[Marxism] COASTU protests against ANC

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Mar 8 07:46:41 MST 2012

NY Times March 7, 2012
Trade Union Group, A.N.C. Ally, Holds Strikes in South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — Tens of thousands of South Africans marched in the 
streets of the nation’s major cities on Wednesday in a national 
strike called by Cosatu, the powerful group of trade unions, a 
crucial ally of the governing African National Congress that is 
growing increasingly critical of its policies.

The stated reason for the strike was to protest new highway tolls 
and the practice of contracting out jobs through 
temporary-employment firms, at lower pay and with fewer benefits 
than permanent workers get, a practice known here as labor 
broking. But the strike tapped a deep undercurrent of 
dissatisfaction with the A.N.C., which has governed South Africa 
since white minority rule ended in 1994.

“We voted for the A.N.C., but we can’t even send our children to 
school because of their corruption,” said Thabiso Bopape, 30, a 
contract worker for the postal system who earns much less than 
regular government employees doing the same work.

Mr. Bopape and thousands of others gathered in downtown 
Johannesburg on Wednesday, wearing the T-shirts of their unions 
and waving placards denouncing corruption and capitalism.

Zwelinzima Vavi, the secretary general of Cosatu, said in a fiery 
speech that racial apartheid was increasingly being replaced by 
economic apartheid. He said there would be civil disobedience if 
the government went ahead with its plans to charge tolls on 
highways that were built with tax money.

“We have fired our first warning shot,” Mr. Vavi told the cheering 
crowd. “There are still many bullets in our chamber.”

The marches come at an important moment for the A.N.C., which is 
celebrating its centennial this year. The party faces growing 
doubts from a public that has historically returned it to power 
with huge majorities.

The party will hold its conference to choose a leader in December, 
and in June it will hold a policy conference to discuss ideas for 
how to tackle some of the country’s most bedeviling problems, like 
unemployment that reaches 40 percent among young people.

South Africa is often roiled by protest. Demonstrations, sometimes 
violent, happen almost daily in the townships where the poor 
struggle to live without basic services like electricity, water 
and toilets.

But the outpouring on Wednesday came from working people, not the 
destitute, and their protests took place not in distant townships 
but in the heart of South Africa’s cities. The toll issue was a 
flashpoint for their anger.

“We already paid once, why should we pay again?” said Busi 
Harishe, 34, a shop clerk who joined the protest. “Petrol prices 
are already high. Working people are suffering too much.”

Julius Malema, the contentious former leader of the A.N.C.’s youth 
league, also spoke to strikers on Wednesday. Mr. Malema was 
expelled from the party for breaking rules and espousing 
controversial positions contrary to party policy, like calling for 
mines to be nationalized. He also faces an investigation into his 
personal fortune, which has expanded along with his political 

Young marchers like Mr. Bopape said Mr. Malema, who is appealing 
his expulsion, should stay in the party.

“He is the voice of the youth,” Mr. Bopape said. “No one else is 
speaking for us.”

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