Going online to check references is an apartheid tactic – Cosatu

Cosatu general secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: Jabu Kumalo
Cosatu general secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: Jabu Kumalo

Labour trade union federation Cosatu has hit out at the public service and administration department’s decision to use the internet as an additional means of checking employees references as “apartheid tactics”.

Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said the federation rejected the department’s unilateral decision to spy on workers.

“It is totally unacceptable to have a government’s surveillance programme that is meant to intimidate and punish employees and potential employees for their views. A free society is a society that allows people to say what they think and dissent without fearing victimisation by government,” Ntshalintshali said during a media briefing on the outcomes of the central executive committee in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, today.

The public service and administration department, led by Ayanda Dlodlo, has issued a circular encouraging the use of the internet as an additional platform for reference checks on candidates who are looking for employment in the public service.

Cosatu also sharply differed with finance minister Tito Mboweni on how state-owned enterprises should be fixed.

Cosatu reminded Mboweni that his own party, the ANC, has “conference resolution” on the matter.

Ntshalintshali said the argument that markets and private investment are inherently more efficient than public-sector delivery does not reflect South African realities.

“South Africa has a very high unemployment rate and if the government were to privatise strategic state-owned enterprises, it will be, literally, abandoning the poor and the unemployed to the vagaries of the markets,”he said.

Ntshalintshali said state control of state-owned enterprises was necessary to ensure adequate, quality provision of services to the poor and to initiate strategic investments to restructure.

“We agree that there are too many state-owned enterprises and we agree that a debate around merging some of them to avoid duplication and reducing costs necessary. This has to include broad consultation with workers whose jobs and livelihoods will be impacted by the reconfiguration.”

This comes after Mboweni during his budget speech this month said that state-owned enterprises placed severe pressure on the country’s budget.

“Isn’t it about time the country asks the question: do we still need these enterprises? If we do, can we manage them better? If we don’t need them, what should we do,” Mboweni asked.

But, Ntshalintshali, disagreed with Mboweni, saying not all state-owned enterprises were bankrupt.

“We should fix them and utilise them better. Transnet made a profit, Land Bank repaid its government loan and Safcol is performing fine. Ethiopian airlines is an state-owned enterprises and profitable and the problem with SAA is looting and mismanagement. State-owned enterprises can be used to drive economic growth and build new economic sectors as in China,” he said.

Cosatu has also expressed concern that there was no appetite or political will to investigate and prosecute private sector corruption.

“The private sector is also fully responsible for the economic mess that the country finds itself in”.

Ntshalintshali said the federation has taken a decision to set up a legal team to start following the ongoing commissions of inquiry. He said Cosatu wanted to follow the proceedings and open cases where necessary.

“The time for indecisiveness is over for law enforcement agencies.”

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