ANC should not let sulky Cosatu sway sound policy

Published Feb 21, 2010


Trade union federation Cosatu is behaving like a spoiled brat. It wanted inflation targeting scrapped and the state purse opened wide because, in its reality-free world view, high inflation and overindebtedness are a fair price to pay for a temporary - and by no means certain - boost in competitiveness and jobs.

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan did not oblige.

In retaining the successful macro-economic policies that led to 17 years of uninterrupted growth (which only stalled because of banking shenanigans in the US and Europe) and focusing on delivery and the elimination of waste, Gordhan outlined a path capable of delivering what the union is calling for: sustainable work for its members and a better life for the poor.

Yet, because the federation disagrees with the methodology that Gordhan, and by extension the entire cabinet, is applying, some Cosatu affiliates are, according to the Mail & Guardian, now questioning their decision to support President Jacob Zuma's rise to power.

Perhaps now is the time for Cosatu to have the courage of its convictions and make good on previous threats to pull out of the alliance if it doesn't get its own way.

This will never happen. Here's why: according to a 2007 Ipsos Markinor survey, a mere 8 percent of all South Africans and a measly 5 percent of ANC supporters would vote for a new Labour Party comprised of the SACP and Cosatu. That would give them less than half the political clout that the opposition DA enjoys.

From the survey, it is clear that most of Cosatu's 2 million membership, which accounts for about one in six working South Africans, would continue to vote ANC even if the alliance were to disintegrate. The ANC got just shy of 12 million, or two thirds, of the votes cast in the last election.

I have never understood why the ANC consistently gives away so much of its power to Cosatu and the communists. It is abundantly clear that Cosatu needs the ANC's power more than the ANC needs that of Cosatu.

This view is apparently shared by increasing numbers of people within the ANC, who are sick of being pushed around just because Cosatu, which ultimately represents the labour aristocracy rather than the poor, helped Zuma get out of a bind.

Apart from the predictable complaints from the Left, the budget seems to have been fairly well received.

I was sitting round the virtual campfire on my online fly-fishing forum after the budget and apart from complaints about the increased costs of drinking and smoking, key elements of a happy fisherman's life, and a remark that South Africa is not for sissies, the guys saw it as a generally good balancing act.

One did mention that a loophole that he had been abusing for years had been closed and this was going to cost him R800 a month. He didn't seem to mind too much, though, which means he must have thought the rest was pretty good.

All in all, it was a good result for Gordhan's first major outing as minister.

- Next week's column is going to be my take on the perils of Amway and multilevel marketing (MLM) in general. If you think I'm horrible about politicians, wait till you see what I have to say about these guys. If you have had experiences - good or bad - with MLM, e-mail me on [email protected]. Just don't send me your plans for how I can make tons of cash in just a few hours a week.

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