Rifts continue to form in tripartite alliance ahead of ANC’s 55th National Conference

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The long-standing relationship between the African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), and the South African Communist Party (SACP) will come under the spotlight at the ANC’s 55th National Conference.

In recent years, the tripartite alliance has shown cracks as the government and labour have failed to reach a  consensus on a number of issues involving public sector workers.

The government’s failure to honour part of its three-year wage agreement and the recent deadlock on the public sector wage negotiations have widened the divisions among the alliance partners. This pushed some Cosatu unions to call for the federation to support the SACP if the party decides to contest the 2024 national elections alone.

Relations between Cosatu, ANC, SACP under the spotlight:

Outstanding issues 

Cosatu says there are a lot of issues that have been outstanding that they would like to see come under the spotlight at the conference amongst which are the issues of the unilateral implementation of a 3% wage increase and the reconfiguration of the alliance.

“We would like the ANC to discuss a number of issues affecting the workers in particular the economic crisis we are facing in this country. Issues discussed at the level of ETC where Cosatu and SACP have input on a number of economic issues also raised at the ANC policy conference around the social compact that will deal with a lot of issues including that of service delivery. The ANC must come up with decisive resolutions around dealing with issues of the SOEs,” says Cosatu General Secretary Solly Phetoe.

It was at that Cosatu congress where the SACP once again raised their dissatisfaction with the state of the alliance, threatening to contest the 2024 national elections alone.

SACP’s General Secretary Solly Mapaila says the SACP is ready to contest the elections, it’s just a matter of engagement. “Things have not been well for the alliance, and we’ve been calling for a reconfiguration. We’ve raised issues that still need to be discussed with our alliance partners but never say we are not ready. We work on the revolutionary agenda that still need to be realised if properly implemented.”

Separation of tripartite

The ruling ANC was alienated at the recent Cosatu Congress. But political analysts say calls for the separation of the tripartite alliance are not new and frankly unrealistic at this point.

Political analyst Levy Ndou says, “We are not getting the story of the SACP going at it alone for the first time but I think also, you need the workers, you need the SACP that is able to persuade the alliance leader the ANC to work in the interest and the benefit of the workers. I don’t see the SACP going at it alone and being successful. There is a lot of groundwork that needs to be done. They need to start building strong branches.”

Alliance partners will have a role to play at the ANC conference where the tough questions will have to be trashed out on outstanding issues and the future of the tripartite alliance.

Director of Research at ASRI, Angelo Fick says “If the Congress of South African Trade Unions is there to serve the interest of the workers, they must explain to themselves and their members how over the last 28 years they’ve been in an alliance with a party that oversaw labour brokering, Neoliberal policies, they oversaw the decimation of the clothing manufacturing industry, charges of import and export at harbours. The SACP also needs to ask themselves why there have been policies implemented that still give way to corruption and maladministration.”

Cosatu and the SACP backed Cyril Ramaphosa in 2017 on his election as ANC president. The two agree that the plight of workers and that of the country have worsened.

It remains to be seen, who will get their support in this congress with the hope being that whoever emerges will put the needs of the alliance and the country’s working force as a priority.

VIDEO: Strong views within Cosatu to support SACP at 2024 elections, 29 Sept 2022