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Archive for the tag “Cosatu”

Youth Wage Subsidy

There has been a proposal for a youth wage subsidy in  some quarters. Those who are touting this idea say that it will help to solve the problem of youth unemployment.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) opposes the idea, and has set out its reasons in a paper, which I think all who are interested in the topic should read.

I think that this kind of proposal needs to be considered very carefully. History can teach us something here. If the Speenhamland System had a better record, I might say that a youth wage subsidy was worth considering,  but it didn’t. Actually, if one applied the Speenhamland System in South Africa, it would be more akin to a farm labour subsidy. If the striking farm workers at De Doorns, and others in a similar position, were to have their wages subsidised, it would be a closer parallel, and some of the same constraints apply: if the wages of farm labourers are increased, the money must come from somewhere, and the most obvious place for it to come from is an increase in the price of agricultural produce, which would hit the unemployed poor hardest.

The question of a youth wage subsidy is slightly different, especiqally in urban areas.

One of the things that prevents young people being employed in entry positions in many firms and organisaqtions is that the salary bill is heavily weighted towards top management. In other words, if the bosses weren’t overpaid, there would be more money to employ young people at entry-level positions. So what is presented as a proposal for a “youth wage subsidy” could just as easily be seen as a “fat cat management income subsidy”. Mrs Buthelezi at Nkwalini would be  paying 15c in the Rand on her groceries  in part to subidise the six and seven figure salaries of top management in Gauteng.

This is exacerbated by the so-called Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy. Among other things, this requires firms to have a certain proportion of black people at top management level. This means that black managers can command (and get) higher remuneration than their white counterparts. So a black person who replaces a white person at top management will be paid more — a lot more — than their predecessor. And that money could have been used to employ several young people at entry level. So BEE could more accurately be termed Black Elite Enrichment.

That does not mean that the white management people were or are underpaid. Far from it. The income disparity between rich and poor in South Africa is one of the biggest in the world, and is still growing, regardless of race. And a youth wage subsidy would simply exacerbate that.

I’m no professional economist, so the views I have expressed are those of an ordinary citizen. Well, a deacon is also supposed to be an “economist” of sorts, and the first deacons practised ekonomia. So I have a proposal.

I would like to see a gathering of Christian economists and Christian theologians getting together to discuss this and other related problems, to try to formulate a possible Christian response. Two that I know personally, who are concered about these things, are Dr Azar Jammine and Prof Tinyiko Maluleke, and I am sure that there are several others. Is there anyone else who thinks such a meeting might be useful?

 

BEE = Black Elite Enrichment = rapacious material accumulation

Some say that the Mangaung Conference later this year will be a battle for the soul of the ANC. I wish it were true, but I think it may be too late for that. The ANC sold its soul long ago, and I suspect that if there is any battle at Mangaung, it will be a battle for the spoils.

In this article Oyama Mabandla puts it in a nutshell The ANC is a vehicle for rapacious material accumulation | City Press:

To say the ANC is at an existential crossroads would be trite. But the tenets and values that defined the gallant organisation of Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela are no more.

In their place is a brutal and corrupt ethos, driven by those seeking personal enrichment. The ANC’s new siren song is: it is time to eat.

And Mabandla goes on to say, “The cause of the ANC’s moral implosion, in my view, was its embrace of black economic empowerment (BEE). “Empowerism” is at the core of the organisation’s new identity. Being rich supplanted liberation as the theme and gospel of the new South Africa.”

The real meaning of BEE — Black Elite Enrichment

I disagree with Mabandla on one point, though. BEE was never about black economic empowerment. As this cartoon from Sowetan LIVE shows, it did not and was never intended to empower those living in the shack. It was all about enriching the elite, and the issue at stake at Mangaung is which elite will be enriched.

The problem is, if the ANC has sold out, what is the alternative?

The second biggest party in parliament is the Democratic Alliance, which was formed as an alliance of the Democratic Party and the right-wing rump of the New National Party, which was in turn the rump of the old National Party which had introduced the discredited apartheid policy. In the 1999 general election the Democratic Party made an unabashed bid for the support of the white right. After five years of democracy they appealed to voters who were gatvol (fed up) with democracy to vote for them, and to “fight back”. They succeeded in that aim, outstripped and absorbed the New National Party, and introduced the undemocratic system of crosstitution to cement their alliance, and then complained about it afterwards when it worked to their disadvantage.

For a while I had some hopes for the Independent Democrats, but then they sold out to the DA.

Perhaps the most desirable thing would be for Cosatu (the Congress of South African Trade Unions) to break from their tripartite alliance with the ANC, and form a Labour Party of sorts, that would be a left opposition to the Thatcherist ANC.

But one only has to look north over the Limpopo to see the dangers of that — the MDC in Zimbabwe has much the same class roots as Cosatu in South Africa, but Zanu-PF has managed to neutralise them by intimidation bordering on terrorism, rigging elections and the like.

And as elections draw near, the Cosatu leaders fall back into line, and go back to supporting the status quo.

But in recent months a left opposition has begun to emerge, and it opposes Cosatu as much as it opposes theb Thatherism of the ANC. Vavi warns socialists behind strike wave | City Press:

The organisation coordinating strikes across South Africa’s mining sector, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), is preparing to form a political party.

The organisation, run by a five-member executive committee, is building what one of its leaders calls a “mass workers’ party”.

And if its work in the past few months has been part of its preparations to hit the campaign trail, the organisation seems to be gaining ground.

If that gets going, it will be too late for Cosatu, because the new movement will probably draw away much of Cosatu’s traditional support, which will drive them to cling even more tightly to the skirts of the ANC. But one could still support the DSM, couldn’t one?

Yes, but…

The DSM seems to be a bit of a mengelmoes of Trotskyist movements, and Trotskyists have a tendency to crawl into their cocoons and then emerge as full-fledged neocons.

Perhaps the real hope for the future lies in local politics. If all the people engaged in service delivery protests would pool their resources and work together to contest local elections as independents, they might be able to make a real difference. The ANC was undermined by people who saw that local party branch committees were the way to lucrative business deals if the ANC controlled the local municipality (Thabo Mbeki expressed concern about this at the Polokwane conference four years ago, and it was those very people who deposed him). But if local people would contest local elections as independents, they could take back the municipalities and fix the service delivery problems themselves. And they would be more accountable to the people who elected them.

But I doubt whether it will happen in my lifetime.

Cosatu, the DA and the youth wage subsidy

This week I lost a lot of respect for Cosatu.

Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions) objects to the idea of a youth wage subsidy. The DA (Democratic Alliance) supports it. A couple of months ago Cosatu refused to meet DA leaders to discuss it, so the DA leaders decide to march to Cosatu headquarters to to hand over a memorandum on the topic. Cosatu objected to this, and said that the DA should engage properly, and not march. Yet when the DA leaders did try to engage properly, Cosatu rejected this. Then Cosatu supporters attack the DA marchers phyically. It’s a sad day for democracy in South Africa.

I dislike the DA, and would never vote for them. I have grave doubts about the value or usefulness of a youth wage subsidy. But in a democratic society they should have the right to express their views on this and discuss it with those of differing views. This week, Cosatu attacked democracy.

That does not mean that the DA is blameless. Remember the Democratic Party’s (one of the partners in the Democratic Alliance) 1999 election campaign, when they had posters all over the place, exhorting voters to “fight back” against democracy? Even if they made a public apology for that, I still wouldn’t vote for them — politicians love apologising for other people’s mistakes, but never for their own (remember Tony Blair’s apology for the slave trade, which ended two centuries ago, but he did not apologise for bombing Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq).

I think the Sowetan got it right when they said The time to talk is now – Sowetan LIVE:

Zille’s party is taking the march very seriously, and will be accompanied by Parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, youth leader Makashule Gana and national spokesman Mmusi Maimane, in protest against what they term Cosatu’s bias against the unemployed and in favour of those who already have jobs. But what we are concerned about is the tone set by the parties ahead of today’s march. When the DA first mooted the march, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said then the opposition party would never understand what it would be like to be a young black woman who earned a minimum wage.

Both parties have been behaving like kids in a primary school, though Cosatu have taken on the role of the playground bullies.

To be honest, I first learnt of the march on Twitter,  mostly from tweets objecting to it. I googled to find out what it was about, and discovered that it concerned the proposed youth wage subsidy, which I had not heard of before. So I googled for that, and what I read sounded rather vague, but it was enough to make me think I’m agin’ it.

I know that’s prejudice on my part, because I don’t know enough about the proposal or how it will work. But it reminds me of what I learnt in History II about the Speenhamland System, which ended up exacerbating the problems it was intended to solve.

But the issue will not be resolved by thuggery in the streets. Children bullying children in schools is bad enough. Adults bullying adults in the streets is worse. 

Tolls: Cosatu cashes in | City Press

I think that City Press are being more than a little disingenuous in this article, which appeared in last Sunday’s edition, when they imply that Cosatu is being hypocritical by objecting to toll roads while benefiting by investments in a firm engaged in road construction.

Tolls: Cosatu cashes in | City Press

Trade union federation Cosatu, an outspoken critic of toll roads, secretly benefits from a construction company involved in building new highways.

City Press can reveal that Cosatu’s investment arm, Kopano Ke Matla, has shares in Raubex, a construction company that won a tender to build one of Gauteng’s highways that are now being tolled to pay for the construction.

As far as I am aware, Cosatu has no objections, in principle, to road improvement. The point at issue is not improving the roads, but the method of paying for them.

Road construction has to be paid for, no matter who builds the roads.

For Cosatu the issue is not who builds the roads, but who owns the roads, and how they are paid for.

And the ones who are being hypocritical and confusing the issue are those in facour of tolling who keep uttering their mantra “user pays”.

Cosatu and others who object to toll roads say that roads should be paid for by a fuel tax, which is fairest, easiest to administer, and is the best possible application of the “user pays” principle. Its main disadvantage is that it doesn’t give enough opportunities for the elites to make money from kickbacks from the manufacturers of the toll-recording equipment.

Toll roads "compromise" – the worst of all possible worlds

Faced with calls from various groups, including Cosatu, representing trade unions, and Naamsa (the association of automobile manufacturers, which employs members of trade unions) and the Automobile Association to scrap toll roads in favour of a fuel levy to finance roads, the government has decided to adopt the worst features of both systems — to continue tolls, but to subidise them by means of an increased fuel levy.

That is the kind of compromise that gives “compromise” a bad name.

It also represents very muddled thinking on the part of the government, as the following shows: Lobby groups call for fuel levy as alternative to road tolling:

The government is seeking a balance between funding road infrastructure from a combination of direct payments from the National Treasury and funds generated from methods that rely on the user-pays method such as tolling, Department of Transport director-general George Mahlalela says.

How to get the best blend of these two opposing principles would be central to the outcomes of the road funding summit that is due to take place within the next two months, Mahlalela said in an interview this week.

The “opposed principles” are not like that at all. A fuel levy is the best, fairest and most easily implemented version of the “user pays” principle. “Toll roads” are an unfair, cumbersome and difficult way of implementing the principle.

If the Department of Transport cannot understand this, then it is really being run by incompetent people and needs to be overhauled.

Don’t let anyone fool you by saying that the e-tolling system is an implementatio0n of the principle of user pays. That’s just a propaganda smokescreen.

  • User Pays = Fuel Levy
  • Some Users Pay = Toll Roads

Until the 1970s South Africa’s road construction and maintenance was financed by a fuel levy. Then the National Party government of the time decided to appropriate the road fund to finance its military adventures in countries like Angola, and its surrogate operations by groups like Renamo in Mocambiue — and for that readon toll roads were introduced, to cover the deficit in the road fund.

Do we will need to destabilise Angola and Mocambique?

If not, there is no excuse for toll roads at all, and let’s go back to a road fund paid for by fuel levies.

And here are some of the people who have been calling for this:

Use fuel levy for tolls – AA

The Gauteng toll fees should be absorbed by the increase in the fuel levy, the Automobile Association said on Wednesday.

“We are convinced that despite the latest offering from government the cost to the consumer, as far as the Gauteng tolls are concerned, is going to hit home hard when commodity prices increase as well as transport costs,” said spokesperson Gary Ronald in a statement.

And from the trade unions E-tolling is ‘commodification of public services’ | ITWeb:

The Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) will march against the contentious e-tolling system on 7 March.

The union body adds that, during the State of the Nation address, it hopes to hear president Jacob Zuma announce that government is going to completely scrap the Gauteng e-tolling system and quash rumours that it is going to do no more than reduce the price of the tolls.

People like Julius Malema have calld for nationaluisation of wasting assets like the mines, but what they should be calling for is nationalisation of growing assets, like the transport infrastructure.

As Cosatu goes on to say E-tolling is ‘commodification of public services’ | ITWeb:

Cosatu says it will go ahead with its march. “We are utterly opposed to the commodification of more and more public services and believe that our roads are a public asset, not a commodity to create massive profits for private companies.
Click here

“E-tolling is a system of capitalism and will benefit only those that are financially healthy and not the poor.”

Tinyiko Sam Maluleke’s Blog: South African Public Sector Strike: The Beginning of the End?

I didn’t notice the public servants’ stike much, perhaps because I don’t get out a lot, especially since my car wouldn’t start for a few weeks and I had to save up for a new battery. So it’s just the snippets I’ve caught on the news that have made me aware of it. But blogs now provide an alternative to the mainstream media, and I think some of my blogging friends hav said things worth sharing.

I think Tinyiko Maluleke, a missiologist at the University of South Africa, has it right when he says: Tinyiko Sam Maluleke’s Blog: South African Public Sector Strike: The Beginning of the End?:

These developments are revealing. The unions are on the back-foot. They have been outmaneuvered, firmly rebuffed and roundly rebuked. Sensing that it will be hard for the unions to sustain this strike for two more weeks without losing public support and the morale of their members, government has mischieviously made an offer that is no great improvement on the previous offer. Of course government does not have the money. We all know about the budget deficit. Of course 7.5 percent is above the current inflation rate. But 7.5 percent of what? The widespread perceptions of a wasteful government which is tolerant of corruption will not win much sympathy for the government position.

But there are some things that make one lose sympathy for the strikers’ cause too. As Jenny Hillebrand, a Methodist seminary student in Pietermaritzburg puts it: Carpenter’s Shoes: Caution:

The seminarians spent the afternoon at the hospital again today. When I arrived I was waved away from the gate by the seminary president who was on his cell phone to union leaders. The striking workers had warned him that if we went in to the hospital they would call a crowd who would make it difficult for us to get out again. He negotiated, and as far as I understand, it was agreed that we could go in for two hours, we were to clean the wards, but not care for patients and one of the union members would come with us. There were a handful of policemen and a handful of strikers.

In the end we went in and out quite uneventfully. I know that the strikers want more money, but I can’t see the justice in allowing helpless people to suffer as a tool to get their own way.

I have an ambivalent feeling about this. I feel sorry for neglected patients in hospitals, and feel that it is irresponsible to neglect them. At the same time, I wouldn’t want to be a scab.

Cori quotes from another source: Cori’s Blog: South Africa: Hopeful:

Yes, the strikes are about money, but there’s something deeper going on – something at the relational level. The mere occurence of a strike, it could be argued, bears evidence of relational breakdown. Then there are relational implications in the huge earnings differentials between top and bottom public service officials – it says something about how people are valued. Intimidation and violence only occur where relational capacity is already damaged, and they certainly effect little that is relationally redemptive. It might not be enough to address the money issues without addressing the relational issues. Justice is a complex matter, but at its heart, justice has to be relational.

and goes on to say:

I thought this an important slant on the situation and it leads me to wonder what I can do to restore relationship with my fellow South Africans. On a really small scale, it felt important to me that when a few hundred teachers sang and danced their way through The Junction (a relatively upmarket shopping center in Pretoria North) I stood by and listened to what they were saying and read their signs. It felt important to listen and hear and take in. It felt important that I could exchange a few words with some of these teachers and show them that I cared about what they had to say. It sounds really insignificant but it feels important to me that we think about our relationship with others who feel unjustly treated. By being open to hear them, we may be taking a small step towards redemptive relationship.

And lurking behind all this is what is going on to the north of us, in Zimbabwe. Tinyiko Maluleke mentions the strains in the tripartite alliance between the ANC, Cosatu and the Communist Party. In Zimbabwe the relationship between the government and the trade unions lies shattered, and all Thabo’s horses and all Thabo’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. Is the same thing happening here? When it happened in Zim, millions of refugees came here. If it happens here, where will they, and we, go?

Mugabe, Malema and the future of South Africa

The death of Eugene Terre’blanche stole the news over the weekend and drew public attention away from something far more ominous for the future of South Africa — Julius Malema’s visit to Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, Malema on Terreblanche:

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and ANC Youth League president Julius Malema have discussed the murder of South African white supremacist leader Eugene Terreblanche during talks in Harare.

Mugabe met Malema — who was concluding a four-day visit to the country as a guest of Zanu PF — at State House for over two hours on Monday.

With reporters present, Mugabe spoke to Malema at length about Zimbabwe’s land reform programme and what he said was Britain’s failure to honour its obligations to white farmers whose properties were seized for resettlement.

Mugabe also praised South Africa as an unstinting ally against what he said was a global crusade by “imperialists” to remove his government through economic sabotage and propaganda.

Former President Thabo Mbeki was frequently criticised for taking a low profile on Zimbabwe, and refraining from public criticism of the fascist Mugabe regime.

Julius Malema has shown no such restraint, and has shown his true colours by praising the Mugabe regime. And this is a clear indication of one scenario for South Africa’s future: Julius Malema becomes president (possibly succeeding Jacob Zuma), and then it’s goodbye to our hard-won democracy. Perhaps in another 15 years time there will be South African refugees sleeping in the Methodist Church in Harare.

Look at what has happened.

Malema is welcomed in Zimbabwe, and praises the leadership of the Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe. In South Africa he has attacked the trade unions and Cosatu, and just a few years ago, far from meeting Mugabe, a Cosatu delegation was turned away at the Zimbabwe border.

The white, Western and capitalist press has concentrated its criticism of the Mugabe regime on its “land reform” policies, which has entailed the seizure of land from white farmers, and its redistribution among relatives and supporters of high-ups in Zanu-PF.

But long before that, Mugabe attacked the trade unions, which was of less interest to the white, Western and capitalist press.

To understand this one must go back to the 1990s, when Mugabe sent Zimbabwean troops to intervene in civil wars in the Congo. In these foreign military adventures he resembles Tony Blair and George Bush, whom he professes to dislike. In reality, they are birds of a feather.

Foreign military adventures are expensive, and depleted Zimbabwe’s foreign currency reserves. This in turn led to fuel shortages, which in turn led to an economic recession, particularly in the towns. Businesses were closed, workers were laid off, and the Zimbabwean trade unions were up in arms. Opposition to Mugabe’s policies grew, and in a referendum some constitutional amendments that would, among other things, have made Mugabe president for life, were rejected by the electorate.

This was a wake-up call for Mugabe. If he could lose a referendum, he could also lose an election.

But instead of reversing the unpopular economic policies that had caused the problem, he exacerbated it by instituting his land redistribution scheme as an electoral ploy to buy the rural vote. If Mugabe were sincere about land reform, he had had 20 years to do something about it, and had done nothing. It was only the threat of losing an election that made him bring it in hastily, for the purpose of buying votes. And in the way it was implemented exacerbated the economic problems as Zimbabwe’s agricultural productivity plummeted. The foreign exchange problems worsened as tobacco, the main export crop, virtually disappeared. In a couple of years Zimbabwe went from being the bread basket of central Africa to basket case, as hyperinflation took hold.

The opposition grew stronger and reorganised, and coalesced around the trade unions, to form the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). And they have a natural affinity for Cosatu in South Africa, which is why the Cosatu delegation was turned away at the Zimbabwe border.

But who is Malema talking to?

News – Politics: Malema upsets MDC:

ANC Youth League president Julius Malema has upset the Zimbabwean political party, the Movement for Democratic Change, by meeting only Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF on a visit to Harare.

‘Is Mr Malema saying that the ANC does not respect democracy and is willing to ignore the millions of Zimbabweans who sent Zanu-PF packing in the corridors of power?’ asked Austin Moyo, chairman of the MDC in South Africa, at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday.

‘Does Malema understand that there are millions of liberation heroes in the MDC?’

Moyo said Malema made it clear that he would be visiting the Zanu-PF because it was ‘a revolutionary party’.

At the moment Cosatu is still allied to the ANC in the tripartite alliance, but if Malema should ever become president Cosatu will have the choice — become a lapdog, or follow the Zimbabwe trade unions into the political wilderness, and form an equivalent of the MDC.

allAfrica.com: South Africa: Vavi to Tackle ANC Over Malema’s ‘Disdain’:

CONGRESS of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi yesterday said the bilateral meeting with the African National Congress (ANC) next week would be an opportunity to deal with how the ANC’s actions had threatened Cosatu’s functionality within the tripartite alliance.

ANC Youth League (ANCYL) president Julius Malema’s public mudslinging against Cosatu, the ANC’s unilateral decision banning municipal workers from taking up leadership positions in political parties, and a ‘general lack of commitment by the ANC to make the federation one of its political centres’, had left the alliance in a crisis, Vavi said at the National Union of Metalworkers’ National Bargaining Conference yesterday.

‘The oppression and super- exploitation of workers remains widespread – despite government and union efforts.

What South Africa lacks, and probably needs, is a strong and coherent left opposition, preferably before a fascist takeover. Is Zwelinzima Vavi up to it? The tragedy of the assassination of Chris Hani continues to haunt us.

And perhaps Thabo Mbeki kept quiet because he saw how easily what was happening in Zimbabwe could happen in South Africa, and lead to the break-up of the tripartite alliance. He preferred the Ronald Reagan approach of “constructive engagement”.

Political honeymoon is over for Jacob Zuma

Letter from Africa: Political honeymoon is over for Jacob Zuma | World news | guardian.co.uk:

Whereas the former president Thabo Mbeki was an aloof, out-of-touch philosopher king, we were told, Zuma was a massive presence in every sense, a Zulu warrior king so in touch with the people he had already married four of them.

Well, that’s a nice pithy summing up.

But the article goes on to say:

But the political honeymoon has rapidly slipped into a winter of discontent. Doctors, miners, train drivers and workers in the chemical, construction, energy, paper, printing, retail and state broadcasting sectors have downed tools. More than half a million working days were lost due to strikes in the first half of this year, more than twice that in the same period in 2008. Residents have been warned to expect power cuts at home, no buses or trains to get to work and streets piled high with rubbish.

That really makes it sound as though we’re getting more like Europe every day. Last time I visited Greece hardly a day went by without some or other group of striking workers marching to or from Syntagma Square in Athens.

I wondered what Cosatu thought they were doing, throwing their support behind Jacob Zuma in the general election three months ago. I wonder if they are beginning to wonder themselves.

A victory for workers’ solidarity with the Zimbabwean people

South African trade unions, churchmen and lawyers combined to turn away a ship carrying arms to Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe at present has no legitimate elected government, since the results of an election held three weeks ago have been suppressed by former president Robert Mugabe and his junta of generals.

South Africa: A victory for workers’ solidarity with the Zimbabwean people | Links:

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) welcomes the statement by a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman that the China Ocean Shipping Company which owns the An Yue Jiang, has decided to recall the ship because Zimbabwe cannot take delivery of the 77 tonnes of weapons and ammunition onboard.

If true, this is an historic victory for the international trade union movement and civil society, and in particular for the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), whose members refused to unload or transport its deadly cargo.

Nicole Fritz, of the Southern African Litigation Centre, and Rubin Phillip, the Anglican Bishop of Natal, applied to the Durban High Court for an order to prevent the arms being landed or transported to Zimbabwe.

IOL: Chinese arms ship heading for Luanda:

Fritz said the Durban High Court granted the order for the ship’s conveyance permit to be suspended and that there could be no movement of the containers in which the arms were packed and no movement of the ship.

But lawyers were told by the sheriff of the high court that when an attempt to serve the order on the ship was made it was found that it had put to sea.

There are reports that the ship may try to offload its cargo in Walvis Bay or an Angolan port, but Namibian unions have been reported as taking similar action to the South African ones.

It’s payback time, says Cosatu

The Congress of South African Trade Unions wants a quid pro quo for its support of Jacob Zuma at the ANC conference last December.

clipped from www.thetimes.co.za

The past week has been marked by high drama for the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Not only did it fire its president, Willy Madisha, it had to fight openly with ANC president Jacob Zuma and agitate loudly for additional seats on the new ANC national executive committee.

Vavi declared the Zuma-Cosatu honeymoon over: “The campaign to save the ANC from the clutches of the technocrats who sought to bureaucratise the liberation movement is far from being over. The ‘rescue mission’ post-Polokwane is on.”

Zuma’s trilogy of sins included business-friendly statements at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos, clear support for the Budget tabled by Finance Minister Trevor Manuel despite Vavi’s concerns, and a business- friendly interview with the Financial Mail post-Budget.

These were seen as cardinal sins given the unconditional support the trade union movement gave Zuma in the mighty succession struggle .

blog it

Raenette Taljaard thinks that this will be bad for South Africa and concludes by saying in The Times – Article:

This week at least Cosatu loudly proclaimed what it wanted — which it has a right to do. But what all South Africans undoubtedly want is a leader who is not fundamentally weak and beholden to group interests, a leader who can truly lead without having to weigh every word to assess its “payback” consequences, a leader who can adjudicate a multitude of competing interests in a complex society, not one who simply makes decisions based on loyalties.

Which is true, of course, and was obvious right from the moment that Jacob Zuma was elected ANC president at Polokwane in December. It was clear that Zuma’s primary merit was not that he would be a good leader, but that he would be an electable one. Cosatu could have found lots of more capable candidates who could promote its interests, and perhaps do so out of conviction rather than out of a sense of obligation. But it is doubtful whether enough support could be garnered from other groups for such a person to be elected.

The problem is that for the last 14 years Cosatu has been neglected by the ANC leadership, except at election time when its support is needed. Though Cosatu was part of the tripartite alliance, its voice has been ignored, especially when it comes to issues such as the ANC’s Thatcherist privatisation policies.

I don’t know how many courses of action were open to Cosatu, but I can see at least two. One would be to break from the Tripartite alliance and form a new left opposition party. The advantage of that would be that it would bring a touch of reality to South African politics, with a real political alternative. If Cosatu had done that, I might have voted for them.

The disadvantage is that it could drive South Africa down the same road as Zimbabwe, driving the ANC even further to the right, so that it might, if the worst came to the worst, resemble Mugabe’s ZANU-PF. One should always remember that Cosatu represents the same constituency in South Africa that the MDC represents in Zimbabwe — the urban workers.

So I’m not very surprised that Cosatu did not opt for that course. Politics is the art of the possible, and if the possible is a broad coalition of interests backing a candidate who needs to repay favours, then that’s the way it must be. That’s the way it works in most democratic countries anyway.

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