THE Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is facing a "difficult dilemma" as it considers either abandoning the ruling tripartite alliance or building a direct line to the president’s office, according to a draft political report by general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Cosatu is at a turning point as it prepares for its national congress this month. Its relationship with its allies — the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party — is an issue with the potential to divide the union federation.
Mr Vavi said there were many challenges facing the governing alliance and Cosatu had to decide whether it would be "blackmailed into silence" as the "revolution reached a dead end". These challenges included an organisational crisis in the ANC, a government in crisis, the crisis of unemployment, poverty and growing inequality, and a "growing crisis of political legitimacy and disillusionment".
He considered two scenarios, an "extreme" scenario would see the continued degeneration of the ANC and the government, characterised by a preoccupation with leadership elections and the sidelining of policy questions, Mr Vavi wrote.
This would lead to the ANC losing steam in the 2014 elections, with voters abstaining due to surging disillusionment, and the Democratic Alliance gaining a deeper foothold.
Mr Vavi said this scenario was no "fantasy, but a real possibility" if the crises in the party and the government were not addressed.
"Cosatu is in a difficult dilemma. It is seen as a hope by many, but it is also being attacked for being the hope — on the basis that it is creating an MDC (Movement for Democratic Change) alternative," he wrote.
Mr Vavi’s "high-road scenario" is premised on Brazil’s experience. Its former president, Luiz da Silva, a trade unionist, was credited with boosting his country’s economy.
To achieve this, the alliance needed to agree on measures to ensure the "representivity and integrity" of the leadership elected at the ANC’s December conference.
Mr Vavi said this scenario would also require legislation to govern conflicts of interest in the government and the ANC and a "radical economic shift", including a commitment to "review" all appointments to strategic ministries such as the Treasury and the Reserve Bank.
It would also require a legislated national minimum wage, comprehensive collective bargaining and social protection measures, including a grant for the unemployed.
Mr Vavi said such an agreement should include protocols for the alliance to ensure ANC policies were implemented and the creation of a "regular co-ordinating mechanism between the president and Cosatu".
Political analyst Steven Friedman said yesterday the Brazilian model would not succeed in SA because the ANC was a nationalist party, not a workers’ party.
The report will be finalised and discussed by Cosatu affiliates at its congress, from September 17-20.