COSATU to govt: End corruption before we talk about pension funds

COSATU officials. Image credit: Twitter/COSATU

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) says it needs to see “real change” in the fight against corruption before the government can use workers’ pensions.

In a statement after its Central Executive Committee (CEC) meeting on Wednesday, the labour federation said pensions “should be invested in ways that benefit workers and should not be used to deal with government policy failures.”

‘Corrupt government’

“A corrupt government that pushes anti-worker and anti-poor policies cannot automatically count on the unconditional support of workers when it comes to the use of their pensions. Before the government talks about workers’ pensions, we demand to see real change in fighting corruption and also the implementation of pro-poor policies,” it added.

Earlier this year, COSATU tabled a proposal at the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) for the Government Employees Pension Fund, through the Public Investments Corporation (PIC), to take over R250 billion of Eskom’s R450 billion debt. It now appears to have backtracked from it.

In June, the African National Congress (ANC) decided that Regulation 28 of the Pension Fund Act should be amended to provide state-owned development finance institutions (DFIs) access to cheaper finance from South Africa’s pension funds.

This finance would then be used for infrastructure projects, according to the party’s economic recovery document released by Enoch Godongwana, the chairperson of ANC’s economic transformation committee.

‘Pension funds won’t be used to bail out SOEs’

During a webinar last week, Godongwana also denied claims that the government wants to use pension funds to bail out state-owned enterprises (SOEs) or fund a soon-to-be-established state-owned bank.

“I want to dismiss and debunk the claim that we want to utilise pension funds to bail out collapsing SOEs. And the latest theory is that we want to fund the state bank. All of those things are mischievous, with the intention of discrediting our argument. That’s not where we are at the moment,” he said.

Godongwana also refuted reports that amending Regulation 28 amounts to a policy of prescribed assets. He explained, “You will recall that in our conference, we emerged with a proposition which suggests that we should look at prescribed assets.

“When we talk about tweaking Regulation 28, we are moving in a slightly different [direction] from what conference said. We are moving from an environment where there is no enforced prescription, but you create an environment where trustees [of pension funds] can be able to invest in infrastructure projects, as long as those infrastructure projects are profitable.”

Strike against corruption

COSATU, which is part of the ANC-led tripartite alliance, also announced that it will mobilise for a general strike on 7 October, 2020 “to force the government to act against corruption.”

“President [Cyril] Ramaphosa will not win the fight against corruption if he continues to be confrontation-averse. He needs to start swinging a big axe if he wants workers to trust and believe in him,” the federation said.

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