Today's opening address of President Nelson Mandela to parliament will go down in the history of our country as one of the most sober analyses of the challenges we face.

The manner in which the President demonstrated, beyond any doubt the statesmanship that has been the hallmark of his Presidency should serve as a lesson to those who seek to score cheap political points at every turn. It is remarkable that he, in less than one and half hours, able to reflected on the activities, programmes and achievements of our government over the last four and half years.

COSATU will not attempt to respond to the full ranging issues covered in the speech. This statement therefore deals only with those issues at the core of COSATU's interests.

COSATU is thrilled at the announcement that the entire cabinet has decided to throw its weight behind the Job Creation Day initiative undertaken by the major trade union federations in the country. We are happy that the government has set pace for the rest of society by pledging one day's salary the Job Creation Fund that COSATU, FEDUSA and NACTU have initiated. COSATU believes that this initiative cabinet has thrown a gauntlet to every worker, politician, sports person, artist, business person, professional, journalist, media boss, to all South Africans to also show their commitment to the collective vision we share of a better life for all. We call on the rest of the society to join and support this historic campaign to rid our society of the scourge of unemployment.

The President's resolve to donate his day's salary on the 3rd of March complements the government's commitment to implementing the restructuring of Job Summit. This too we welcome and urge the government to move as quickly as possible towards implementation of the Job Summit programmes.

We are reassured by the president's unwavering commitment to workers' rights as a principle on which our labour laws are based. We call on employers to take note of this by respecting workers' rights.

We remain hopeful that the restructuring of the public service will be carried out in terms of the Public Service Bargaining Chamber's agreement with Unions, the National Framework Agreement adopted at the Job Summit and the agreement between the Minister of Education and the teacher's unions. These agreements outline the framework within which the restructuring of the public service will take place. This emphasizes the need for an audit to be conducted on the staffing levels, skill levels and the personnel inherited from the past to address the legacy we inherited. This is the corner stone to restructuring the public service to implement reconstruction and development. This will facilitate an effective programme of deployment, training and reskilling including identifying areas where there are over staffing and both areas where more staff are needed.

On the occasion of this, his last opening of parliament, COSATU bids a warm farewell to President Mandela. We remain inspired by his role in the noble struggle for liberation. We wish him a peaceful period of retirement.