ANC, Cosatu need to refocus on jobs to be done

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Last week I explored the “job-to-be-done” theory in business and wanted to expand its application to other areas such as politics. The ANC and Cosatu are both powerful forces that are shaping the politics of this country, but what is the job that they are hired to do by their constituencies?

The ANC as a liberation movement had a clear job that they needed to accomplish: to achieve freedom from the apartheid regime for the masses. This is why the ANC is considered a broad church that accommodates everyone resulting in having capitalists, socialists and communists within one party. The mindset that needed to be adopted was the revolutionary and fixed mindset, which yielded results at the time. The ANC is now enjoying the dividends of having achieved its objective of bringing down the apartheid regime and having a new democratic dispensation.

The new job that the ANC was tasked with by its voters in the democratic era was nation-building and improving the lives of all South Africans. Governance is a key theme that has to be top of mind for the ANC leaders if they ever hope to do that job well.

The mindset required to do this job is a growth mindset that is able to anticipate the changing societal needs and to respond appropriately to changing circumstances. The change of mindset from a fixed to a growth mindset is not easy as we have seen in the past few years.

Drilling further down, what is the job that the ANC leadership is tasked with by its members? A typical ANC voter may answer that the leadership has to win elections at national and local level; deploy competent people who can make a difference in growing South Africa; raise funds for the sustainability of the organisation and set policies that will inform government programmes.

The current membership base of the ANC may say that the ANC leadership is tasked with implementing the Polokwane resolutions, which may not necessarily be what is needed or agreed to by all the citizens of the country.

So if the ANC leadership can tick all the boxes of a job that they have been tasked with, then they will be rewarded by the members with another term. This is a litmus test that is seemingly used in deciding who is going to be elected.

So there is a clear dichotomy between the typical ANC voter and the ANC member. They want different jobs to be done, which are mutually exclusive. This is why you have factions within the party.

An average ANC voter who goes to a branch meeting will want to see a discussion around policy and how they can get the government to move on service delivery issues. An average ANC member will prefer to discuss who should lead the party and the composition of the national executive committee.

The other side of the coin is to ask: “What is the job that the ANC is hiring its members to do?”

Theoretically, the members are hired to mobilise votes in election times; to implement the principles of the party into various social and economic structures on a continuous basis; to be active in their branches in order to advance policy issues to the fore at policy conferences, and to pay their membership fees.

But the reality is that it has been hard to get the members to do this job, thus causing fractures within the party.

When you apply this theory to Cosatu and its affiliate trade unions, what job are they hired to do by their members? The answer is clear: improve working conditions for workers; keep wages steady and increasing; and influence the legislative environment to make sure that workers’ rights are safeguarded.

Due to the inextricable link between apartheid and business in the past, where laws benefited white business by keeping black workers’ wages fixed and low, there was an automatic link between trade unions and the liberation movements. This involvement in politics continued into the democratic era and there is less focus on some of the bread-and-butter issues. This shifting focus was made starkly clear by having a splinter organisation in the mining industry that resonated with some workers on these issues. This is a wake-up call to the trade unions to refocus on the job its members are hiring them to do.


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