A South African Airlines check-in desk at Cape Town International Airport. Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - The South African Communist Party (SACP), the vanguard party of the working class and a member of the tripartite alliance says it will wait for Cosatu’s central executive committee decision before it comments on the shocking decision by the labour federation to back privatisation. 

The largest labour federation sent shock waves in the country over the weekend when it emerged that they are backing the partial privatisation of some state-owned companies like South African Airways (SAA). The federation said it would make this proposal to the meeting of the alliance partners to be held in the coming days. 

The federation’s latest stance is a major shift from its known policy of anti-privatisation which it once said brought nothing but misery for workers and their dependants.

Asked by Independent Media on Monday whether or not they back the call by their alliance partner, spokesperson of the SACP Alex Mashilo said they would wait for the federation to communicate its “key outcomes” before they can wedge in. 

“We are looking forward to the outcomes of the meeting. We will take things from there and engage within the Alliance, which is where the federation said they will detail their proposals for consideration. We prefer not to speculate what the outcome of its central executive committee will be,” Mashilo said.

The general secretary of the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu), Zwelinzima Vavi said his former labour home is “getting irrelevant by the day.''

“We are not surprised that the once mighty (which was) seen as the hope for our democracy is now championing privatization and the strengthening role of capital in the economy! That’s exactly happens when a trade union choose to sleep with the comprador bourgeoisie in the same bedroom. They endorsed a comprador bourgeoisie to liberate the working class and up until this day they see no contradiction in that,” Vavi said. 

He added that no one can serve a lion and a sheep in the same kraal. 

“Cosatu has made its choice! The leadership wants to follow others before this generation to parliament and the executive to join in the slaughtering of the sheep to feed the lions through implementation of neo-liberal policies now laced with austerity programmes,” Vavi told Independent Media on Monday. 

Political analyst Xolani Dube said what is surprising in the change of stance is not that they are backing privatisation but it is that they are publicly saying so. He said Cosatu has always been used by its leaders to get deployments in government while pretending to fight for the working class.

“We can’t be surprised. You have to understand that Cosatu was bought prior to the (ANC) Nasrec conference (in 2017). Cyril (Ramaphosa) bought Cosatu and so there is nothing that we need to expect from Cosatu because they were bought. With or without Cosatu, the workers have to understand that they are on their own this time around,” Dube said. 

Cosatu spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said Cosatu has not changed its stance on privatisation but instead they want the government to allow private sector participation in SOEs as long as the state maintains majority shareholding. 

On the issuer of SAA, Pamla said the airline is not a strategic asset for the state yet it is constantly bailed out using taxes coming even from poor people. Despite, he said any private sector intervention should be on the basis that government remains the majority shareholder. 

"In fact we still want more SOEs like a state bank," Pamla said. 

Political Bureau