The nature of protest changes

2012-03-10 11:22

This week’s march by Cosatu marked a step-change for the federation and for the nature of protest.

It has also possibly ended the era of trade union leaders taking up political seats in the governing party as ANC proxies.

The era of political strikes, largely absent in the 18 years of freedom, is back.

Cosatu used political strikes to huge effect in the last years of the struggle and it clearly has not lost its touch. Expect more of these in the years to come.

And, for the first time, there was broad support for the strike across society rather than the usual cynicism and annoyance by the middle-classes and the elite at the flexing of labour muscle.

This is because Cosatu brilliantly linked a middle-class issue, the cost of toll roads, to a purely labour issue, the rights of workers employed by brokers.

There will be more multi-class campaigns from Cosatu in future. And its general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has sealed his future.

He is likely to win a third term as Cosatu chief in September – and we are possibly at the end of the trend from 1994 which saw union leaders taking up ANC seats.

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