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By Lunga Simelane

Journalist


Alliance battle lines drawn: Cosatu says Ramaphosa’s administration is mismanaging economy

It was clear from a 'grassroots level' Ramaphosa would be met with resistance and criticism, says a political analyst.


The ANC and Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) alliance is at a crossroads and facing a major test following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ignominious retreat from the Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenberg this weekend.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said Ramaphosa’s administration had mismanaged the economy by siding with the private sector by taking policies and decisions which punished workers.

“This is a test for the alliance because our members agree that they do not like the [direction] the country has taken,” Pamla said.

A lot of issues were raised, he said, and “Ramaphosa could not pretend he did not see this coming as he was warned time and again regarding workers’ frustration”.

“Workers have every reason to be livid when 2.2 million of them have lost their jobs in the past two years.

“It was provocative of government to pickpocket public servants of their salary increase n 2020,” Pamla said.

“Workers have lost jobs from state-owned companies, looted by senior politicians in collusion with the private sector.

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“Mine workers are correct to be aggrieved when a CEO [chief executive] of Sibanye, who benefitted from corporate tax cuts, refuses to pay them an additional R1 000 a month, while at the time paying himself R300 million in a single year,” he said.

“The fact that we are the most unequal country in the world is a sign that South Africa is slowly sinking into the abyss. A 46% real unemployment, stagnant wages and budget cuts have all exhausted the patience of workers.

“The alliance is at a crossroads and this is a test that the alliance will have to navigate and hopefully pass, but it’s up to those entrusted with the responsibility to provide leadership.”

Groundswell reaction

Political analyst André Duvenhage said it was clear from a “grassroots level” Ramaphosa would be met with resistance and criticism.

Ramaphosa was a reformer who was aware this was not a favourable environment and who knew he would have to face these trials, that “there would be a groundswell reaction against him”, he said.

South African politics had reached a tipping point and this contributed to a reconfiguration of the political spectrum.

“The break line is running through the ANC, with a moderate group of Ramaphosa and a few others, and a strong radical group positioned to the left of the centre,” he said

“It seems to me that Cosatu is also divided, but now we know there are sentiments within Cosatu to the left as well.”

Duvenhage added that it was evident we have not seen the end of the battles within the structure of the bigger ANC. Ramaphosa was strongly in control of the ANC but there was a battle line brewing.

As the chaotic event in Rustenberg resulted in it being called off, North West police spokesperson Brigadier Sabata Mokgwabone said authorities were disappointed in how the events unfolded at the stadium.

Mokgwabone said decisive action would be taken against those who broke the law or threatened the safety and security of law-abiding citizens.

Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said this reflected the state of disgruntled workers and a longing for change in the mining sector.

Workers had to listen to politicians who had lost legitimacy and continued to waste public resources while their living conditions were getting worse and incomes were shrinking.

“This is not about a few broke people who just wanted to disrupt [the event]. We should look into the deeper issues, that the workers are actually concerned and unfortunately it has stressed itself in that way,” he said.

Mathekga said it may not reflect a rejection of Ramaphosa but had exposed workers’ frustration, which was deeply reflected within Cosatu, as workers within the union were worried.

“Cyril should be worried about the position of Cosatu and the alliance.

“If workers do want to listen to a message from ANC leaders while they are in this alliance they should ask themselves what that truly means.”

lungas@citizen.co.za

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