Labour Wrap: Glimmers of hope in the gloom

WHATEVER happens at Nasrec this weekend at the apparent watershed elective conference of the ANC will probably not much affect the lives of most South Africans, says Terry Bell in his latest Labour Wrap.

Whether the conference collapses prematurely or ends in calumny or consensus, life should go on much the same as before.

If a state of emergency is declared, something Bell has for some time forecast as a possibility, all bets are off. Only a fool could then forecast what may happen.

Short of that, he maintains that the exchange rate value of the rand may weaken or strengthen “as the money market gamblers win or lose their bets”. With an already 18%-plus increase in electricity charges looming, the same trajectory towards tougher times will continue.

However, he claims that there are “flickers of hope”; that all is not doom and gloom. He points out that civic groups around the country are starting to coalesce, demanding change. Unions too are starting to flex their muscles to ensure that the pension funds of workers are protected.

This week there were also the small beginnings of what could grow into a Pan-African labour movement link between trade unionists responsible for communication. Thirty unionists from 14 African countries forged links as they attended a three-day communications course in Cape Town organised by their IndustriALL Global Union.

Bell claims that even in the much-publicised collapse of the Steinhoff share price there are “glimmers of hope”, mainly in terms of “education and opening the eyes of the public to the reality of the stock market”.

In his view, stock exchanges are “gambling dens that are only slightly more regulated than casinos”. He maintains that, since the advent of limited liability - and despite many attempts to tighten up regulations - gamblers are afforded protection even when they pillage public money. 

The Steinhoff debacle he sees as helping to highlight this point of view, and it therefore counts as another “glimmer of hope”.

What it will certainly do, he says, is to strengthen the resolve of the public sector unions in particular, to ensure greater worker oversight of pension funds and how they are invested.

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