What Research Says about the State of the ANC/SACP/COSATU Alliance

5 Sep 2013

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The state of the ANC/SACP/COSATU alliance is being hugely debated following an alliance summit last weekend in the aftermath of trade union federation, COSATU, suspending its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi. His suspension came after months of on-going speculation about strained relations and divergent objectives amongst alliance partners. In the run up to South Africa's 2014 general elections, a weak alliance is not a good sign for the ruling party that depends on the electoral support of COSATU members. Research conducted amongst COSATU shop stewards provides the hard data, which adds greater clarity to the mainstream debates of the day.

Is there support for Jacob Zuma and the ANC amongst COSATU shop stewards?

The research presents some interesting findings, which we can see in data presented by Mohamed Motala of the Community Agency for Social Enquiry (CASE), a research NGO that conducted the survey of shop stewards on behalf of the Forum for Public Dialogue. One should note that this research, although only publicly released last week, was actually conducted a year ago.

At a forum hosted by the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) on 29 August 2013, Motala presented some thought-provoking statistics about shop stewards' support for the alliance and their support for Jacob Zuma in the run up to the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung last year.

Eighty-eight percent of shop stewards said, “COSATU should support the ANC in the next national and provincial elections.” However, only 53% said that the state of the tripartite alliance was good. Thirty-five percent said it was poor.

In the run up to the ANC’s elective conference in Mangaung in December 2012, shop stewards were canvassed on who they would vote for in the ruling ANC. Less than half, 43% said that they would vote for Jacob Zuma, while 36% said that they would vote for Kgalema Mothlanthe.

What is interesting about these results, however, is how support for Zuma and Mothlanthe was split between provinces. Zuma had majority support amongst shop stewards in just two provinces: 80% and 50% in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga respectively.

However, in six of South Africa’s nine provinces, Limpopo, Free State, North West, Eastern Cape, Western Cape and Gauteng, Mothlanthe had greater support amongst COSATU shop stewards. While in the Northern Cape, shop stewards were equally split in their support for Zuma and Mothlanthe.

Moving away from the question of shop stewards’ support for the political leadership of this country, the survey also sought to canvas views on which party shop stewards would vote for in the forthcoming general elections. They were asked, “If the SACP were to contest the next election, would you vote for it?” Forty-four percent of shop stewards answered "yes".

At the same time, Prof. Eddie Webster of Wits University, who was also involved in the research, additionally presented data from the study at this GIBS forum. He argued, “There is clear support for a party to the left of the ANC. Whether it’s a classic Marxist/Leninist Communist party or whether it’s a more left social democratic labour party, is the interesting question. What form this alternative would take -- that’s the battle for ideas.”

According to Webster, when the hypothetical question was asked, "If COSATU were to form a labour party and contest national elections, would you vote for such a party?" - 65% of shop stewards answered "yes".

Finally, also evident in Motala’s report of the study is the fact that COSATU shop stewards are greatly concerned about corruption.

Ninety-one percent said that corruption is increasing; 81% said that too many people in government are corrupt; 78% said that the NGO Corruption Watch would enhance the fight against corruption and 74% said that the South African police are corrupt. At the same time, a surprising 71% acknowledged that there is corruption in some of the unions.

This video is posted by SACSIS with the kind permission of the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS).

Editor's Note: You might also be interested in this clip from the same GIBS forum where Moeletsi Mbeki of the Forum for Public Dialogue argues that the "the alliance that was set up to fight against apartheid is obviously one of the institutions...that is becoming more and more obsolete." He argues further, "I don't expect that the alliance will last much longer..."

You can find this page online at http://sacsis.org.za/site/article/1775.

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