Jacob Zuma must choose: The NDP or the alliance

2014-07-08 10:00

Trade unions are testing the right to strike as a tool to wage political warfare, and set the political and economic agenda of South Africa.

The right to strike is a constitutional right that the DA supports. We will ensure this right is used to secure decent working conditions for workers and is not abused by powerful union bosses.

However, at present, it is union bosses who are abusing the rights of workers to push their own political agenda within the tripartite alliance and, most significantly, against the National Development Plan (NDP).

This leaves President Jacob Zuma with a tough choice: whip the divided alliance behind the NDP or abandon the alliance.

Trade federation Cosatu and the ANC have not been the happiest couple lately. Even Cosatu’s relationship with metalworker’s union Numsa has deteriorated. However, Cosatu and Numsa have united behind a common enemy – the NDP.

In December last year, Numsa’s Irvin Jim made his intentions clear when he reportedly said that “2014 must see the mother of all battles as we wage war on the NDP, e-tolls and labour brokers”.

Meanwhile, Cosatu’s Zwelinzima Vavi has condemned the NDP, calling it the “last straw” for Cosatu.

Add to this the fact that Numsa and the National Union of Mineworkers are losing members to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, Numsa must do something bigger than a five-month strike to remain relevant in the eyes of its members.

The counter-productive actions of trade unions, seen to be at the forefront of the fight of workers, are to the detriment of those South Africans who desperately need the NDP to create jobs for them.

The NDP has polarised the tripartite alliance and the ANC along with it. But the ANC cannot move South Africa forward without also moving the alliance forward.

The success of the NDP may mean the failure of the alliance. And so the ANC is faced with a tough decision: choose the NDP over the alliance or choose the alliance and abandon countless South Africans to poverty, inequality and unemployment.

The NDP is not a perfect document. But it is the best plan we have to deal with the high levels of poverty, inequality and unemployment in South Africa by 2030.

It is also uniquely supported by the majority of parties in Parliament who also campaigned on the platform of the NDP.

Viewed in these terms, the president has an overwhelming democratic mandate from the people of South Africa to implement the NDP. With re-election behind him, President Zuma has the opportunity to make the tough choices that will leave a lasting legacy in South Africa in the form of the NDP.

Unless the president moves his Cabinet to implement the NDP, with the support of Parliament, then Cosatu and Numsa will be proved right.

They will undermine the gains of the NDP and South Africans will get nothing. However, their ability to oppose, water down and slow down effective programmes for economic growth and job creation will not go unchallenged.

What South Africa needs is policy certainty and a coherent government working towards the common vision set out in the NDP. In the South African context, the brave and perhaps radical thing to do is for South African politics to be realigned along the lines of those who support the NDP and those who oppose it.

Those who want jobs and those who want to keep things as they are. Those who seek to create a nonracial society and those who seek to mobilise on the basis of race. This is a decision for President Zuma. He can no longer speak right and walk left.

Maimane is the parliamentary leader of the DA

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