Labour Wrap: Heaping confusion on confusion

AS THE ANC heads towards its critical elective conference next weekend, South Africa is being presented with a carnival of chaotic back-stabbing and opportunism behind constant cries for unity, says Terry Bell in his latest Labour Wrap.

It amounts, he says, to a political swamp where greed and self-interest are corrosive elements.

Cosatu, still perhaps the largest trade union federation in the land, is in the midst of this. While the federation is formally committed to supporting Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa in the ANC’s succession race, at a membership level, support - where it exists - is split among various factions.

Bell also feels that another split at leadership level may be looming, this time between Cosatu and the other alliance partner of the ANC, the South African Communist Party (SACP). This, he maintains, came very much to the fore following the shambles that was the Metsimaholo by-election.

The political line-up and the reactions to the controversial results showed clearly that deep divisions exist and appear to be widening. In the first place, the decision by the SACP to stand candidates independently - and in opposition to - the ANC was the first electoral break with the ANC-led alliance.

But the SACP initially explained this by stating that the party was compelled to make this move because of the poor performance by ANC members. This “confusing formulation”, says Bell, seemed to imply that the SACP was only proposing “better quality” alliance candidates who happened to be posing in SACP colours.

However, in the wake of the elections it was stated that just because the SACP was in alliance with the ANC, this did not mean the SACP would back the ANC. This must have been especially confusing for Cosatu members on the ground who had supported the SACP candidates.

It was not surprising that they did so, because Cosatu has, for more than 20 years, officially regarded the SACP as the workers' party. Yet, in the wake of the Metsimaholo shambles, the Cosatu leadership stressed that it did not support any party other than the ANC.

All this has done, says Bell, is to heap confusion onto confusion.