COSATU Congress voted to dump the ANC

 In Labor and Unions, Politics, South Africa

On September 26–29, 2022, COSATU convened its 14th National Congress. This congress happened during a period in which the working class was facing multiple attacks from the ANC Government and the capitalists. Amongst these attacks include the austerity budget, job losses, non-payment of wages (e.g., Denel, and several municipalities), low wage increases, failure to uphold collective bargaining agreements, high cost of living, load-shedding, and many more.

In her speech kicking off the 14th National Congress, the COSATU President (also a member of the ANC National Executive Committee) exhorted the working class to continue supporting the ANC. She was obviously hallucinating. She ignored the fact that the ANC had been responsible for consigning workers to a life of misery for many years.

Most delegates, who represent over 1 million workers, rejected the COSATU president’s call for continuous support for the ANC. This was evident when Gwede Mantashe, the national chairperson of the ANC, was booed and heckled by the delegates. Mantashe was rejected, but the ANC was also unpopular with the delegates. What infuriated the delegates was the ANC’s ongoing onslaught on the working class. The delegates hold the ANC accountable for load-shedding, inadequate pay rises, and the failure to execute the 2018 public sector collective agreement.

After the booing of Mantashe, a discussion about COSATU’s partnership with the ANC ensued. The ANC was heavily criticized in this discussion for its anti-working-class stance, which made it unpopular. Pro-ANC chants like “Viva ANC Viva” were not heard for the first time in COSATU’s history. The congress was pushed by prevailing conditions to be anti-ANC. The ANC has lost legitimacy and support amongst the working class. The SACP General Secretary also delivered an anti-ANC address in which he referred to ANC leaders as criminals and insisted that the SACP was prepared to run in the upcoming elections. But because rejecting the ANC was not enough, congress needed to discuss what to do next.

At this congress, it was clear that COSATU was at a crossroads. Objective circumstances forced it to start a discussion about splitting from the ANC or risk becoming obsolete. But also, this discussion was imposed by the ANC’s unpopularity, as is shown by its dwindling electoral support. There are high chances that it might lose the next election in 2024. It has already lost big municipalities. Influencing governmental policies was the key justification for the COSATU’s continued partnership with the ANC. However, maintaining an alliance with the ANC becomes pointless if it is about to lose power.

The discussions about the future led to the development of two opposing views. The initial position was that to determine the best course of action, COSATU affiliates must first communicate with and obtain a mandate from their members before calling the special congress in May 2023. According to the second position, the SACP had to run for state power in 2024.

However, the two conflicting viewpoints ultimately came to a vote. Nearly 800 delegates, including representatives from SADTU, DENOSA, SAMWU, and a few small affiliates, contended that they lacked a mandate and decided not to vote. Nonetheless, close to 1000 delegates voted on this motion. Those who supported the SACP’s won by 594 votes, while those who opposed it received only 194 votes. In other words, the COSATU ultimately chose to support the SACP rather than the ANC. This marks the start of COSATU’s separation from the ANC but also set COSATU on a course for class independence.

However, it is difficult to predict how events will develop moving forward. Will the SACP accept this advice to run for office and ultimately leave the ANC? However, if the SACP declines this offer, there may be room for the creation of a working party with a socialist platform. Prior to this congress, a Worker’s Party had already been called for by more than two COSATU provinces, particularly Gauteng.

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