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Date: Sun, 9 Jul 1995 21:01:54 -0200
Message-Id: <1VJZ8c4w164w@wn.apc.org>
Sender: anclist@wn.apc.org
From: ancdip@wn.apc.org (tim jenkin)
To: Multiple recipients of list <anclist@wn.apc.org>
Subject: Mayibuye July 1995

In the Line of Fire

Mayibuye, Journal of the African National Congress,
Vol. 6, no. 3
July 1995

Cosatu general secretary Sam Shilowa interviewed RDP minister Jay Naidoo on his, and his government's performance, over the last year.

Sam Shilowa: Comrade Jay, you have been in parliament for one year, having left Cosatu on the understanding that we are putting you there to look after the interests of workers and the working class. What are the key challenges? What has been achieved and what are the failures?

Jay Naidoo: The most important achievement was getting the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) accepted by all political parties in government as the official framework of new government policy. Also, getting an understanding, even with big business, that the RDP is going to guide economic growth and industrial development and putting in place the structures to begin the planning framework that feeds into RDP delivery, and, particularly, through Operation Masakhane, developing an understanding that the RDP is not government-driven.

The RDP operates through a partnership between the government, the labour movement, civil society, business and community-based organisations. It is about understanding what the needs of people are, ensuring that people are involved in developing plans about how to meet those needs and then involving people in doing it for themselves.

These have been the major challenges and I think this message has gone out. This is why we are beginning to see delivery in a way that is leading to a solid foundation for future RDP development. A major obstacle has been not having local government in place. This is where government interacts with people around delivery of services. Getting this in operation is the single most important thing that we have to address

Shilowa: There is an allegation that there is no strategic approach to the implementation of the RDP. Your ministry has come under heavy criticism that there is no visible sign of change for our people, particularly workers. What do you say to that?

JN: The RDP is not about a few spectacular projects like opening up a hospital in Khayelitsha when we haven't restructured the health budget to pay nurses or pay for the medicines. It's about how we make the core business of government the RDP.

Shilowa: That's precisely the criticism: that you set up one presidential project here and one there. What are the criteria? People say it is erratic - it's more like the old regime that used to dish out money to win hearts and minds.

JN: The decision on the presidential lead projects is that while we're putting into place the medium- to long-term strategy, there has to be short-term delivery. But the short-term delivery should be a building block to where we want to go. Katorus (on the East Rand), for example, was identified because a lot of work has been done in that area by Cosatu, the civics, the community organisations and the private sector to say: how do we begin to reconstruct and develop Katorus? There was violence in the area that we needed to end. At the same time, it was a learning experience for government in integrating the work of different departments. Housing had to work with bulk infrastructure. How do you build your roads? Where do you put your schools and clinics? That is what the RDP is about, integrating government and society around common goals.

So such projects were set up as a mechanism to get some delivery on the ground, but also as a learning experience to begin to shape how government as a whole should be operating. A kernel of the RDP is shifting resources from old priorities to new priorities. This must happen not only at a national government level but also at provincial and local government levels.

Shilowa: Masakhane is seen as a pay-up or else approach by the government rather than located within the context of delivery to the people? It's seen as saying to the people: "We will not do the following things until you're ready to pay."

JN: That's what the media says the government is saying: we are not saying that. We are saying that Masakhane is about delivery. How do we deliver the services and the houses and water and electricity to our people? This requires that people take responsibility for their own development. Delivery, the community's right, must therefore bring about community responsibility to pay for those services.

We are saying we've got to deliver the goods and simultaneously involve people in what we deliver and how we deliver. For example, the Moretele project, by early next year, will deliver water to 150,000 people and create jobs for people there.

In the East Rand we could have brought in the biggest contractors to fix up houses destroyed by violence, but we had to link it to creating jobs. So we worked with small- and medium-scale contractors in the area, get them to understand the tender regulations to get the contracts. We then had to help them with bridging finance to buy the materials to fix up the homes. This means it's slower, but the community is involved. It means we're creating jobs and that is what the RDP is about.

Shilowa: Why is the Masakhane project targeted at our own people when there is no attempt to target the private sector which should be involved in job creation and the implementation of the RDP?

JN: We accept as government that we've got to make the private sector understand that the RDP is not a few social responsibility programmes - the core business of the private sector is to stimulate economic growth to create jobs. This is starting to happen. For the first time in ten years the private sector is reinvesting in new machinery and increasing its capacity at a factory level to maximum capacity. The manufacturing sector grew by 4% in the first quarter of this year. It grew by 5% to 6% in the last quarter of last year. So the manufacturing sector is growing and expanding and linking into creating jobs.

>From the RDP, how do we ensure that this economic growth is sustainable? We decided to drive more government expenditure towards infrastructure development, putting houses, roads, clinics and schools in place. This drives the broader economy and at the same time begins to meet people's needs.

Industrial restructuring and creating jobs are critical. Nedlac should be discussing this. We need a vision that leads Nedlac and leads the country. How do we lead to a South Africa which is an empowered working nation with high economic growth, with greater stability in our communities, with greater benefits to our people -- whether it is workers or rural people or the unemployed.

Shilowa: You were involved in Cosatu rejecting the Labour Relations Amendment Act of 1988 and calling for a new LRA. What do you think are the major aspects labour should be focusing on now to ensure an LRA which is worker-friendly and which extends the basic rights that you used to speak about?

JN: Labour must remain firm in its demands on the right to strike, for industry bargaining and the whole question of how we democratise the shopfloor. But we have to negotiate with the private sector and government. We must locate the Labour Bill in the broader context of what labour wants and what we want a Labour Bill to do. For me it's creating the basis for a negotiation framework within which we address the key issues labour is concerned about. How does the Labour Bill feature in getting us to address the key issues -- reducing the apartheid wage gap through a policy of collective bargaining that links training to wages to industrial restructuring and to productivity, because ultimately South African industry has to become competitive, otherwise we are going to be wiped out by international competition. We cannot hide behind tariff barriers as we re-enter the new global economy.

For me, the bigger picture is more important. What is it that labour wants to address? What is it that the private sector wants? How do we, together with government, fashion out a partnership that gives each of the stakeholders what they want? Unless we combine our energies around those critical issues of training, democratising the shopfloor, the question of racism and productivity, I think we are beating about the bush.

Shilowa: But how do we deal with the apartheid wage gap when the government's own position around public servants seems to have gone against the proposals to link the overall process of wages to a three-year transformation programme of affirmative action, job grading, training and freezing? It would appear that the government has opted to sacrifice transformation for short-term pacifying of white civil servants.

JN: I don't agree. Developing a multi-year strategy takes more than one year. We are committed to the transformation of the civil service, making it more representative of the population in both racial and gender terms. We are still committed as government to reaching an agreement with the trade unions and staff associations about a transformation strategy, restructuring the bargaining council, looking at the grading issue, the training issue and at what government can allocate to reduce the wage gap over the next three to five years.

Shilowa: What's your position on compulsion for centralised bargaining?

JN: I would like the unions to fight for that themselves. I think certain union leaders want government to take up their battle whereas the union movement is there to advance its own position. Government supports the move to industry bargaining and I personally support it because I think that through industry bargaining we are able to look at the macro issues. For example, restructuring the motor and auto industry will have implications for workers and employers. Those private sector employers resisting the move to industrial bargaining need to be convinced that more than just wage negotiations are at stake, it's the issue of the future of this economy.

Shilowa: Your position on strikes and investment?

JN: We need to move South African labour relations to greater partnership and co-operation that delivers real benefits to people, so we're not arguing that the strikes should be illegal. Strikes are a right of the trade union movement. We should a have greater emphasis, for example, on government conciliation machinery to settle strikes through arbitration and mediation, much the way that IMSSA does. Government should invest more in mediation machinery and training, so that shopstewards are able to handle the more sophisticated negotiations. But workers will always retain the right to strike.

The reality is that we need foreign direct investment in this country and one factor that foreign investors look at is the relationship between labour and business. How do we build co-operation in a way that secures the rights and involvement of workers in more than just wage issues but also in the broader issues about the economic future of South Africa.

Shilowa: Thank you.

These are edited extracts of an interview conducted for The Shopsteward.

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