[DEBATE] : Mbeki or Zuma, alliance will change
grinker at mweb.co.za
Tue Dec 11 10:14:24 GMT 2007
Mbeki or Zuma, alliance will change
Karima Brown and Amy Musgrave, Business Day, 10 December 2007
Regardless of who wins the African National Congress (ANC) presidential
succession race, what is clear is that the tripartite alliance will never be
the same again.
This holds true even if ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma, whose main backers
include the ANC's tripartite alliance partners, the South African Communist
Party (SACP) and Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), trumps his
rival, President Thabo Mbeki, next week in Limpopo.
It is not as if a Zuma presidency of the ANC will magically resolve the
structural and political fault lines that have emerged in the tripartite
At the centre of the divisions are deep-seated differences over economic,
political and social policy. The differences have crystallised around the
government's macroeconomic policy, especially the Gear (the growth,
employment and redistribution strategy) macroeconomic policy, as well as the
economic growth plan As gi-SA.
While ideological differences are hardly a new phenomenon, the management of
these conflicts under Mbeki's stewardship of the ANC has seen divisions hit
an all-time low.
Cosatu and the SACP have increasingly been marginalised in the alliance, and
have had very little effect on government policies.
They have also complained of an overcentralised presidency, saying Mbeki has
effectively demobilised the ANC.
There have also been differences around the handling of the HIV/AIDS
pandemic, and foreign policy matters such as Zimbabwe.
In the event of an Mbeki victory at Polokwane, alliance relations are likely
to take a turn for the worse . Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi is
on record as saying that a third term for Mbeki would not be in the
Given Cosatu's wholesale investment in a Zuma presidency, it is likely that
Mbeki will further freeze contact with the union federation's present
leadership, and rather move closer to unions independent of Cosatu, with
which he has already formed a relationship through the presidential working
group on labour.
Although Mbeki has often insisted that the alliance should remain intact,
some Cosatu leaders believe the president will move quickly to break up the
alliance if he stays in control.
Next year will be decisive for both allies, as they ponder the way forward
on the eve of the general election in 2009.
Both Cosatu and the SACP are bound by resolutions taken at their last
conferences regarding the future of the alliance.
In terms of resolutions adopted by the two, Cosatu has put forward several
options for a reconfigured relationship. They include an enforceable pact,
which would see the ANC giving Cosatu a greater policy role in exchange for
The SACP would contest state power in elections in the context of a
reconfigured alliance. This could include an electoral pact, possible
quotas, stricter accountability for party members in the government, or an
independent electoral list on the voters' roll, with the possible objective
of constituting a coalition alliance agreement after an election.
In the event that relations sour and the alliance disintegrates, the SACP
has already begun preparations to build a party suited for electoral
politics. At its last central committee meeting, the party agreed to build
SACP branches in all of SA's voting districts. Should the SACP contest
elections, it would present Cosatu with a major challenge, given that the
overwhelming majority of its members are likely to vote ANC. However, the
Cosatu leadership, many of whom serve in the SACP's top structures, will be
torn between the two parties.
What is clear in the run-up to the ANC's elective conference is that power
in the alliance has shifted from the leadership to the membership.
This was demonstrated in the nomination process for the future leaders of
the ruling party, which saw the rejection of senior cabinet ministers and
national executive committee members who are candidates for the new
The left believes a Zuma presidency will usher in greater dialogue between
the allies, and attempts to seek consensus. A Zuma victory would in part be
due to Cosatu and many in the SACP having provided him with the
organisational muscle to topple Mbeki.
While Zuma will face the same challenges as Mbeki did in the alliance
concerning macroeconomic policy should the left want to extract policy
rewards for its backing, there appears to be convergence among the allies on
a change in some policies , including those on education, health and rural
This was evident at the ANC's policy conference earlier this year where
delegates accepted the need for a developmental state with a greater role
for the state in economic growth.
Whoever wins, the margin by which they win, and how they handle the victory,
will set the tone for future alliance relations.
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