The ANC’s allies, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP), will on Wednesday take to the streets as part of a national shutdown in a show of force against President Jacob Zuma, the man they propelled to power a decade ago.
The trade union federation and the communist party said their intention was to voice their opposition to state capture, corruption and job losses, for which they blame Zuma’s government. Their previous calls for Zuma to resign have fallen on deaf ears.
Cosatu obtained a certificate to strike from the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) last month, where they spelt out their plans.
While no mention of the campaign for Zuma to resign was made in the notice to strike, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said it was central to the mass action, which was expected to bring the country to a standstill.
“In the march, we will be saying Zuma must go. We can’t put it down on the notice to Nedlac because it doesn’t have power over a political strike, but deals with socioeconomic issues,” he told City Press this week.
City Press heard that some within Cosatu were hoping the march would not only pile pressure on Zuma, but also boost their campaign for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed him.
However, Cosatu has been weakened after its expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA in 2015. It remains to be seen how many of its 1.2 million members it can attract to stage a successful march. The SACP claimed it had mobilised 250 000 of its members.
The national shutdown comes just days after the alliance members dramatically turned the tables on the governing party, forcing it to choose whether it wants to be treated as an outcast in a reformed partnership.
The fate of the alliance
The three partners in the ANC-led alliance – Cosatu, the SACP and the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco) – have silently isolated the ANC over its consistent failure to convene the long-awaited political alliance council. This week, the organisations threatened to convene the meeting without the ANC. The liberation movement was failing to lead the alliance and society in general, they said.
Numerous meetings failed to sit as the movement grappled with deep divisions that threaten to split the 27-year-old alliance, which was formed after the unbanning of political parties in February 1990. The last political alliance council was cancelled after Zuma questioned why he should meet people who called for his resignation and barred him from speaking at their gatherings.
Disagreements among the ANC’s top six leaders were also seen as the reason strategic alliance meetings failed to sit. Ntshalintshali, however, dismissed as “flimsy excuses” the reasons given for the failed meetings.
The fate of the alliance most likely hinges on the outcome of the ANC’s elective conference in December. Cosatu has insisted there is no plan B if Ramaphosa does not replace Zuma, unless its members were to abandon the ANC and join the SACP, which resolved in July to contest elections on its own.
SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said the strategy was not to leave the alliance, but to reconfigure and strengthen it.
City Press heard there could be huge implications for the ANC if it did not attend the alliance meeting, which is expected to take place before December.
Cosatu and the SACP have long called for the redesign of the alliance because of concerns that too much power was centralised in the ANC and in one individual – Zuma.
It is here where Cosatu, the SACP and Sanco – with workers on their side – will strategise and decide how best to structure the alliance if it were to remain intact. They want its council to be given new powers, making it a strategic centre where political decisions are approved and managed.
Some are warning that the ANC could alienate itself from the grouping if it snubs the council meeting, and could find itself without friends when the reality of the 2019 election campaign sinks in.
However, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said that, without the governing party, it would merely be a “gathering” of ANC allies.
“If allies call what is a semblance of a political council on their own, ignoring others, that would not be a political council, but a gathering of the left axis.”
It was “not possible to isolate the ANC”, he insisted.
He would not comment on the implications if the alliance partners were to dump the ANC, and said they were best placed to respond.
“They have the freedom. They are independent of the ANC. They are no sub-structures of the ANC. Any party can do anything,” he said on Friday after the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) met in Irene near Pretoria.
The committee discussed whether to appeal against a Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling, handed down on September 12, that the ANC’s 2015 KwaZulu-Natal provincial elective conference was unlawful. One option open to the NEC could be to establish a provincial task team, including some NEC members, to hold a new conference.
He said it was up to the workers, as citizens of the country, to exercise their choice and vote for who they wanted. If the intention of the ANC’s allies was to build an alternative to the party, the final decision ultimately lay with workers at the polls.
Mantashe was noncommittal when asked when the ANC would meet its increasingly frustrated and rebellious allies to iron out contentious issues