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Communiqué of the meeting between COSATU, SACTU and the ANC 5-6 March 1986

Delegations of the Executive of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) the National Executive Committee of the South African Congress of Trade Unions (Sactu) and the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress (ANC) met in Lusaka on 5th and 6th March 1986.

The respective delegations were led by Comrade Jay Naidoo, General Secretary of Cosatu, Comrade John K Nkadimeng, General Secretary of Sactu and Comrade Oliver Tambo, President of the ANC. During the course of the discussions Cosatu and Sactu held a separate session to discuss matters of common interest as trade unionists. The meeting resulted from the common concern of all parties arising from the fundamental and deep-seated economic, social and political crisis into which the Botha regime and the apartheid system of national oppression and class exploitation have plunged our country. There was common understanding that the Pretoria regime and the ruling class of South Africa are powerless to provide any real and meaningful solutions to this general crisis, that lasting solutions can only emerge from the national liberation movement, headed by the ANC, and the entire democratic forces of our country, of which Cosatu is li important and integral part.

In this regard it was recognised that the fundamental problem facing our country, the question of political power, cannot be resolved without the full participation of the ANC, which is regarded by the majority of the people of South Africa as the overall leader and genuine representative.

The meeting recognised that the emergence of Cosatu as the giant democratic and progressive trade union federation in our country is an historic event in the process of uniting our working class and will immeasurably strengthen the democratic movement as a whole.

After extensive discussions on the current internal and international situation, characterised by a warm spirit of comradeship, the three delegations agreed on a number of important issues. They agreed that the solution to the problems facing our country lie in the establishment of a system of majority rule in a united, democratic and non-racial South Africa. Further, that in the specific conditions of our country it is inconceivable that such a system can be separated from economic emancipation. Our people have been robbed of their land, deprived of their due share in the country`s wealth, their skills have been suppressed and poverty and starvation have been their life experience. The correction of these centuries-old economic injustices lies at the core of our national aspirations. Accordingly they were united not only in their opposition to the entire apartheid system, but also in their common understanding that victory must embrace more than formal political democracy.

The Cosatu delegation explained that the principal tasks facing their federation are to consolidate their membership and affiliates, rapidly effect conversion of the general unions which are part of Cosatu into an industry-based union, within each industry bring about mergers in order to realise the principle of one industry, one union and to unite the entire working force of our country under the banner of Cosatu. At the same time, as a representative of our working class, Cosatu is seized with the task of engaging the workers in the general democratic struggle, both as an independent organisation and as an essential component of the democratic forces of our country. In this regard, the advancement of the interests of the workers and the democratic struggle of our people require that Cosatu, in working together with the other democratic mass organisations, seek to build disciplined alliances so as to ensure that the mobilisation of our people in united mass action also deepens the organisational basis of all democratic organisations of the people.

The delegation of the ANC also reported to the meeting on its policy, its programme, its strategy and tactics. The ANC emphasised the need for the greatest possible mobilisation of all the people of our country to join in united political action against the apartheid regime, equally and in combination with the mass political struggle. The ANC also stressed the importance of the armed struggle to defend the people against the enemy armed forces and to give the people the possibility to seize power from a white minority regime which holds on to power by the use of force.

The three delegations agreed that it is of central importance that the campaign for the immediate unconditional release of all political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, should develop with even greater intensity. They agreed that the three organisations would do their utmost in pursuit of this goal.

As the crisis in our country deepens, so too does the resistance, the anger and the will of our people to fight back. In the process many issues have emerged and will continue to emerge as central campaigning issues.

At this very moment the entire democratic movement is confronted with the task of finding the correct campaign basis to destroy bantu education and establish in its place one single democratic, non-racial, free and compulsory system of education for all the children of our country.

Similarly it has become imperative that the workers of our country, together with all the democratic forces, work together to destroy the pass laws - the badge of slavery - and the whole system of influx control and prevent the Botha regime from re-introducing this hated system in any guise whatsoever.

In these and all other campaigns facing our people it is the duty of the democratic forces to work together and consult one another in order to establish the maximum unity in action by all our people. The delegations further agreed that the obstacle to any negotiated solution is the Botha regime. They concluded that no negotiations are possible while the leaders of the people are in prison and while the Pretoria regime refuses to accept that our country should be governed by all its people, both black and white, as equals, as brothers and sisters. In this context the national liberation movement, headed by the ANC, explained that neither negotiations nor `talks about talks` have taken place and that the ANC is committed that any negotiations, if and when they should take place, must be public and involve the entire democratic movement.

In the discussions between Cosatu and Sactu, both agreed that the widest possible unity of trade unions in our country is of utmost importance in our people`s struggle against the apartheid regime and the bosses. Both agreed that there was no contradiction whatsoever arising from their separate existence.

The meeting of all three organisations was characterised by an overwhelming optimism that despite all the manoeuvres by the Botha regime and its allies, despite the heightening repression, victory over the system of white minority racist rule is not far off. The meeting reiterated the commitment of the three organisations to fight for a society free from the chains of poverty, racism and exploitation which would require the restructuring of the present economy.