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Cosatu, ANC heading for showdown

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By Sipho Hlongwane

Bloemfontein - Alliance partners Cosatu and the ANC are headed for another showdown soon after the Mangaung conference as the unionists prepare to launch a strike action to demand radical transformation policies, placing further strain on already testy relations between the two organisations.

On Sunday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe launched a scathing attack on Cosatu at the party’s national conference in Mangaung for failing to contain its criticisms of the government within the alliance.

“It is always awkward when any alliance partner pronounces negatively on the other alliance partners and the other partners only discover the problem in the media. Alerting the other alliance partner is not tantamount to giving away the right to take independent decisions.”

The relationship between the allies has been troubled by Cosatu’s opposition to the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project (e-tolling) in Gauteng, the Protection of State Information Bill and general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s public criticism of the ANC’s corruption and poor governance record.

Just before the ANC’s Mangaung conference, the trade union federation announced that it would seek to embark on a socioeconomic protest to spark a radical transformation of the economy.

“Whilst 1994 marked an important breakthrough and a crucial turning point in the struggles of the working class in South Africa, the democracy that it has ushered in has yet to deliver tangible material benefits to the vast majority of the working class,” Cosatu said in a statement.

“The Freedom Charter declares that in a democratic South Africa, ‘There Shall Be Work and Security’! It further demands that: ‘The state shall recognise the right and duty of all to work’. Yet, all the policies that have been adopted in the past 18 years have failed to deliver on the fundamentals: unemployment reduction, poverty elimination and the reduction of social and economic inequality.”

Cosatu will demand that the ANC must enact tighter labour regulation and greater state intervention in the economy, such as a state-controlled banking system and 100% state control of the Reserve Bank.

The federation’s second largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) wants the outright nationalisation of economic sectors such as mining and energy.

Another sticking point between Cosatu and the ANC is the balance of power between the alliance partners, with Mantashe saying that the ANC was the strategic centre of power, and the federation calling for the alliance as a whole to be regarded as such.

Delegates to the Mangaung conference were still debating the state’s role in the economy on Wednesday, with a resolution due to be passed the next day.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Vavi told SAPA that the government could not just focus on creating an environment for business to invest.

At its policy conference in June, the ANC reaffirmed its view that it wanted to play an interventionist role in the economy in order to create a developmental state. This is a more liberal stance than that agitated for by Cosatu.

Shortly after the leadership election was concluded and the newly-elected president Jacob Zuma preached unity to the delegates, ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu publicly took exception to Vavi’s comments about the party’s leaders.

Vavi was quoted as saying: “Unfortunately there has not been a great show of unity. In the past two days that's not what the conference has demonstrated in terms of the leadership fighting.”

Mthembu said that Vavi’s comments should have been reserved for the alliance and not dangled before the media.

Vavi turned down a nomination to the ANC national executive committee, as did NUMSA general secretary Irvin Jim and National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Frans Baleni. - NewsFire

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