Friday, March 5, 2010



Zwelizinma Vavi of COSATU

By Alison Raymond
March 5 2010

South Africa's ruling ANC delivered its strongest criticism yet of trade union ally COSATU on Friday, accusing it of trying to undermine the party with opposition-style political attacks.

The comments by the African National Congress (ANC) are likely to deepen a rift between the two sides, nearly a year after support from COSATU and the South African Communist Party helped push Jacob Zuma into the presidency.

"Taking pot shots at the ANC and its government shows signs that COSATU are veering towards oppositional politics," ANC national spokesman Jackson Mthembu told reporters.

"The ANC has also grown weary of the latest media outbursts by COSATU seeking to rubbish and undermine anything, from the content of the president's state of the nation address to the budget speech by the finance minister, as well as ANC policy."

COSATU secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi said on Wednesday that a small ANC faction was planning to get rid of the party's secretary general Gwede Mantashe at a national general council meeting later this year. The ruling party called the comments "spurious and divisive".

COSATU has also criticised the ANC, which has been in power since the end of apartheid in 1994, over the involvement of its investment arm in a major energy project and for a budget it said did not help the poor.

On Friday, it denied that it was seeking to undermine its partner, saying in a statement that its goal was to "unite and take forward the ANC and the alliance."


Zuma has shown little sign of moving economic policy to the left as demanded by the unions and communists who backed his candidacy.

COSATU and the ANC are also at loggerheads over inflation targeting and corruption in government contracts.

Analysts said the ANC's strong rebuke of its labour ally indicated a battle for control of policy and influence.

"This is undoubtedly the strongest comments the ANC has made," said independent political analyst Nick Borain.

"I don't think that this means a divorce is imminent, there have been many public squabbles going on for a long long time now. The ANC is responding to the growing conflict, but I do think the situation is escalating".

COSATU, which has nearly two million paid up members, has threatened a national strike before October over big electricity price increases granted to power utility Eskom [ESCJ.UL] and could not say if the industrial action could take place before or during the soccer World Cup hosted by South Africa in June.

Nomura Emerging Markets Economist Peter Attard Montalto said the latest spat between the ANC and COSATU was not unexpected but could lead to concessions made by both parties.

"Both sides know they risk splitting the vote if they were to go their separate ways. In the end, I think there will be concessions made by both sides which will result in no policy shift per se but greater spending on health and housing etc., slower potential growth and COSATU gaining more influence over say (the national) planning commission".

Writing by Marius Bosch;
Editing by Noah Barkin