Luthuli House toothless; Pretoria calls the shots – Cosatu president

The ANC has lost control of setting the agenda for its government and ministers are calling the shots for the party that the electorate voted into power.

Ministers deployed in government dictate which policies from the party’s manifesto and those taken during the party’s elective conference they wish to implement.

The situation has degenerated so much that the government is holding the ANC on a tight leash like a tail wagging a dog.

This could be one of the reasons many assume that the left’s influence in the ANC and its government is minimal or does not exist at all.

These are the views of Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi, who spoke to Sunday World Engage this week.

Losi also said Cosatu would rally behind the governing party in next year’s general elections but would not stand in the way of workers if they decide to withdraw their support for the ANC in the future.

Cosatu and the SACP, in Losi’s opinion, continue to have a significant impact within the ANC-led tripartite alliance. However, ANC political shenanigans have largely overshadowed their influence.

This because, she said, some decisions taken in the alliance disappear without a trace due to rogue ANC deployees in government who do as they please.

“The problem is that the ANC is no longer the dog that is wagging the tail, it is the opposite,” charged Losi during the wide-ranging interview at Cosatu House.

“Those that are deployed in government are the ones that dictate which policies they are going to implement outside of the manifesto of the ANC and what was resolved at the ANC conference [which Cosatu might have influenced]”.

At its national conference last December, the ANC delegates agreed that all SOEs should be placed under line departments, which meant placing state power utility Eskom under mineral and energy minister Gwede Mantashe. But soon thereafter, President Cyril Ramaphosa instead appointed a minister of electricity without consulting the three alliance partners.

Recently, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan put together a new bill proposing a holding company to house all SOEs. In 2020, former finance minister Tito Mboweni made public comments that the conference resolution to nationalise the South African Reserve Bank was “a mistake”.

“So, the influence is there, but you have instances where we can see that there are individuals within the ANC that are fighting against that influence, thinking and believing that if Cosatu has bigger influence, it means we can dictate whether they can be in cabinet or not and whether they can be in parliament or not.

“So, we are having a battle of deployments over a battle of policy implementation,” said Losi.

She said Cosatu’s influence remained within the ANC-led alliance albeit very limited because of ANC’s own weakness in providing direction to its state deployees.

Moreover, the shortcoming was that Cosatu and SACP could not force the hand of ANC cadres deployed in government, including those from their ranks.

It was on these grounds that Cosatu and SACP had been steadfast in calling for a reconfiguration of the alliance, she said. But the move, she added, was met with fierce resistance from the ANC ranks.

ANC national chair Gwede Mantashe previously told Cosatu and the SACP to jump if they thought the governing party would give them more say.

Said Losi: “The type of leadership that we sometimes have, it is no secret that today you have leaders that are about themselves and not about the organisation and why it exists.”

For example, she said, when they have a discussion within the alliance on the reconfiguration of the alliance, ANC leaders resort to personalising the issue instead of responding organisationally.

“Some in the ANC believe if you speak about a reconfigured alliance as Cosatu, it means you are saying they can no longer have the power to dictate who to deploy, they must wait for Cosatu and SACP to tell them who must go to parliament and who must go where, and therefore our influence becomes limited.

“So, the reconfigured alliance, to some in the alliance, is so narrow that it focuses on who goes where and deployed where. And Cosatu’s understanding of a reconfigured alliance is not just about who you deploy; it is about how we influence policy and make sure that we are driving the agenda of our contract we have as the alliance with the people of South Africa.”

Despite these frustrations, Losi added, Cosatu would remain committed to its chaotic marriage to the ANC.

This because while they were losing some battles, there were more victories they have scored from being in bed with the ANC than they would with any other party.

It was no mistake that the likes of the official opposition DA, she opined, had vowed they would clip the wings of organised labour as the first move once in government. The ANC remains the better devil, she said, but the workers have a last say on the matter.

“Workers have said that we are rallying behind the ANC in the 2024 general elections. I can tell you Cosatu will not shy away when workers say we no longer want a relationship with the ANC. It will be a decision of workers who are members of the federation,” said Losi.

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