The Marikana Debacle: the Way foward for the ANC and COSATU


The on-going strike at Marikan suggest that as the African National Congress (ANC) needs to bring on board its stalwarts and prioritize the general South African interests, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)  should reclaim its independent civil society space within the alliance.

Commentators have nearly exhausted almost all the relevant angles in the analysis of the Marikana debacle. Dominant opinion includes a transformative Marxist perspective-highlighting the capital/labour conflict. Others explain the Lonmin/labour conflict in terms of the astroturf campaign: workers-the majority of which are illiterate, being used by the Friends of the Youth League (FYL) to justify its agenda for “economic freedom” and nationalization of mines. Most analysts reference questions around the legitimacy of President Zuma regime and use the Marikana debacle as window to see through Mangaung.  Combining all these perspectives, this article suggests that the way forward necessitate that together with its affiliates, COSATU should tilt its loyalty scale in favour of the workers interests, instead of closely aligning to the ANC and the latter needs to rope-in past leadership as a way forward.

A civil society is that space between the state and the market, which can either be aligned or opposed to government policies. Because the ANC-led government seats in the centre of the political spectrum, embracing both the liberal and socialist perspectives, it does talk to the leftist interests of the workers, thus COSATU alliance.  Organized, the role of the civil society is to keep the checks and balances on government and market policies, so as to ensure their social legitimacy. As a leftist trade union federation, COSATU’s mandate is to safeguard the interests of the workers in both government and market spheres. Debatable though, one may argue that the slow pace of privatisation and observation of workers’ rights in South Africa’s economy and labour force could be attributed to the leftists’ presence in the country’s governance.

Likewise, in the Marikana debacle, in an effort to safeguard the interest of the workers, COSATU’s affiliate- the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) should have adopted an in-house lobbyist approach in the Lonmin Management.  The role of such lobbyist would be to act as a buffer zone between the “anger” of the mineworkers, which is due the exploitative nature of the globalist system and the “anxiety” of the capitalist, attributed to dropping platinum prices.  Such anger and anxiety need to be handled in a transparent manner and in a language understandable to the grassroot. Thus the absence of the credible workers in-house lobbyists in the Lonmin Management created a fertile environment for a dangerous astroturf that saw the labour issue spilling to governance arena. The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union emerge to signify a vote of no confidence in NUM and its mother- body, COSATU.  Trade union rivalry ensued, people and police were killed. In an effort to restore order and stability, the ANC-led government gets drawn into the labour issue, minors are massacred, some jailed, murder charges laid and withdrawn against them.

The Friends of the Youth League (FYL), who’s objective is “economic freedom in our lifetime” are astroturfing the vulnerable grassroot mineworkers. In the same vein, AMCU gains the workers sympathy as NUM failed to play a credible in-house lobbyist game with Lonmin management. COSATU- a civil society organization (CVO) entrusted with labour interests, but that distanced itself from the Lonmin strike, is seen as having sold out the workers. Furthermore COSATU alliance partner-led government is involved in the massacre of mineworkers. The afore-mentioned factors are arguments used to support the notion that COSATU is an extension of the ruling party. The same arguments is used both by the government and ANC critics particularly, the FYL to delegitimize Zuma’s government. As the general public sympathy seems to be with the striking miners, COSATU’s civil society status seems to be waning as trust in the organisation is running low. In addition to the trauma caused by the Lonmin massacre, poor service delivery and fears of real or perceived dictatorial tendency in the ANC-led government, suggest that both the ANC and COSATU should do introspection and work on regaining the people’s confidence.  COSATU needs to reclaim its independent character as a civil society organization (CVO), while the current ANC leadership needs to appeal to its traditional populist heroes and strategists to help in restoring the party’s integrity and promote stability in the country.

The ANC boasts a variety of personality traits that can manage the astroturf campaign created by the Lonmin massacre and other areas of public interest associated with challenges of the incumbent regime in governance arena. The general ANC leadership past and present, needs to put personal and factional differences aside and work towards restoring the movement’s integrity and prioritize the country’s interests. In that light, the current regime could enlist the intervention the former President Thabo Mbeki, Ronnie Krasils, Pallo Jordan, Essop Pahad and others to complement President Zuma’s challengess in governance of both the ANC and the country’s administration.

A populist hero such as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela could be used to tame or counteract Julius Malema’s astroturfing in Marikana and elsewhere. Though the two seem to be sleeping with one blanket, the ANC has the advantage of invoking sentimental mentality in its stalwarts. Certainly, the ANC will need its past leadership and stalwarts on the road to Mangaung. As for COSATU and its affiliates, the writing is on the wall: they need to rework on its dented image and convince the workers that they stand for their interests. Credible in-house lobbying in the capitalist management should be applied as one of the strategies to avoid the repeat of Marikana. Slight detachment from the ANC, respect for, tolerance and accommodation of rival trade union could also restore COSATU’s integrity. Past leaders such as Jay Naidoo, Sydney Mufamadi and others could add an impetus in redirecting the trade union federation’s focus on workers’ rights. Otherwise, both COSATU and the ANC could witness a dwindling support on the road to Mangaung. Is it too late?

Advertisements

14 thoughts on “The Marikana Debacle: the Way foward for the ANC and COSATU

  1. The Marikana debacle reflects the growing of uncontrolled Capitalist influence in our society and the neglect of workers’ interests in the vulnurable market, and the lack of effective genuine leadership in all sides of this discourse.

    NUM is slowly becoming a corporation and they will obviously protect their capitalist interests, intentionally or unintentionally. They will find it very difficult to balance workers interests and their business interests. They will negotiate on the framework that advances capitalist agenda because they benefit from this system.

  2. The Marikana debacle reflects the growing of uncontrolled Capitalist influence in our society and the neglect of workers’ interests in the vulnurable market, and the lack of effective genuine leadership in all sides of this discourse.

    NUM is slowly becoming a corporation and they will obviously protect their capitalist interests, intentionally or unintentionally. They will find it very difficult to balance workers interests and their business interests. They will negotiate on the framework that advances capitalist agenda because they benefit from this system.

    On the other hand, you have leaders whose interests are to gain from this flawed system at the expense of the workers. If NUM in particular and COSATU in general were genuine to represent workers interests, they should have foreseen that they cant be sitting in the boardroom and with workers at the same time. They are conflicted and if one is conflicted one recuses ones’ self but NUM did not. This immediatley raises ethical levels and values of these leaders and their integrity to change the labour space especially in the mining sector. They should understand that their purpose is not only to negotiate but to change the labour landscape by ensuring that the socio-economic conditions are greatly improved in this industry. For instance, we hear on TV from CEO of chamber of mines that Lomni mine paid five hundred million couple of years back for the purpose of improving the same in that area but nothing has been done since. The Question is where is that money lying and why for this long and why NUM is not following on this issue if they are the true champions of the workers. They have neglected them hence there is now a new splintet union which is more radical in approach.

    So, the foundation upon which this relationship is built is flawed and NUM is conflicted and will fail in its endevours to represent the workers.

    • My take Mazo is that the system is founded on a flawed premise, and even if they can lobby the conflict will still exist and they will forever tilt in favaour of thier profit making decisions.

      NUM needs to be totally independent from business, they would rather invest in a different industry if they want to make money, but workers should also benefit from such investments if they use workers money.

      • I fully agree with you Vuyo, however, there should be a clearly defined relationship between the trade union and the company concerning labour relations, hence I am referencing in-house lobbying.

  3. Civil Society is not defined by any dictionary meaning. Civil society represents the masses of ordinary people and not person’s aligned to a government. They purely represent the needs of society and cannot play any dual role. Any organisation that is aligned to a political party will have biased views and will not truly represent the needs of society. This particular has made it clear that they are on a high on a role of luxury living, and in fighting for positions of power is all we see, high salaries and vulture like attitude towards the state coffers so how do you expect this government to care about the masses. They have been given ample opportunity for the last 18 years and have proved a failure.

    • Devi, the people represented by COSATU, are not aligned to the government, but the ideological orientation informing their course, is, aligned. There is nothing wrong in that. Problem in the Marikana case is that trade union leaders are aligned to both the goverment and the capital. Hence the Marikana debacle presents a conflict of interests between the workers and their union representative.

  4. Thanks, Zoe.Well-written; congratulations

    >>> zolekandayi 9/7/2012 8:53 AM >>>

    zoleka posted: “The on-going strike at Marikan suggest that as the African National Congress (ANC) needs to bring on board its stalwarts and prioritize the general South African interests, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) should reclaim its independe”

  5. Pingback: The Marikana Debacle: the Way foward for the ANC and COSATU | zolekandayi

  6. The tripartite alliance must end ‘cos it is failing workers.Workers are the worst-off in this alliance.Workers leadership(COSATU and NUM) is drawn into corporate boardroom politics,they are more worried about ‘stomach politics’ than workers’ concerns.We have been calling for this alliance to end because as long as it is alive,workers’ rights are going to be compromised.The ANC,state and business have all become predatory.The state and business,through the ANC as an alliance partner,are manipulating elections of leadership within unions so as to ensure that a more favourable leadership is installed,this is all at the expense of us as poor workers.Dangerous antiworkers and probusiness tendencies within unions leaderships is the result of this manipulation.Workers are left frustrated by all this and this frustration manifests itself in the extreme violence as was witnessed at Marikana.There is no hope for the poor workers.
    Phantsi nge’alliance’ phantsi,iyabanyisa abasebenzi le’alliance!!!!Iinkokheli zabasebenzi sezijike zaba ngamalokonya,amaqotha-qikili noorhoqotyeni.Abasebenzi batsala nzima umhla nezolo kodwa kuphinde bagxekwe xa bekhalazela iimeko ezingentle abasebenza phantsi kwazo.

  7. this entire scenario you call a “debacle” is actually a mess, these “workas” needed to be dealt with swiftly, BEFORE the unions lost control of the situation. I seems to me there may be a vacume in the leadership of the anc since its taking weeks for them to respond? or maybe this entire charade is to their benefit since now they can come forward and be the “heroes” and save the day…who knows?
    julius melemas influence cannot be underestimated, and his rousing and troublemaking are begining to verge on a crime. I would personally have sorted these violent warmongers with what they deserved in the first place…the military. No need to kill them, just simple use of army tactics to out manouvre them and force them into a situation where you or the army can force them into a position to make a choice, the obvious choice is drop you weapons, or we mow you down…or alternatively they can get into the awaiting police nyala or whatever van they have!!
    the world is watching the destruction of our mining sector and surely must be thinking “we cant invest in these clowns” im mean look at them. there is absolutely no control there.

  8. The role that Cosatu plays in our society as a champion of workers’ interests and a defender of their rights places them in a position to seek alliances on certain issues with civil society organisations where those interests intersect. It is rich for Jeremy Cronin to confuse what is progressive and revolutionary.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s