Bogus march: Cosatu must leave the tripartite alliance

2015-10-07 08:45

Today, 7 October 2015, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is to stage a nation-wide march for decent jobs. (A jobs march… sound familiar?) According to news reports leading up the march, the organisation has mobilised and briefed its 250 000 members across South Africa. While there is no confirmed number of marchers, it is billed to be a whopper. Well, in terms of numbers that is. As far as the rationality of its agenda goes, there remains much to be desired.

According to their flyer, Cosatu aims to ‘use our collective power of protest … to show government and big business how we flex our collective muscle.’ Flexing indeed, van epidermise proporsies – as Oom Oubaas would say.

The trouble is, it is not merely a jobs march. In addition to ‘too many job losses and subcontracting,’ Cosatu is also marching against:

  • Lack of reliable public transport

    • PRASA and MyCiti, and

  • E-tolls ‘to add to your burdens.’

What is so confusing about this is that Cosatu forms part of the tripartite alliance. The governing party, the African National Congress (ANC), is in office largely because it enjoys the support of the South African Communist Party (SACP) as well as that of Cosatu, in that they are part of this alliance. This means that if Cosatu is marching against the ANC-led national government, it is effectively marching against itself. In addition to marching against its own alliance on the e-tolling score, the same applies to the fact that PRASA, the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa, is also an agenda point for today’s march.

Metrorail falls within the ambit of this agency, so it is understandable that South Africans would want to march against it as the Metrorail service is quite unreliable indeed. Commuters are routinely exposed to violent attacks. Be that as it may, it remains strange that Cosatu is marching against itself. Well, perhaps it’s not that strange after all, should one take into account the fact that the ANC in Gauteng has marched against (the state owned) Eskom.

It seems that marching against ourselves is the order of the day in the South African politics of our time.

Today’s march also takes issue with the MyCiti bus service that operates in the Cape Town metro. However, to my knowledge, the MyCiti bus service is quite efficient and can hardly be compared to the troublesome Metrorail. So why is Cosatu marching on MyCiti? Well, one must assume that it is because their comrades from the Taxi Association are marching along with them. This implies that they are marching on Metrorail because they are inefficient and on MyCiti, precisely because it is efficient and thus provides a reliable alternate to unsafe taxis. Flexing? More like stunting now…

The tripartite alliance has long been the hegemon of the South African left. The rise of the EFF in South Africa indicates a disillusionment with this traditional South African left.

It is safe to say that this is the case because Cosatu (and the SACP) are quite toothless as part of the ANC-led tripartite alliance. One needn’t look far to find that that this march is publicly opposing e-tolling because the ANC ignored Cosatu’s calls to scrap the tolling project. That said, in addition to the rise of the EFF, massive shifts have been taking place within Cosatu, insofar as there is instability and rivalry among its member unions. So perhaps the march is more an effort to consolidate and validate a trade union that is coming undone.

In reality, if Cosatu wants the ANC to take it seriously, then it must simply leave the cushy tripartite alliance of which it forms a part. Anything less amounts to blatant efforts to fool the public and workers into believing that it is actually championing their interests when it continues to endorse the very party that is to blame for those interests being undermined in the first place.

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