Joseph Maqheni - Opening of the NACTU National Congress : 2006


Joseph Maqhekeni, NACTU President, Addressing 7th NACTU National Congress, 24 April 2006, Kopanong Conference Centre, Benoni, Gauteng, South Africa.


Programme Director, Deputy President of NACTU Puseletso Tsukulu - Motsohi, the Leadership of NACTU – Secretariat and National Office Bearers, Minister of Public Enterprises, The Honourable Minister Alec Erwin, ICFTU General Secretary – Guy Ryder, ICFTU- AFRO General Secretary – Andrew Kailembo, SATUCC Executive Secretary – Moses Kachima, All Parkistan Federation of Unions delegation, All China Federation of Trade Unions delegation, Fedusa Leadership, Consawu Leadership, Representatives of Solidarity Centre, Representatives of ILO, Representatives of IFBWW, Cresentia Mofokeng welcome home, Mohau Pheko from Motheo Mokhantso Innovators and all our Sponsors and delegates from all our Affiliates, I welcome you all in this NACTU National Congress 2006




The high rate of unemployment and poverty are clouding South Africa’s economic gains since the fall of apartheid in 1994 and these are cited as the reasons behind a host of social evils such as a rampant crime rate and low levels of investments.


Unemployment is officially estimated at 26,7% but the number rises to 39 and 41% if people whose hopes of finding work have been dashed and have given up looking for jobs, are included.  We also take note of the statistics S.A reported economic upswing at a rate of 4,9% in 2005 as compared to 2004 growth.  It has been reported that this economic growth has created 2, 2% or 156 000 new jobs in the formal non-farming sector.  Government plans to spend over R320 billion on infrastructures over the next few years and hope this will contribute to more economic growth.  Also be reminded that the manufacturing and mining sectors could put a damper on this optimism, both these sectors are quite exposed to the global economic cycles. 


I must also warn optimists and economists that the suggestions that the economy has graduated from jobless growth may be hollow if one compares 2, 2% employment as created versus over 39% unemployment rate.


The Plight of People living with disabilities.


It makes business sense to employ people with disabilities.  More than 99% of people with disabilities re excluded from employment in the open market.  This to a large extent is due to societal ignorance and disdain.  People with disabilities have not been given the opportunities to demonstrate their talents and abilities. 


We need, in my view, to jointly focus on disabled persons and match them with suitable positions across all industries and professions.  By implementing rehabilitation and realignment strategies at all workplaces we can facilitate the process if accommodating disabled persons.  How many affiliates have amongst them, people with disabilities. We must support the open day dedicated to people with disabilities coming early in May.


Improved working conditions of vulnerable workers


The Sectoral Determination initiatives by the Minister of labour are most welcomed.  The Domestic workers and agricultural sectoral determination, just to mention a few, were worst forms of exploitations occured, have brought some relief to these poorly unionised sectors.


We are looking forward to making contribution when the Hospitality and the security sectoral determination are handled in the near future.   


We are appealing to the Ministers of Labour to move faster in particular when we assess the mayhem and the damages caused by the recent security industry industrial action.  We are willing to assist our Unions in the hospitality and security sectors to be more organised in these vulnerable industries.


We must express our strong opposition at attempts by some business to deny workers rights through manipulating the employment contract in the form of casualisation, contract work, labour broking and informalisation


Retirement Funds


Pension funds adjudicator, Mr. Vuyani Ngalana, after various awards in favour of retirement funds members against financial services companies, has made numerous calls to government. 


These very loud calls led government to conclude an agreement, with insurance houses, of over R3 billion compensation for early termination of policies and the reduction of premiums.  We are also encouraged by the financial advisory and intermediately services (fais) by taking up complaints from consumers against insurance brokers and other financial advisors engaged in dubious practices. 


Mr. Charles Pillai, fais ombudsman need to market his office and activities more vigorously.  Many pensions and provident funds have not complied with the Pension Fund Surplus appointment.  Billions of Rands belonging to members have not been distributed.  More pressure needs to be exerted by the Financial Services board (FSB)


Fraud and Corruption in the Retirement Industry


Mr. Peter Ghavalas, an Australian citizen, has not been successful against the law. Peter Ghavalas’ involvement in the R213 Billion pension fund fraud is set for the 1st August 2006 at the Commercial Crime Court at 64 Eloff Street, Johannesburg.  A big march is being organised by the 3 Federations NACTU, Fedusa and Cosatu when Peter Ghavalas appears in court this day.


Recently FSD Deputy Registrar, Mr. Dube Tshidi has disclosed that some fund administrators have bulked fund monies without disclosing to the funds, and negotiate with banks for higher interest rates and pocketed these benefits. 


Bulking is an illegal act and these administrators must be prosecuted soon.  If some trustees of funds are involved in these corrupt acts the law must take its course.  We will never defend or condone those actions.


Nepad and APRM – The African Agenda


NACTU fully participates in the Nepad processes – Nepad is an African Union, a home grown development programme that endeavours to emphasize ownership of development processes and emphasize ownership of development processes and increased self reliance.


NACTU has fully participated  at the Nepad National Strategy workshop on 19-21 April 2006 and our views will be incorporated in the final documents which will be used at the June 2006 Nepad vision review.  Our impact was focussed at ensuring that Nepad programmes and engagements are taken to Provincial levels and locals so that South Africans become part of the African Agendas.


The APRM Review Mechanism which is a voluntary self assessment by African Countries is in full swing in South Africa.  NACTU participated in September 2005 consultation conference and is represented in the Governing Body Structure.  It is in APRM Review exercise that NACTU has taken a leading role in ensuring that our inputs are really from the worker grassroots.


We have held National and Provincial workshops and we have submitted our inputs / reports in time.  Although only 26 African Countries (Ghana and Burundi) have done the exercise of self assessment.  South Africa as I have already indicated is in the same process.


ASGISA. Accelerated and Slared Growth Initiative of S.A


Asgisa Task force led by Deputy President Mlambo –Ngcuka has consulted with a range of stakeholders.  NACTU was no exception in this consultation.  Through these interactions all stakeholders are convinced that South Africa is ready for Asgida to be a national shared growth initiative rather than merely a government programme. 


As Asgisa programmes unfold various challenges and opportunities have been identified.  Finding constraints, infrastructure investment, sector strategies, education and skills development, eliminating second economy, Macro – economic issues and governance and institutional interventions have been identified if we are to move from mediocre to success NACTU is well positioned to tackle these challenges and grab opportunities for the benefit if the working people of our country.




Trade Union Unity against Globalisation


In pursuant of:


NACTU founding preambles – “a belief in workers uniting and developing themselves so that they can control their own destiny and take their historic role in the eradication oppression, exploitation and discrimination”.  In the past three years we have taken these initiatives.


Mergers and consolidation


We have had strategic sessions with all affiliates and their leaders with the intention to strengthen our unions.  Thereafter we had started one on one session with individual unions checking strength and weakness and used our own resources to capacitate and grow them. 


Deputy NACTU General Secretary has been championing this process.  The Secretary has been championing this process.  The intention is to help and not to criticise and destroy.


We have also persuaded mergers between unions in the same sectors.  We have paired our unions in hospitality, food and agriculture, transport, local government and public services. 


Our previous experiences have taught us not to rush this sensitive exercise.  The process must be acceptable to membership and leadership of unions.  We hope that even if it takes longer the merger or co-operation must be sustainable. 


We need to be persuasive and encourage them to see the need to share resources for the benefit of workers and their organisations.  We believe our next steps should be to co-ordinate our unions in the same bargaining councils; same seta’s and in same companies where more than one NACTU affiliate exists.


There must be one voice of NACTU unions in all these activities.  We should avoid in future what happened in the recent security negotiations where some NACTU affiliates signed the 8, 33% and others were locked out as that approached has strengthened the employers at the expense of the workers.  


This paradigm shift will need our secretariat and elected leadership to move out of their Ivory Towers Offices to the field work to implement these initiatives of NACTU is to grow.  We must ensure that NACTU affiliates are self sustainable through workers subscriptions not investments or grants / resources.


Provinces and Regions


 NACTU has 4 Provincial Offices- Gauteng – Limpopo – Western Cape and KZN and these Provinces have provincial and regional structures in place and there is good co-ordination between affiliates. 


NACTU is growing very fast in the Eastern Cape and if this trend continues we may open a Provincial Office in this province.  The team of Organisers co-ordinated by Provincial Coordinators should continue as is happening in Western Cape and Eastern Cape. 


As these programmes unfold we are to ensure that affiliates hold their Congress at the right time according to their constitutions so that they comply with the labour relations act as required.  We better have a thin / lean federation that supports complying unions and providing quality service than multitude of affiliates that do not sustain themselves and the federation.




We are very impressed by the motivation of NACTU staff across the country and the improved relations between NACTU and affiliates staff.  This can lead to massive NACTU growth.  Keep it up comrades.  The quality service that you provide to this federation is not unnoticed.


Merger – NACTU, Fedusa and Consawu


In pursuant also of NACTU also of NACTU founding principles and objectives;


-                        To strive for the building of a united worker movement in our country.

-                        To promote the principle of independent and democratic unionism……in a manner consistent with the preamble and to ensure permanent co-operation to achieve common goals

-                        To advance the economic well-being, social interests and working conditions of all workers!!


We have seriously engaged Fedusa and Consawu with the intention to merge these 3 federations before the end of October 2006. Various joint committees have been established to look at issues like constitution, policies and resolutions and finance and administration. 


There is already a proposed constitution which will be tabled to the joint presidential committee soon.  We are all very optimistic about these developments.


This will bring a bigger voice for all independent federation.  Our intention is not to compete with any one or bigger than any one.  We have initiated an opportunity for all unions cherish the independence of the trade union movement from any affiliation or alliance of any political ideology.  We are inviting all unions to join us as we march towards a New Realignment of forces. It is our view that we have created a home for all worker organisations to join us.


We have also been encouraged by the announcement that ICFTU and WCL will have merger congress before the end of 2006 and we intend beating them by merging before that time.  The Global unions have also taken the same view of merging and sharing resources and skills for better solidarity and unity against Globalisation.


We are aware that these initiatives come with challenges which we are ready to confront without fear or hesitation.  I have noticed various unions’ resolution in support of the merger with Fedusa and Consawu.




The leadership that will emerge from this Congress must have the carriage to take process forward.  Backward Never – Forward Ever!  This may be the last congress of the National Council of Trade Unions which was a merger between Cusa and Azactu in 1986.


I hope our Guests will enjoy their stay in South Africa and network freely.  We are a free country. 


I therefore officially declare the 2006 National Congress of NACTU opened.