SA unions slowly becoming ‘irrelevant’

2014-01-16 00:00

THE ANC is boss — finish and klaar.

After years of struggle to make the tripartite alliance, rather than just the ANC, the strategic power centre of South African politics, Cosatu have succumbed to the status quo.

Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini yesterday said in Johannesburg that the federation accepts it could not govern with the ANC and that the alliance has a “minimum” instead of a “maximum programme”.

This negated at a stroke the efforts of Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu’s suspended general secretary, who had fought for more than a decade to convince the ANC to treat the entire tripartite alliance as the political power centre.

Vavi has since 2010 often said in public that the alliance was dysfunctional because the ANC had too much power. He wanted to centre of power to shift to the alliance.

President Jacob Zuma said on Monday Cosatu could not govern with the ANC, and that federation should not think it could determine how the ANC government must rule South Africa.

With Vavi on forced leave, Dlamini, a member of the ANC’s national executive council (NEC), yesterday said Cosatu accepted Zuma’s statements.

“It is true. We do not govern with the ANC, we are in an alliance with the ANC.”

He said former president Nelson Mandela had said the same thing at the party’s congress in 1998. In 2004 former president Thabo Mbeki also repeated these sentiments, and Zuma’s statements were therefore not new.

Political analyst Terry Bell said Zuma’s actual message was that the ANC could afford not to care, for they are in total control.

With Vavi out of the way and the SACP “soft” under Blade Nzimande’s leadership, it becomes easier than ever to move alliance partners to the sidelines and control them, said Bell.

A well-placed source in the presidency told sister paper Beeld that senior members in the ANC are of the opinion that unions are slowly but surely becoming “irrelevant” in South Africa.

Bell agreed that there is a group in the ANC that thinks the party no longer needs unions.

Professor Raymond Suttner, a political analyst and former ANC MP, said Zuma’s statement was technically correct because a government could not turn every five minutes to consult its partners.

Although the ANC expects its alliance partners to instruct their members to vote for the ANC, it does not give them any influence.

Cosatu is totally opposed to the youth wage subsidy, but the ANC made it part of its election manifesto regardless.

Suttner said the unions these days have record numbers of members, but they are now weaker than ever before.

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