Open letter to the members of Samwu Gauteng


Workers International Vanguard League makes an urgent appeal to the members of Samwu Gauteng to stand together with your fellow workers in the rest of the country who are currently on strike. We are aware that you have a number of problems around the Pikitup strike, last year’s strike and the changes in law which weaken the role of the union in appointments in the municipal sector, etc. The root of the problem is the alliance of Cosatu with the capitalist ANC and SACP.


What is at stake in the current strike?

Firstly, by not striking together with other workers around the country strengthens the resolve of the ANC-SACP-DA-IFP alliance (in Salga) to enforce a 6 % ‘increase’, which in the light of the huge increases in prices, is actually a wage cut. The demand for a ‘double digit’ increase comes from the rank and file worker, not the Cosatu leaders. Remember last year, the Cosatu leaders travelled around the country telling strikers in the public sector that 7.5% is good enough. This year, when the workers started rebelling against the 7.5% wage cuts and the multi-year agreements, the Cosatu leaders tried their best to isolate and divide workers by letting each sector go out on their own instead of uniting them as one fist, as was the original aim of the Living Wage campaign in the 1980’s.


Secondly, whatever level is achieved in the municipal sector will act as a benchmark for other workers who are fighting for better wages and conditions. To support the strike now means to support the entire working class in the fight against the capitalist system itself. During 2008 the capitalists made over R600 bn in profits and since then have made at least R500 bn in profits each year. This is the highest level ever in the history- more than even the bosses used to make in the days of apartheid. So by the Cosatu leaders saying that 7.5% is good enough for workers, they are directly protecting the most brutal exploitation by international capital, by Anglo American and other imperialist monopolies. We must expect the Cosatu leaders to do everything they can to weaken the strike but this does not mean we should sit on the sidelines and allow our fellow worker to be slaughtered by the bosses. The ANC-SACP-DA-IFP alliance (Salga) and the capitalist press (like Independent newspapers and Mail & Guardian) are on a campaign to not only discredit all strikers but to divide us from other sectors such as the students, unemployed and the lower middle class, all of whom are facing the same brutal conditions of this capitalist system of exploitation. We must expect the state and big capital to deliberately send provocateurs among us to do things which may discredit the entire strike movement. But in the class battle with the capitalist state, we cannot stand idly by while our fellow worker, who has been bold enough to force a strike action, stands isolated. We must expect the police to attack the strike as they have done in the other strikes, so we must prepare the question of self-defence of the strike. We call on you to take your place at the picket lines around the country as soon as possible.


Thirdly, currently the contract cleaning workers are on strike and need to be supported. It is a Cosatu decision to have united working class action against labour brokers. All the contract cleaning companies are labour brokers- but Cosatu leaders have abandoned them to fight on their own. We need to not only join hands with them but immediately start preparations for a general strike to abolish all labour brokers and casualization in general, to fight the electricity scam increases that only benefit Anglo American and other imperialists to the tune of R1 trillion (R1000 bn). We need to unite all sectors in struggle now.


The way forward

Besides closing ranks during the strike, we must realize that every gain we make now, the bosses will attempt to take away soon, through even higher prices, more mass retrenchments, more casualization, more privatization. We must realize that the current strike wave is more the start of a rebellion against the capitalist system than only an economic strike. Workers at the picket lines in the metal and chemical strikes have openly said that ‘we need to change the government’. By this they do not mean now to support the reactionary DA, but to unite like the workers in Egypt and elsewhere. So how to do we unite the working class against the cruel capitalist system? We need to form a faction in Cosatu with all our fellow workers on the basis of the following:

  • Break the alliance with the capitalist ANC and SACP- this means kicking out the current leadership of Cosatu who in alliance with big capital and to replace them with new independent worker militants
  • Bring back the right of instant recall of any layer of leaders; no worker leader and official should earn more than the average wage of a skilled worker.
  • Democratise the unions to break the Stalinist bureaucratic structure where a small clique can control everything
  • Form an independent vanguard workers party that fights for International Socialism
  • Call a workers summit to unite the workers, unionised and un-unionised, permanent and casual, local and immigrant, students, unemployed, grassroots community movements, workers organizations, the rank and file soldiers. We need to call for the preparation for a General strike with general strike committees in every workplace, farm, mine, factory and working class community
  • Nationalise all the land; Expropriate the entire capitalist class and all imperialist assets, without compensation, placing the commanding heights of the economy under workers control.
  • Share all the work among all who can work, without loss of pay
  • Down with multiyear agreements- wages should rise as prices rise


Strengthen the municipal strike, unite with other sectors in struggle (like the contract cleaners, the casualized workers, the 1000 suspended soldiers, etc). Prepare the way towards the general strike.

Issued 16.8.2011 by Workers International Vanguard League, ph 0822020617, email website