All for service delivery: : Zingiswa Losi, right, is tipped to be elected Cosatu’s next president at its congress starting on Monday. The federation is pushing its members in the public sector to perform more efficiently. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/ SOWETAN
All for service delivery: : Zingiswa Losi, right, is tipped to be elected Cosatu’s next president at its congress starting on Monday. The federation is pushing its members in the public sector to perform more efficiently. Picture: ANTONIO MUCHAVE/ SOWETAN

Cosatu unions, which represent more than 800,000 civil servants, want to find ways to build caring and empathic state institutions to combat poor service delivery and a lack of efficiency in the public service.

To achieve this, the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) has proposed that the Cosatu congress — which gets under way today — resolve to make a "concerted effort to change the image of public institutions". More than 50% of Cosatu’s 1.6-million members are government employees.

A 2017 study by the Centre for Development and Enterprise found that pupils lose about 40% of learning time every year in SA schools because teachers habitually skip classes. Consequently, Sadtu, by far the most powerful union in public schools, is often blamed for the country’s poor educational outcomes.

According to the proposed resolution, public servants should adopt the "thuma mina" philosophy advocating honesty, integrity and volunteerism. Inspired by late musician Hugh Masekela, President Cyril Ramaphosa used the term as a rallying call for renewal during his state of the nation address in February, following years of corruption and the plundering of public institutions.

Facilities such as hospitals, schools, and police stations, where some of Cosatu’s biggest affiliates have most of their members, have been rendering inferior service to communities, with the unions admitting that it could be better.

Sadtu’s proposal is likely to receive the support of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM). Its President Joseph Montisetse told Business Day in a recent interview that affiliates are concerned about the deteriorating state of public health institutions in the country, and although scarce resources play a role, the quality of service is an integral part of the problem.

In its proposed resolution on National Health Insurance, NUM, the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union and other Cosatu health sector unions said the incompetent management of institutions, corruption, understaffing and the outsourcing of key functions at provincial, district and institutional levels contribute to poor service delivery in the public health sector.

Cosatu unions want a resolution on the conduct of its leaders who get elevated to prominent government positions through its alliance with the ANC.

The federation’s affiliates will have to review Cosatu’s resolution encouraging its members to "swell the ranks" of the ANC, the federation’s general secretary Bheki Nthsalintshali confirmed.

This was due to leaders getting "overwhelmed" by the system in government and abandoning their mandate, which is to promote workers’ interests.

If the resolution is passed, Cosatu members deployed in government would be required to appear before a "committee" to explain decisions made in their official capacities, including input on policy.

This is part of Cosatu’s bigger plan to influence policy formulation and the decision-making processes in government, since its alliance with the ANC and SACP has not ensured its involvement in key decisions.

In its political report, the federation raised concern over what it described as the ANC’s indecision to access state power to drive "progressive policies to transfer economic power to the working class and poor".

Cosatu has berated the economic policies of the ANC-led government for years, calling them "neoliberal", and identifying the Treasury as the biggest hurdle to a more inclusive state.

More than 2,000 delegates attending the congress will elect new leaders, with Cosatu’s second deputy president Zingiswa Losi expected to be chosen as president. The other main vacancy will then be that of second deputy president.

NUM has nominated its Highveld region chairperson Nelson Rachoshi for the role, while the majority of the affiliates are said to be backing SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union leader Louise Thipe, due to her experience as a member of the Cosatu central executive committee.

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za

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