Ramaphosa says Workers must defend SA’s freedom and future.

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on the working class to take a stand in defence of South Africa’s freedom.

He said although significant progress had been made, many workers were still earning below minimum wage and that race, gender and class remained defining fault lines in society.

Ramaphosa delivered the keynote address at a memorial lecture in honour of former National Union of Mineworkers’ Elijah Barayi in Welkom, Bloemfontein on Sunday.

The deputy president was joined by Cosatu’s first deputy president Tyotyo James, ANC Free State deputy chairperson Thabo Manyoni and several leaders from the NUM.

He told a packed community hall in Thabong that the ability to confront challenges facing the country was hampered by both an unfavourable global economic environment and South Africa’s own weaknesses.

“As has become increasingly apparent, we are constrained in our efforts to transform society by divisions within the movement and a weakening of public institutions,” said Ramaphosa.

He added that many were now aware of a “brazen criminal network” which sought to capture key positions within the state and to steal funds that rightfully belong to the people.

“In the last few days, we have even learnt of an alleged scheme to deprive Cosatu of millions of rands,” added Ramaphosa.

We have spoken about the erosion of our organisational capacity, a decline in the political consciousness of our leaders and members, an increasing distance from the communities where we are meant to serve and a steady corrosion of the values and best traditions of our movement, he said.

Reminding the crowd of Barayi’s legacy, he said this was a moment for workers to take a stand like the struggle icon had done in 1985 when he stood up to an apartheid government.

Ramaphosa said it was critical for workers, under the leadership and guidance of Cosatu to be the agents of change.

“It is critical too that organised labour, Cosatu in particular, takes a stand against any actions that damage the economy,” continued the deputy president.

When public funds destined for emerging farmers in this province are diverted to pay for a wedding, it is the rural poor who suffer, added Ramaphosa.

This in reference to a Free State Farm project, where it’s alleged funds were used to pay for a lavish Gupta wedding.

The family with close ties to the president has been placed in the middle of a trove of emails showing its influence over some state owned enterprises and key leaders in government, including members of the executive.

“In 1985, Elijah Barayi stood up to the apartheid state and said ‘no more’.

“Now is the moment for workers to say to all those who are involved in perpetrating and facilitating these criminal acts, ‘no more’,” said Ramaphosa.

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