Beginning of the end for ANC?

Author:Nevin, Tom
Position:COUNTRYFILE: South Africa - African National Congress

The African National Congress is facing political turmoil as cracks appear in the 'tripartite alliance' between the ANC, the unions and the Communist Party. The expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, as well as an embarrassing incident in Parliament, have increased the pressure on President Jacob Zuma, writes Tom Nevin.

A debate over the ideological future of South Africa's ruling African National Congress has intensified after fissures opened in the 'tripartite alliance' between the party, the Communist Party and the labour unions. Analysts are struggling to predict how the break-up of the leftist force in South African politics will shake out. South African President Jacob Zuma's only public response to the turmoil in government was to concede, in the tersest of terms, that "the ANC has been shaken and is in trouble".

He told the ANC Youth League consultative conference in Soweto, Johannesburg, in late November that: "We admit that the organisation is in trouble", adding the warning that "I can guarantee you that if everything goes wrong with the ANC, everything will go wrong in this country. There is no doubt about it. There are many people who will want the ANC to disappear and they are trying everything, because there's no alternative."

The alliance partnership, a cobbling together of the leftist elements to fight South Africa's first democratic election the 1994, was uneasy from the word go. An early power-grab, which put the ANC at the helm of the alliance, rather than giving each party an equal role, led to tensions that are still extant.

Cosatu, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, has always intensely disliked being the ANC's lackey and often protested when the ANC unilaterally took key decisions and expected the unions to rubber stamp them. Cosatu has now itself begun to fragment.

In November, Cosatu expelled the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), the country's biggest union, part of a long-running debate over the future of trade relations in South Africa. Cosatu has been attempting to take some of the heat out of disputes between the unions, the government and the private sector. Numsa took seven smaller unions with it when it went, diminishing Cosatu's ranks.

Brian Ashley, Treasurer of the Democratic Left Front party, says: "It will bring an end to Cosatu as a fighting trade union force."

For Gwede Mantashe, the ANC's secretary...

To continue reading