Alliance roles need to be redefined

2009-12-12 00:00

SO the marriage made in heaven may not be so after all.

The South African Communist Party (SACP) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) izimpelesi as part of the Tripartite Alliance and it has never been clear how much influence they have.

The ANC has always led the alliance from the front and the other two partners have just been there in the mix of things and have never been as significant as they appear to be at this point in their history of co-operative politics, or is it “politricks”?

Being the omnibus that it is, the Tripartite Alliance has always accommodated people from all walks of life, literally so, and this has worked quite well in the past. Not so of late.

The SACP and Cosatu, who have been minnows in terms of their participation, except when they had to tell their members to vote ANC at election time, are now looking for their equitable share in this alliance.

Whoever thought that the SACP could get a minister’s post in government? Certainly not during the Thabo Mbeki era, who saw it as a nuisance when he did not need its member for votes.

Mbhazima Shilowa, an aggressive unionist then, was appointed Gauteng premier by Mbeki, but those in the know will tell you that this was merely to neutralise Cosatu, as opposed to giving it a voice in government.

Questions have, in the past, been raised about whether it is time for the alliance members to go their own way as the situation has become almost impossible to manage.

Certainly, the opposition parties hoped for this as this would give them the opportunity to attempt to coalitions with what would have become former members of the alliance.

The two alliance members have increasingly exerted more influence on the ANC and what complicates this is that there is no mechanism of quantifying how many votes each alliance member contributes to the overall number of votes the ANC gets in elections.

Since the ANC Polokwane conference in 2007, the culture of booing leaders and perceived political enemies within the alliance has become the order of the day, as was witnessed by ANC youth leader Julius Malema, as well as Billy Masetla and Tony Yengeni, during the SACP special national congress on Thursday morning.

Like a schoolboy who could not play with his toys, Malema stormed out with the other two, with promises of telling President Jacob Zuma of the SACP’s poor behaviour.

For as long as the ANC plays the role of parent to the alliance partners, there are bound to be problems and the issue of having dual leadership positions will continue to be contentious as the likes of Gwede Mantashe try to please two masters. Loyalty is bound to tilt one way or the other.

The ANC needs to redefine the roles of all the alliance partners, failing this, the mud-slinging and booing will continue and, who knows, the ANC’s leadership list may be next on the booing list — Mantashe included.

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