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Vol 40 No 17

Published 27th August 1999


South Africa

Not for turning

Trades unionists and Communists try to roll back the free market bandwagon

South Africa's trades unions chose to confront the country's new President, Thabo Mbeki, just after his inauguration and before he'd had time to find his feet (AC Vol 40 Nos 12 & 13). This may have been a bad idea. He is most unlikely to be thrown off balance, even by massive strikes in the million-member civil service. The unions may now learn the hard way about Mbeki's capacity to anticipate attacks and prepare counter-strategies. In every internal struggle for power since the African National Congress returned from exile in 1990, he has emerged as the eventual victor. So far, in what some are already calling his 'Mbekiavellian' way, the new President hasn't fought a pitched battle with the ANC's tripartite alliance partners, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). He may never have to do so. 'Alliance' has become little more than a convenient fiction behind which the partners have been fighting for their different agendas.

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