In the ever-evolving crises rocking the ANC, the decision by the Food and Allied Workers’ Union (Fawu) to leave the country’s largest trade union federation, Cosatu, constitutes yet another sign that the seemingly monolithic tripartite alliance is rapidly unravelling.
The Fawu leadership cited “government policies” and an intention to “establishing a new federation and a true working-class political home” for the 131 000 union members it will take from Cosatu to add to the more than 340 000 members of the powerful National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) divorced from the alliance’s orbit when the union was expelled from the federation in November 2014.
Numsa’s expulsion, for vilifying ANC policies – more especially on privatisation and the polague of poverty – was undoubtedly the first crack to appear in the tripartite tower, but others have rapidly followed.
The South African Communist Party – with the ANC and Cosatu, the major pillars in the alliance – have been openly and vocally critical about how the government under President Jacob Zuma is running the country and at one stage during the run-up to this year’s local government elections, threatened to stand independently, something they have never done since the dawn of democracy in 1994.
The ANC is currently limping along as a fractious and fractured entity riven by internecine feuds, finger-pointing and often outright animosity, all of it under a noxious cloud of bitter distrust and widely perceived undercurrents of corrupt cronyism.
ANC heavyweights are either clustered closely inside the Zuma laager or left outside, like Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan to fend off attacks from within his own party and from a world closely watching from outside for further signs of the embattled economy truly imploding and being driven into the morass of junk status.
Fawu’s decision to go their own way is a further manifestation of deep disquiet.