Socialist Worker

First steps towards a radical alternative in South Africa

South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, is facing unprecedented tensions. Trade unionist Sahlulele Mkhize looks at the formation of a major new opposition group.

Issue No. 1966

More than 70 trade union, campaigning, socialist, religious and civic groups came together recently to form a coalition to challenge the ANC government’s economic policies.

The group is called the Western Province Coalition For Jobs and Against Poverty.

The background is the long term disenchantment with the slow pace of change over the last decade, and the rise in community and workers’ struggle over the last six months.

The atmosphere at Cape Town’s city hall, where the founding meeting took place, was a heady mix of rebellion and defiance.

Demands included a minimum state benefit for all, increased spending on health, transport and education, and a greater emphasis on public services.

Mike Lowe from the Cosatu trade union federation said, “The country’s wealth still lies in white and a few black hands. The inauguration of a possible alternative to the ANC reflects growing impatience amongst the mostly black urban and rural poor who feel they’ve not benefited over the last 11 years.”

Tony Ehrenreich, the Cosatu secretary for the western Cape province, said, “The wealthy have benefited tremendously from the policy choices that the ANC has made, both the historical white wealthy South African, but also the new emerging black super wealthy groups.”

As you would expect, there are tensions in the movement. Some people want it only to be a pressure group that will redirect the ANC back to its “true path”.

Others would like an independent political coalition to emerge, modelled on the United Democratic Front that brought together a broad range of groups to fight apartheid.

What is not in doubt is that the level of struggle has risen in South Africa and every political formation is facing new strains.

The large majority of South African workers still feel that the ANC is “their party”. There is a long way to go before a genuine alternative is built. But the events of last week show struggle is now raising political issues.


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International
Sat 3 Sep 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1966
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