ANALYISIS: Ramaphosa faces an ideological rift that will drag us all down


Ayanda Mdluli

With just under a year to go before the national elections next year and only a few months into his presidency after winning the ANC National elective conference in December, President Cyril Ramaphosa has found himself facing a revolt that may translate into a spectacular failure at polls as more and more voices lose confidence in the new dawn.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and its affiliate the National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) had played an instrumental role in elevating Ramaphosa on anti Zuma ticket at the elective conference in Nasrec towards the end of last year.

Eight months later, there appears to be a massive ideological fall out between Ramaphosa and South Africa’s labour unions after it was reported that government would cut 30 000 jobs over the next three years.

On Friday, unions came out guns blazing, revealing that they are prepared to fight fire with fire should government proceed with the planned job cuts. The ANC led government has been warned not to take any impulsive decision which might badly affect workers and service delivery.

Just recently, Gwede Mantashe, the minister of mineral resources lambasted Impala Platinum for embarking on a retrenchment process that would lay off 13 000 workers at their operations in the North West.

More questions than answers in the New Dawn

The latest developments have presented a calamitous conundrum for Ramaphosa’s New Dawn which continues to leave more questions than answers.

How does an ANC led government sack 30 000 employees (most of whom are black) in an economic environment where those who are economically active are at least two pay checks away from abject poverty?

With the increase in fuel prices, increase in VAT and rising food and basic household commodity prices, one would think that the best recourse wold be to preserve the current jobs in various industries and government while capacitating and creating more jobs where necessary.

Another question that will be difficult to answer is how does a government that is ready to throw its own people under the bus be capable of influencing corporate entities in the private sector, most of whom are always looking for an easy way out through cost cutting in order to streamline operations and maintain large profit margins at the expense of South Africa’s developmental objectives?

According to data supplied by COSATU, South Africa’s unemployment crisis is the worst in the world and we have even surpassed Greece, whose economy imploded a few years back and has since been hamstrung by global and European financial institutions.

According to COSATU, the South African public service shrank by one hundred thousand employees since 1994. This, according to the union suggests that the narrative of a bloated public sector is a dubious proposition at best.

The federation further commented that after the TBVC states were incorporated into the South African apartheid state in 1994, there were about 1.4 million public servants servicing a population of 40.1 million people.

“That number shrunk in 1996 to 960 000 after the introduction of GEAR. Currently we have about 1.3 million public servants servicing a population of 52 million people,” said the union in a statement.

Furthermore, COSATU revealed that it has been calling for a high-level jobs summit to discuss the ongoing job losses that have affected all the major sectors of the economy.

“If these rumours of government retrenchments are true, then COSATU will pull out of that Job Summit and will take the fight to the streets,” said the union.

Brace yourselves

With that said, if any of our ministers had to come out and condemn any more job cuts in any of our key economic industries in the private sector after these shocking revelations by the mail and guardian, they would undoubtedly look like idiots as it would be a simple case of the pot calling the kettle black.

The fallout in the tripartite alliance is inevitable and South Africans should brace themselves for a series of events that will more than likely drag us further down to economic ruin as union leaders and capitalistic government officials clash over which way is best to fix the economy.

Commenting on the developments on Friday, Nehawu said it was shocked and appalled by the plan to lay off more than 30 000 public servants in the next three years as part of cost-cutting measures.

The union has since said it would vehemently reject any job losses in the public service because of austerity measures meant to remedy the debt burden of the public service.

The union went on to further allege that most state resources are “looted by corrupt and greedy elitists who have no care for the repercussions of their plundering of the state and the ramification for the working class.”

Essentially, what this means is that the very same people who are proposing these austerity measures are the same people in senior positions in government who have been looting the state for their own benefit.

According to Nehawu, laying off staff in the public service which is already understaffed will put a huge dent in service delivery especially in health and education.

“For instance, the main reason the public healthcare sector is in shambles is precisely the lack of adequate staff to attend to patients. The national union has consistently called on government to fill all vacant funded posts to ensure that everyone in the public service is able to perform their tasks with efficiency, diligence and integrity. Currently service delivery is at an all-time low due to shortage of staff in the public service and public servants are subjected to perform jobs of three people at the same time which the compensation is for one person.”

The ANC led government seriously needs to come up with a job creation and job preservation strategy that is going to protect our people from the current economic downturn which is eating away at consumer pockets.

Confidence in our leadership is at an all-time know and come 2019, the ANC may be in for a big surprise.