The ANC have been governing South Africa since 1994, but they have not been doing so alone. The ANC stands for election as an independent political party but it is also a member of the Tripartite Alliance, which sees it supported by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). However the increasingly erratic behaviour of President Jacob Zuma, and the numerous and longstanding allegations of corruption, have alienated many within COSATU and the SACP. COSATU General Secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali has said that the current ANC leader is not the “right person” to lead the country. Zuma needs to be removed, and this move shows that the labour movement may well be the ones to do it.
The announcement of Mr Ntshalintshali comes at a turbulent time for the President. South Africa’s respected Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan was unexpected sacked in a Cabinet reshuffle that was widely seen as an attempt by Zuma to install his allies in significant positions of influence. This is important to note because Mr Gordhan has been Finance Minister, on and off, since 2009. The fact that, in the mind of Jacob Zuma, he is no longer an ally of the President one of two things: the President is becoming increasingly paranoid that a Cabinet minister may attempt a leadership challenge; or that Mr Gordhan had also expressed criticism of Zuma.
“The Political Bureau of the SACP met in Gauteng today in the context of the deep crisis into which the reckless actions of President Zuma have once more plunged our ANC-led movement, our hard-won democratic institutions, and our country in general.”
As the SACP statement makes clear, the opposition to Zuma is not based on an irrational distrust or hatred of the man, but his actions. His personal connections to the Gupta family, the clear usage of public funds to enrich himself, and his increasingly illogical behaviour have justifiably caused this mounting criticism.
There are many reasons as to why the ANC have been able to govern for so long, and one of these is that the Tripartite Alliance is very good at turning out its voters. The SACP is a comparatively small political party with a membership of just over 200,000 people. However, because of the organisation’s long history of struggle against economic injustice and the Apartheid government, many rank and file ANC members respect the opinion of SACP leaders. Because the SACP has remained a separate organisation, the endorsement of candidates has electoral advantages because it illustrates that that candidate is not just an ANC hack. But, unfortunately for Zuma, the reverse is also true.
But in my view the criticism from COSATU is more damaging. COSATU is the largest trade union federation in South Africa and represents around 1.8 million workers. Working class South Africans have been the electoral base of the ANC since the end of Apartheid and the trade union movement has been a vital tool in keeping working people up to date with ANC policy and organising labour against economic exploitation.
Without COSATU’s support the party could survive but it is likely that the electoral decline that the ANC is currently facing would accelerate. In increasingly affluent urban areas the ANC is under pressure from the Democratic Alliance who have rebranded themselves as an anti-corruption party. Further, in its traditional heartlands, the ANC is facing challenges from the EFF under former ANC Youth leader Julius Malema who argue that Zuma’s administration has failed to improve living and working conditions for ordinary South Africans. Considering that the largest organisation representing working people is railing against Zuma’s corruption, the DA and EFF’s criticisms are given more legitimacy.
For a number of months I have argued that Zuma needs to kicked out of office and the ANC needs to have an anti-corruption probe with all those found guilty prosecuted. Questions of corruption have been asked of the ANC leadership since Thabo Mbeki was President, but these allegations have dramatically increased in number and severity under Jacob Zuma. COSATU and the SACP are right to call for Zuma’s resignation but they should go one step further.
If Zuma refuses to stand aside, these two organisations should dissolve the Tripartite Alliance and stand against the ANC local and federal elections. The largest opposition in South Africa is the DA. I fervently believe that their neoliberal economic philosophy will result in wealth being extracted from the country for the benefit of political and economic elites. To prevent the DA getting into government the Left needs to organise, but the ANC also needs needs to be thrown out of office. The ANC is the largest left-wing party and as long the party is riddled with corruption the millions of people who depend on the Left will suffer. COSATU and the SACP should extricate themselves from the ANC, work with other smaller left-wing parties and bring down the ANC government.