The threat by labour federation Cosatu not to vote for the ANC in next year’s election might be more huff and puff than reality.
Political analyst Dumisani Hlophe said although Cosatu may want to project a critical public posture against the ANC, it did not mean there was much chance of a serious fight that may spoil their relationship for good.
Cosatu, he said, “Has to cultivate an image that they are autonomous. But we shouldn’t read that to mean their relations are going sour; it’s in the nature of the game,” Hlophe said.
Yesterday Cosatu, following its special central executive committee meeting in Johannesburg on Monday, said it would not vote for the ANC if government pushed ahead with its plan to retrench 30 000 civil servants.
The federation’s top leadership was instructed by the meeting to seek a meeting with the ANC top six to give them an unambiguous message that “workers will not vote against their interests in the upcoming national elections”.
Bheki Ntshalintshali, Cosatu general secretary, said: “We view the plans to retrench workers as an act of ultimate betrayal especially after the government’s decision to increate VAT after promising not to do so. This makes a mockery of the alliance.”
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said they had noted the ANC’s statement that the party would never support the plan to retrench civil servants, but Cosatu would stay on the alert as workers around the issue. He expressed concern that the ANC was always trailing behind the government in giving policy direction.
“The government and the ANC deny this (retrenchments). We know that it comes from the National Treasury. They said before that the solution is to reduce the civil service. But we will shout until it fades away; we are not going to close our eyes because we know where this comes from,” Dlamini said.
The federation’s deputy general secretary, Solly Phetoe, said Cosatu expected the ANC to be biased towards the poor and that, after its 54th national conference at Nasrec, they expected nothing less than the creation and protection of jobs from the ANC.
“We will not stop our action until we see the ANC fighting for the interests of the workers.
Cosatu first deputy president Tyotyo James said their message to the ANC was an ultimatum to act or face the wrath of the workers.
The federation planned a national strike that could be finalised at its national congress next month. The congress would give direction on whether Cosatu should participate in the upcoming jobs summit.
“This is not a threat but a decision Cosatu has taken,” Dlamini said. He said that instead of retrenching workers, government should train and retrain workers and deploy some to areas where their skills were needed.
Cosatu would always oppose retrenchments, privatisation and dismantling of state-owned enterprises but would never support failures including corruption and mismanagement at the parastatals.
Ntshalintshali said the reduction of jobs was not discussed at Nedlac, as the council only deal with job creation and the economy.
Analyst Hlophe said that, currently, the relationship between the ANC and Cosatu and even the entire alliance was good.
“There is a favourable relationship between Cyril Ramaphosa and some leaders in Cosatu and that will remain so for some time,” he said.