Cosatu has Mboweni’s economic blueprint in its sights at special weekend NEC

While the ANC's special National Executive Committee meeting with alliance partners in Gauteng this weekend will be led by the governing party, at least one alliance partner intends to use the meeting to challenge National Treasury's economic policy paper.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has roundly criticised the economic blueprint released by Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni in August. The labour federation has called the paper incoherent, saying it was a rehash of old policy ideas.

The NEC - the highest decision-making body in the party between congresses - will meet between Friday and Monday in Benoni. The meeting is set to discuss the economy on Sunday.

ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe did not respond to requests from Fin24 for comment on Friday. 

'No time for this document'

Cosatu slammed the paper - entitled "Economic Transformation, Inclusive Growth and Competitiveness: Towards an Economic Strategy for South Africa"– saying that it was extremely concerned with "several fundamental aspects" of its content.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla told Fin24 on Friday afternoon that while the labour federation understood the economic policy paper would be a part of the discussions on Sunday, it had already rejected the document.

"For us as Cosatu, our issues are that we want the implementation of the Jobs Summit recommendations. We have no time for this document that they are discussing. It doesn't make sense because they are trying to rehash things and there is nothing new," said Pamla.

In the 77-page economic policy paper Treasury called for a series interventions and reforms to "reverse the downward trend in South Africa's growth potential"and boost the GDP growth rate by up to 3%. One of the more controversial proposals was for debt-laden power utility Eskom to consider selling coal-fired power stations to raise R450bn, roughly the size of its debt. The stations would then sell electricity back to the power utility at a predefined tariff.

'Nothing new'

Pamla said an exemption from national minimum wage for small and medium enterprises was no substitute for responsive economic policy, as such businesses could merely apply for the exemption if they genuinely could not pay the national minimum wage.

"They talk about extending collective bargaining. That was resolved in court after the Free Market Foundation took us to court and we won. This is something from two years ago. We have a ruling on that and you can't have an idea of another entity that was dismissed in court and rehash it at the NEC," Pamla said.

Regarding state-owned entities, Pamla said the paper had nothing meaningful to say. He said a policy paper that was silent on a moratorium on retrenchments, punishing corruption and developing immigration policy to preserve the economy was doomed to fail.

South African Communist Party spokesperson Alex Mashilo told Fin24 on Friday that the party would itself to listen to the ANC's submission at the meeting.

"The meeting is actually an ANC NEC meeting. The ANC is the best positioned organisation to say what is on the itinerary because it is implementing it. We were only invited yesterday to come to the meeting. That is what I can confirm," said Mashilo.

Mashilo said it would wait for an alliance political council meeting to raise its views on the economic policy paper. The SACP expressed "serious concern" at the sudden release of the document when it was published in August.

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