Weekend Witness - - Opinion -

Cosatu must be liv­ing in an ex­treme state of de­nial if it still be­lieves it amounts to much more than the labour desk of the ANC. The bal­ance of power within the Tri­par­tite Al­liance has been graph­i­cally il­lus­trated by gov­ern­ment pol­icy de­ci­sions on the youth wage sub­sidy and e­tolling.

Me­tal­work­ers’ union Numsa has al­ready with­drawn its sup­port for the ANC, a sem­i­nal mo­ment in the re­cent his­tory of the labour move­ment. While Cosatu re­mains neutered within the al­liance, the ANC holds all the aces. And Zwelinz­ima Vavi, the one f ig­ure of stature within Cosatu able to chal­lenge the gov­ern­ment ef­fec­tively on worker con­cerns, in­clud­ing state se­crecy, has been sus­pended.

Vot­ing ANC and then protest­ing, of­ten vi­o­lently, against the gov­ern­ment is a pe­cu­liarly South African prac­tice, typ­i­cal of labour dis­putes and ser­vice de­liv­ery protest. It is a no­tably ster­ile form of pol­i­tics and one rooted in his­tory. If, as re­ported, sig­nif­i­cant sec­tions of the ANC be­lieve unions are ir­rel­e­vant, the fu­ture is ob­vi­ous. Glob­al­i­sa­tion has se­verely dam­aged the po­si­tion of work­ers, but unions still have the num­bers. They should aban­don out­dated party al­le­giances and con­cen­trate on the shop­floor con­cerns of mem­bers. And out of this a much­needed re­con­fig­u­ra­tion of na­tional pol­i­tics should emerge.

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