considine et al 2010; Turner 2012).

The second perspective argues that shale gas extraction will produce a number of negative environmental and socio-economic effects. Advocates highlight the externalities that are associated with this form of energy source. The emphasis is placed on the carbon footprint; water contamination and usage; negative health effects on both humans and livestock.

This discussion paper will contribute the debate on the shale gas exploration in SA. It will use the existing research and data to determine whether this form of energy generation will produce positive socio-economic outcomes. This analysis will be guided by the COSATU resolutions which will be summarized in the following sections.

1. Brief Background on COSATU Resolutions and Policies

All COSATU policy must be read within the broader context of the federation’s paradigm on the political economy. There is a dialectical relationship between socio-economic, political and environmental phenomena. Thus, the debate on shale gas exploration cannot be confined to the natural sciences. Conservative analysts discuss shale gas exploration within the limited scope of ecological and environmental degradation. We oppose this perspective on the basis that it ignores the intersecting relationship between environmental destruction and socio-economic underdevelopment. In our view, it is unscientific to separate socio-economic issues from environmental trends. These are all interlinked and should be viewed as connected parts of a wider discourse on sustainable development. This logic is captured in COSATU’s Growth Path towards Full Employment which states that:

“Economic growth and development must support sustainable environments.  Industrial and social processes must minimize the disruption of natural processes; limit environmental degradation, adverse changes in bio-diversity, soil erosion and desertification, the emission of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, and pollution of water streams and ground water.  Patterns of consumption must also be aligned towards products that optimize environmental regeneration (COSATU Growth Path 2010).

The above-mentioned statement captures the tools of analysis that will be used in this paper. These will complimented by the following resolutions on climate change and energy.

Read the entire document as a PDF File.

The Fine Print I:

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