SA’s bloody po­lit­i­cal war is far from over

CityPress - - Business - Terry Bell busi­ness@city­press.co.za

Ama­jor po­lit­i­cal bat­tle has been won and lost in South Africa over the past few weeks. But the war is far from over and it will con­tinue to have se­vere reper­cus­sions, not least for unions in the midst of this in­ternecine feud­ing.

The lat­est set-to, the badly planned and ham-fist­edly ex­e­cuted at­tempt by the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity and the Hawks to charge Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han with fraud, back­fired.

But it did not fa­tally un­der­mine the Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma/ANC es­tab­lish­ment; the com­mand­ing heights are still un­der the con­trol of the com­man­der in chief.

So the war will con­tinue, un­less that small army of com­pro­mised politi­cians un­ex­pect­edly shifts their loy­al­ties; in which case, there will be con­sid­er­able tu­mult and things will con­tinue in much the same way, with dif­fer­ent faces in es­tab­lished po­si­tions.

What­ever hap­pens, ANC-aligned Cosatu is likely to be a ma­jor ca­su­alty, es­pe­cially if the SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) leaves the tri­par­tite al­liance.

This seems prob­a­ble if Zuma re­mains in charge and the SACP de­cides to leave the al­liance and go it alone in the 2019 elec­tions.

The pos­si­bil­ity of the SACP and a rump or even the ma­jor­ity of Cosatu af­fil­i­ates leav­ing the al­liance was un­der­lined last week, when the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion Health and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union (Ne­hawu) be­came the sec­ond Cosatu union to pub­licly call on Zuma to re­sign.

The gen­eral sec­re­tary of Ne­hawu, Fik­ile Ma­jola, also serves on the cen­tral com­mit­tee of an SACP that has be­come in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal of Zuma.

How­ever, Ne­hawu is un­likely to share the same fate as the Na­tional Union of Me­tal­work­ers of SA (Numsa), the first Cosatu union to call pub­licly for Zuma to go. Numsa also left the al­liance and was ex­pelled by Cosatu.

The prime mover in giv­ing Numsa the boot, and do­ing the same to the also dis­si­dent Cosatu gen­eral sec­re­tary Zwelinz­ima Vavi, was Ne­hawu.

De­spite re­ports to the con­trary, Ne­hawu’s ap­proach last week was not a call to leave the al­liance. Like the SACP, the union lead­er­ship wants to re­tain links with the ANC and thinks this is pos­si­ble if Zuma goes and Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa takes over.

How­ever, it ad­mits that “it is clear that the rev­o­lu­tion is tak­ing a dis­as­trous tra­jec­tory as it need­lessly lurches from cri­sis to cri­sis”.

How hav­ing one of the coun­try’s lead­ing cap­i­tal­ists in the pres­i­dency would change the coun­try’s eco­nomic tra­jec­tory to the “so­cial­ism” the SACP es­pouses is not ex­plained.

But the state­ment is re­mark­ably sim­i­lar to one made by Numsa in De­cem­ber 2013: “The al­liance is dys­func­tional, in cri­sis and paral­ysed. It is dom­i­nated by in­fight­ing and fac­tion­al­ism.”

This is now clearly per­ceived more widely to be the case, with re­sis­tance com­ing from some Cab­i­net min­is­ters and ANC MPs who, un­til now, have slav­ishly toed the line.

But they do not, in the fi­nal anal­y­sis, mat­ter so long as the ma­jor­ity of the ex­ec­u­tive stays loyal.

The next crunch could come next month in Cape Town, when Numsa, as the na­tion’s largest union, stages a na­tional congress that may see a fur­ther splin­ter­ing of Cosatu if and when a new fed­er­a­tion is formed.

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