Hidden ‘political’ agendas to strikes – analysts

FILE PICTURE: National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members Pic: Alaister Russell.

FILE PICTURE: National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) members Pic: Alaister Russell.

Strikes in South Africa were slowly becoming less about workers’ salaries and more about a political agenda, political analyst Andre Duvenhage said yesterday.

Barely days after the announcement that the almost five-month-long strike in the platinum sector had ended, union federation Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, metalworkers’ union Numsa, threatened to embark on an indefinite strike which started on Tuesday.

Speaking to The Citizen, Duvenhage said the political agenda of the left was focusing on establishing a workers’ party of the left.

“I get a sense that Julius Malema will be central to this workers’ party and I will not be surprised if Zwelinzima Vavi and Irvin Jim are also part of it,” said Duvenhage.

“I do not know what the name of the party will be, but it is definitely on the cards and the likes of Tokyo Sexwale and Matthews Phosa are also on the periphery of this.”

Another analyst, Ralph Mathekga, said strikes were having a negative impact on the economy.

He said there had also been an element of embarrassing the governing ANC by some unions.

“What we have seen happening during the strikes is a realignment at bottom level and union level and the ANC no longer enjoys moral grounding from unions,” he said.

Mathekga had different views on prominent public figures who might form part of a workers’ party, saying some leaders did not have a problem with the ANC – although they were unhappy with the current leadership.

But political analyst Elvis Masoga said having listened to the leaders of Numsa and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over the past eight months, he had come to realise they were anti-government.

“They stated clearly they are against the ANC, as they define each other outside the ruling party. Hence we are witnessing an evolution of an anti-government sentiment within the unions in question,” he said.

“For instance, when Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa announced that the strike in the platinum sector would end recently, Numsa immediately announced the beginning of a strike. Therefore one cannot separate Amcu’s political agenda from the Numsa one.”

Commenting on the much talked about possible workers’ party, Masoga said: “It is not inherently wrong for workers to form a party, but it is wrong for workers to be led by self-centred leaders.”

today in print