Cosatu says DA, MK and EFF all ‘hard sells’ as coalition partners for ANC

A hat trick of hard sells – This is the response from the ANC’s alliance partner, the Congress of South African Trade Unions, to the idea of the African National Congress forming a coalition government with any of the main runners-up in the 29 May election: the Democratic Alliance, the uMkhonto Wesizwe or the Economic Freedom Fighters. 

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the labour alliance partner with the ANC and South African Communist Party (SACP), does not like any of the main offerings on the current coalition political menu.

Acting Cosatu spokesman Matthew Parks told Daily Maverick on Wednesday that the labour federation was still in discussions and did not want to present the ANC with an ultimatum, as parties scramble to form South Africa’s seventh governing administration of the democratic era. This is the first with the ANC deprived of its customary majority after its share of the vote plunged 17 percentage points to just over 40%.

Cosatu members during the National Day Of Action on July 06, 2023 in Cape Town  (Photo by Gallo Images/ER Lombard)

But Parks said that all of the top three runners-up in the 29 May election were unappetising for organised labour.

“The DA [Democratic Alliance] is a very difficult sell to Cosatu and workers, it’s a very difficult sell. In their manifesto they say they are going to scrap all the labour laws, they are opposed to a minimum wage. That’s an impossible policy platform for Coastu to stomach,” Parks said.

Ditto for disgraced former Jacob Zuma’s upstart uMkhonto Wesizwe (MK) party, which came a shock second in the election, harvesting almost 15% of the ballots cast.

“The MK is also a hard sell because they want to scrap the constitution and Coastu believes in the constitution. MK hasn’t even accepted the election results,” Parks said.

Asked about the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), Parks said it was also said it was a “hard sell” — so a hat-trick of hard sells.

“They are a breakaway from the ANC, there are some policy similarities but they have been very toxic in parliament.”

Parks said that Cosatu was meeting with its affiliate unions on Wednesday — which include the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Public and Allied Workers Union (Pawusa) of South Africa — for discussions on these issues and would be meeting with the ANC and SACP on Thursday.

Pointedly, Parks said that Cosatu was not pushing the ANC to accept this or that party in a coalition or some other political formula.

“At this point, we don’t want to get into which party yes, which party no. To be fair to the ANC we don’t want to say ‘you must take this one’,” he said.

It is also perhaps the case that Cosatu is not in a position to throw its weight around. Union membership in South Africa, including with those under the Cosatu umbrella, has been in decline.

Coastu affiliates such as the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) — once led by ANC heavyweights including President Cyril Ramaphosa and Chairperson Gwede Mantashe — have shown declining interest in political activism in the decade since Frans Baleni led the union.

Coastu said in a statement on Tuesday that it wanted the new government “… to come up with a mass stimulus package to spur the economy, slash unemployment and poverty, and deliver quality public services”.

That will certainly be a hard sell to the DA, but also to the wing of the ANC that understands capital and knows South Africa simply cannot afford a massive fiscal stimulus package.

The sales pitches are indeed going to be tough in the coming days.

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