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Vol 55 No 17

Published 29th August 2014


South Africa

Crunch time for the unions

The ANC struggles to hold the union federation together as an anti-Zuma faction threatens to form a leftist splinter

Africa's largest trades union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, celebrates its 30th anniversary and its twelfth congress next year. Yet many believe Cosatu is at its weakest since its birth at the height of apartheid in 1985. Tensions within the African National Congress have played themselves out amongst leaders within the member unions of the two-million-strong Cosatu which, together with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP), form the governing Tripartite Alliance. During May's general elections, Cosatu's largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, withdrew its support for the ANC on the grounds that it had abandoned its pro-worker principles and failed to tackle official corruption. Its 220,000 members show no sign of coming back into the fold and NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim and his Cosatu counterpart Zwelinzima Vavi are rumoured to be considering setting up a left-wing grouping which would see Cosatu split from the Alliance and form a 'workers' party' to contest the 2019 elections (AC Vol 55 No 8).

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