In a speech to the eighth Pan African Congress at Wits University, suspended Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said workers should consider how they were being represented in government.
“Workers around the world, not only in Africa, have always elected political elites that have implemented policies that do not serve their political and economic interests...Perhaps we need to think very hard about how we should politically organise workers to represent their own interests in the state”
Author and political commentator, William Gumede says “The ANC has unfortunately moved towards a leadership serving the elites and it is now difficult for ordinary rank and file workers to have a direct say in policy direction. Ordinary supporters are being excluded out of the economy while the elite live in a bubble. The social gap is becoming too wide.” He said the clash of classes was also playing out in the unions, which was why some of them, such as the National Union of Mineworkers, were under pressure. The conflict of different class interests could cause further fracturing in trade unions, in Cosatu and the ANC. Gumede estimates that about 40% of the ANC is deactivated at present – either through disillusionment, sidelining, factional battles or apathy.
He said a strong Cosatu could have fought to take over the ANC from within. If that were not possible, the option was to move out of the alliance and lobby from outside. But, says Gumede, this is a “scary and difficult” consideration for anyone trying to chart a path away from the alliance. They would be cut off from patronage and resources from the state and state-owned enterprises, and would have to survive with no money for a while until they could establish themselves.