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There are plans afoot to destroy what is left of organised labour in South Africa, to prepare the way for brutal austerity policies, in the name of ‘attracting investors’, or similarly nebulous reasons. It’s going to happen, and the African National Congress (NC) will be in the driving seat. Only a powerful showing by labour in the upcoming elections can put a stop to this looming disaster.
It still jars to realise that one is living in hypernormalised times, in which people no longer feel any compunctions about saying the quiet part out loud. After years of corruption and mismanagement by the ruling party and its cronies have left the country in a ruin, it is labour that is going to be punished for it.
Business Leadership South Africa (BLSA) chief executive Bonang Mohale said the quiet part out loud when he recently complained to the Business Day, on International Workers Day no less, that labour is to blame for Eskom’s woes. He said: “Our social compact says for the sake of being globally competitive, you will forgo increases above inflation. The single biggest risk to the economy is Eskom. Had the unions compromised, they would not have taken salary increases or bonuses and Eskom would not have escalated load shedding from stage one to stage four.”
The chief operating officer of BLSA, Busisiwe Mavuso, was even more blunt. “Labour has been allowed to run amok. We all need to identify what we’re willing to give up to stabilise the economy and labour hasn’t done that,” she said.
The same article reports that should the economy show pitiable growth levels next year, as is predicted, and we have a return of stage 4 rolling blackouts, the economy could shed as many as 100,000 jobs.
Those potentially lost jobs is where the conversation should focus on, but that is not going to happen because the ANC will accede to crushing the unions in the name of “saving” Eskom, after which no group will be able to resist the coming austerity policies, which will doubtlessly last through the Ramaphosa years. (This is putting aside the fact that the ANC has implemented developmental austerity for decades.)
This is class warfare. Monied interests have openly declared war on the working class. Certainly not President Cyril Ramaphosa, who may wait until after the elections so as not to over-excite anybody in the meantime…
It has been clear for many years now that the ANC safely ignores its coalition partner the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), and there is no indication that this is going to change anytime soon. In fact, the federation is much weaker now than it has ever been. Its former largest union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), will be contesting the elections as an opposition to the ANC, as the Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party. The union boasts more than 300,000 members, which makes it more than likely that it will seats in the sixth parliament.
We will stand a far better chance of escaping the politics of austerity and the upward distribution of wealth if the working class takes its rightful place in parliamentary politics, and fights for an alternative vision for South Africa.
This Week In Politics
- We profile the official opposition, the Democratic Alliance. [FATIMA MOOSA]
- We also spoke to the Inkatha Freedom Party in KwaZulu Natal, where it hopes to restore its hegemony over the province. [Lizeka Maduna]
- Finally, we also spoke to Women Forward, a new party hoping to make waves in 2019. [Shaazia Ebrahim]
Featured image via Flickr