Intrigue ends Nehawu strike
Intricate power plays in the tripartite alliance led to an agreement to settle the month-long strike at Parliament, which left workers dissatisfied and might have implications in the ANC’s race to elect a new president.
Parliament’s presiding officers, including National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete, drew a line in the sand and did not budge on the demands of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) that its almost 1 000 members should not face disciplinary action or financial repercussions arising from the unprotected strike.
Mbete, who is also ANC chairperson, is believed to have ambitions to succeed President Jacob Zuma when his term is up. But her hard line on the strike has placed her on the wrong side of Nehawu, which is the largest union in labour federation Cosatu, an alliance partner.
Union president Mzwandile Makwayiba was not able to get the concessions, in contrast to Gauteng’s cooperative governance and traditional affairs MEC, Jacob Mamabolo, whose political intervention in the Pikitup strike ensured that none of the SA Municipal Workers’ Union strikers would be penalised through the no-work, no-pay principle.
Nehawu was one of the unions that voiced its support for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to be the next ANC president at the recent Cosatu congress, a move that Mbete would have seen as a slap in the face for her presidential ambitions.
Mbete has previously said she was ready to be South Africa’s next president. She said: “As a cadre of the African National Congress and a leader in society, I’m ready to play any role I’m asked to play.”
According to media reports, Mbete said the ANC Women’s League should use its influence to make a case for a female president.
On Friday, leaders of Nehawu’s Parliament branch briefed the striking workers. They said that although the agreement was not what they had hoped for, it was a done deal.