Big leaders don’t sulk

2014-06-29 08:21

The “victory” by Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) after the longest mine strike in this country’s history has challenged the notion of the ANC being a leader of society.

Throughout its history, including during the difficult days of the struggle, the ANC has always sought to occupy every space in South African society, even through proxy organisations when it was banned.

But during the strike by mine workers led by the union that has displaced the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) as the biggest, the ANC took an uncharacteristic muted approach.

In fact, for the first time in recent memory, the ANC appeared to be hostile towards striking workers and various leaders, including Blade Nzimande, described Amcu as a vigilante union.

Part of the context is that police serving the ANC government killed 34 miners in Marikana in one day in 2012, deepening the miners’ antipathy towards the government and the ruling party.

The plight and disgruntlement of the mine workers was in fact one of the breeding grounds for the formation of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), whose leader Julius Malema had pledged solidarity with the workers.

In March, I chatted to one of the ANC’s top six officials about the strike, after which I concluded that the ANC was in essence sulking because of how Amcu had demonised it in the past two years.

“These people have said they don’t want us. So why must we help?” asked the official.

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