THE disintegration of the ruling ANC’s alliance with Cosatu and, to a lesser extent, the SACP, continues to gather momentum. Is it good or bad for the country?
The argument can be made that the end of the alliance would lead to a breakdown in social cohesion as the lid is opened on a
viscous vicious contest between left and right.
The past two weeks might well have given South Africans a bitter foretaste of a future of protracted labour action which becomes dangerously politicised. It is not hard to picture the full might of organised labour unleashed on the state without the restraint of the alliance.
But would it have to end badly?
There is the possibility that the release of these tensions, which have been kept behind closed doors with diminishing effectiveness, into the public domain might be just the tonic for our moribund political institutions.
An open contest at the polls between a left-leaning labour movement and a realigned center would offer South Africans the political choice that they are presently denied by the continuation of the Alliance.
The political competition that would result would force parties to sharpen their policies and throw out unelectable leaders. They would have to measure every word against its consequences at the ballot box.
This would have a sobering effect on the national political debate which has deteriorated into an amusing but ultimately pointless exercise in chauvinist name-calling.
The nation got a glimpse of how political competition would sober up politics during the last election when Cope launched an assault on the ANC’s core constituency for the first time. Politicians were measured and the name-calling was kept to a minimum lest it offend potential voters. What was missing was any serious difference in policy between the ANC and Cope, which mimicked the ruling party’s “broad church” approach.
It would be different if a labour party were to stand against the ANC. In such a scenario there would be a clear distinction between the social-democratic left and the centrist nationalists. Voters would be making a choice that could result in a real difference to the way in which the country would be governed.
The ANC would have to think twice about allowing leaders to use public platforms to advocate nationalisation and land seizure without compensation as Youth League President Julius Malema did this week.
Helen Zille’s DA, which is going from strength to strength in the Western Cape, has showed how voters will choose one party over another based on their governance records if there is the real prospect of a change in government.
The DA would in all likelihood become a third “liberal” party in the national contest for power were the alliance to give way to open competition for power.
All of this remains academic as the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP continue to proclaim their loyalty to the alliance while privately plotting to diminish each other’s grasp on state power.
What is changing is the public perception of the alliance. There are few who continue to believe the love story when all they see is infidelity.
Minister for planning, Trevor Manuel has called for nominations to a 20-strong National Planning Commission to plot how government resources can be best used to address South Africa’s development needs.
In his words: “The show is on the road, today we call for nominations… we want very smart people, very committed people in the NPC.”
But he also announed that the commission would no longer have executive powers and would report to Cabinet where decisions would be made. “We have taken out executive functions, we can’t remove executive powers from cabinet,” he said.
This addresses strong criticism by the left of the original proposal and suggests that, at the end of the day, planning will be subjected to political horsetrading.
This is dissapointing as it will undermine the ability of planners to make unpopular changes such as the re-allocation of resources between government departments and the re-organisation of the executive itself.
It’s all here in this Cosatu resolution from its recent conference. Interesting.
1-2 Advancing working-class hegemony within the ANC
This Ninth National Congress notes:
1. The current class composition of the structures of the ANC.
2. That COSATU, as a component of the working class, has a class interest in the policy direction that the ANC and the state pursue. Read More…
THE ANC believes it’s a non-issue, but the SACP and Cosatu are adamant that it’s a major stumbling block to their political ambitions.
They are not pleased at the power that Trevor Manuel is weilding over economic policy from his position as Minister in charge of planning in Jacob Zuma’s office.
They thought that the appointment of unionist, Ebrahim Patel, to the job of “Economic Development” minister signalled that they would hold the whip on economic policy going forward.
But it was not to be and Patel has been given a broom-cupboard in the Trade and Industry building and a Datsun 120Y with racing stripes to do his job, if the left sceptics are to be believed.
Meanwhile Manuel has outlined how he intends to knit planning between ministeries going forward in a green paper which the left has asked to be scrapped.
It will all supposedly come to a head at the Alliance Summit which gets underway on Monday. But will it really?
My experience of these things is that there is frequently a lot of hot air blown about but very little action when everybody sits around a table together.
More likely is that the whole thing will be back-slappingly dismissed. A day or so later, public statements filled with rancour will resume.