Cosatu wants govt to use vaccine rollout as the first step towards NHI

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Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.
Mduduzi Ndzingi, Gallo Images, Sowetan, file
  • Cosatu wants the Covid-19 vaccine rollout to be part of the government's envisaged NHI.
  • The labour federation says it will be difficult to convince its members to support the governing party in the upcoming local elections.
  • It is also disappointed about the lack of timeframes for the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan.

Labour federation Cosatu has called for the Covid-19 vaccine rollout to be part of the process of the government's envisaged National Health Insurance (NHI), which will merge public and private healthcare.

This implementation is especially relevant for the government's national procurement of the vaccine, Cosatu secretary-general Bheki Ntshalintshali told journalists at a press conference at its Braamfontein headquarters, following a meeting of its central executive committee on Thursday.

READ | Next batch of J&J vaccines to arrive on 27 February

He said Cosatu would join forces with civil society and its alliance partners, the ANC and the SA Communist Party, "to demand the addressing of the current two-tier health system - one for the rich and the powerful, and the other for the overwhelming poor majority".

Ntshalintshali said Cosatu would mobilise all its leaders, members, shop stewards and staff to be vaccinated, and its national office bearers would meet with the People's Vaccine Campaign to explore joint cooperation programmes.

He said Cosatu would like "more urgency to be injected into the production and distribution of locally manufactured vaccines, including the utilisation of already existing government infrastructure".

Cosatu also expressed disappointment with the lack of action by the ANC on some of its policies, and said it will be difficult to convince its members to support the governing party in the upcoming local elections.

Workers

Ntshalintshali said some of the challenges workers face have left them "feeling like they are being asked to vote against their own interests".

He said the alliance faced "a serious crisis of legitimacy" ahead of the local government elections later in the year.

He added that the labour federation was planning a special central executive committee meeting to deliberate on Cosatu's "posture" in this regard.

READ | Burning Fiscus | Is the public wage bill the war elephant that tramples Mboweni's hopes?

Cosatu has, in the past, maintained that its members are being treated as voting cattle by the ANC. It has often threatened not to take part in the ANC's elections campaign, only to relent at the last minute.

Ntshalintshali, however, said the "political reality on the ground" for workers was difficult.

Problems

He said "there are major problems facing workers that will make it hard to convince workers to support the ANC during the upcoming elections".

On Cosatu's alliance partner in government, Ntshalintshali said: "The ANC is struggling to function as a unitary organisation."

He said since the party's conference in Mangaung in 2012, when the ANC said it would be the "decade of the cadre", the party has seen "more and more court intervention in political disputes".

But, since its last conference in Nasrec in 2017, "the lack of discipline in the ANC has become worse, with leaders and members at all levels, showing disdain for the rules of the organisation".

He said:

"Political ineptitude and factionalism have created this dangerous reliance on courts."

Ntshalintshali said the ANC's Nasrec conference was significant "because policy positions, that had long been advanced by Cosatu, were adopted".

These included calling for the state to "define its role and assert itself in the economy".

He also said the ANC's 2019 elections manifesto "promised key advances towards an economic policy based on decent work, proposals for a new growth path, a new industrial policy, national health insurance, comprehensive social protection, comprehensive rural development strategy and an assault on crime and corruption".

But, he said, progress in these areas has been mixed and "on the whole disappointing".

He also said the lack of timeframes for the Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan, in the State of the Nation Address and in the Budget, had been disappointing.

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