- Created: Friday, 15 May 2009 09:32
- Written by Trevor Ngwane
FRFI 170 December 2002 / January 2003
Was the national general strike against privatisation on 1 and 2 October, organised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), a success or a failure? This was a major question in the war of words between the African National Congress (ANC) government and COSATU leaders that followed the strike. TREVOR NGWANE reports.
The strike revealed deep cracks in the ANC-SACP-COSATU Tripartite Alliance. The Alliance represents the hegemony of the ruling party over the working class: it delivers the votes and is the chief political mechanism to ensure social stability in neo-liberal post-apartheid South Africa (SA). After the strike the government quoted figures to prove that many workers did not strike, while COSATU provided its own figures proving the contrary. In fact, the strike was smaller than the previous one in 2001 but it was not a flop.
Before and after the strike, senior ANC government ministers came out vehemently against it in the media. President Thabo Mbeki was particularly vicious, calling COSATU leaders ‘ultra-leftists’ and ‘counter-revolutionaries’ betraying the people’s ‘national democratic revolution’ and whose agenda had a lot in common with that of the (white) ‘right-wing’. In response, the embattled COSATU leaders justified their strike on socio-economic grounds: the failure of the government to implement agreements made with labour around privatisation. They claimed that, as union leaders, they were not malicious or anti-ANC, but were carrying out the mandate of their members.