Challenges for Cosatu and the democratic movement

The election campaign has left us with many challenges. Principally the democratic movement faces the following challenges:

consolidating the progressive shifts in economic policies;
building the Alliance ;
attending to organisational challenges that emerged during the campaign; and
preparing for the local government elections. Consolidating progressive shifts in economic policy
The key challenge is to consolidate the progressive shifts in economic policies, which naturally include giving meaning to the people’s contract to create work and fight poverty. Over the next five years, Cosatu must ensure that the working class takes a lead as we put into practice the concept of a people’s contract to create work and fight poverty.
The ANC Manifesto largely reflects agreements reached at the Growth and Development Summit (GDS). It is a concern that President Mbeki’s State of the Nation address retained a strong commitment to job creation but specific proposals continued to focus on a narrow export-oriented strategy.
In line with the 2015 programme, Cosatu and its affiliates must therefore improve their work to ensure:
sectoral strategies that can generate employment
improved engagement on workplace restructuring
improvements in social protection.
Another important challenge is to consolidate the emphasis on the central role of the public sector. We should work with government to transform the public service as it is important to avoid a one-sided approach that blames public servants for all the problems.

Rather we need a balanced approach that also appreciates the objective circumstances under which public service workers work and a commitment to deal with chronic staff shortages, invest in infrastructure and a general improvement in the conditions of service.

Building the Alliance
The elections, as usual, brought the ANC – South African Communist Party (SACP) – Cosatu Alliance together. This reflects the commitment of all the Alliance parties to unity, and their recognition that the Alliance is central to the on-going transformation. Our revolution would be weaker without the Alliance.
But the Alliance must not become an elections machinery only. Cosatu has long argued that its usefulness and activities must not be limited to delivering and working together only during the elections, while being excluded from governance. To that end, it must exercise effective oversight and collectively define a deployment strategy. For this reason the 8 th national congress resolution on deployment and the electoral system should be on the agenda of future engagements in the Alliance . We need to ensure that the list process remains substantially democratic.
Building a popular movement for transformation (PMT) is a critical component of a coherent alliance. In this context we need to define steps to be taken to build a popular movement for transformation in the context of how we historically conceptualised the PMT and how it relates to the People’s Contract.
The problem remains of divergent conceptualisations of the Alliance , which the Ekurhuleni Summit did not resolve. Our 8 th national congress reaffirmed that Cosatu must continue to push for the Alliance to act as a political centre. As such, the parties to the Alliance must drive transformation jointly, whilst recognising the leadership role of the ANC.
It seems that two schools of thought exist on this subject in the ANC. Some argue that the ANC must be the political centre, although they also call for a stronger Alliance . In this case, however, there does not seem much purpose to the Alliance outside the elections.
A second school of thought believes that the Alliance as a whole should drive transformation, with tighter coordination of Alliance programmes. While this grouping may also not be comfortable with the use of the term “political centre,” its approach largely resembles the Cosatu position. We must take forward our Congress mandate but avoid polemics that would not help conclude this discussion. Specific actions to strengthen the Alliance this year include the following:
the Alliance Secretariat is in the process of drafting documents in preparation for a ten a side, which would be followed by an Alliance Summit. We need to ensure thorough preparation for these processes.
in the long run, the main solution must be to ensure that the Alliance works at all levels, not only nationally. In the provinces and at local level, the Alliance has not functioned at all in many places. In part, this reflects different structures and demarcations. But our success in ensuring co-operation during the elections provides a foundation for progress.
Cosatu’s central executive committee (CEC) made building the Alliance a priority for 2004. As part of that process, the 2015 programme calls on us to swell the ranks of the ANC. The CEC said we should recruit 30 000 workers into the ANC every year. We also agreed to develop joint campaigns and education programmes and build programmatic relations with the leagues of the ANC. This should be taken forward through bilaterals with the ANC.
regarding the SACP we said we would build the Socialist Commission and redevelop a longer term strategy of a minimum platform of work, provide financial support, build Socialist Forums, run joint campaigns and ensure young workers join the Young Communist League. The secretariat of SACP and Cosatu, which is the Socialist Commission, will convene urgently after the CEC to take these matters forward, including through a full bilateral meeting between the two organisations.
It is also important to appreciate some of the objective realities in the ANC. Since the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) has a large presence of government Ministers, it may have limitations in evaluating performance by each Ministry. We also need to evaluate the long-term implications of the growing presence of prominent business people in the NEC. Organisational challenges
Earlier we tabulated some of the organisational weaknesses that were thrown up by the election campaign. The practical steps that we should take to address organisational weaknesses include the following:
solve specific problems identified during the campaign
strengthen our local and regional structures as they are the backbone of Cosatu and in future allocate them more resources to help strengthen and sustain them.
invest in the proletariat – ensure training of stewards and locals, including through the Chris Hani Brigade, Socialist Forums, etc.
implement the resolutions from congress on organisational review and recruitment.
review the affiliation fee structure of the Federation to facilitate easy entry of vulnerable workers such as the informal sector, farm, domestic, casual and seasonal workers.
prioritise mergers between unions as per the organizational renewal programme.
These items should form separate standing items on the CEC agenda. In the political session we stressed the need to maintain levels of mobilisation and to develop a programme to return to areas where the campaign identified clear weaknesses. Preparing for local government elections
The local elections are coming soon – already next year. The biggest challenge we face is to avoid fatigue and ensure that our activists and members do not feel they are used as a tap that gets turned on and off at leadership’s peril.
We must maintain the closer links between leadership and its base as we move towards the 2005 elections. We need to be more strategic, not only as Cosatu, but as the Alliance . We cannot make a mistake of disappearing for the rest of the year only to resurface two months before elections with all problems raised with leadership during the campaign, unresolved.

The Alliance should use this period to go back to the people to address problems raised during election campaign. Cosatu convened special regional executive committees (REC’s) during May to develop programmes to address weaknesses identified.

The local government elections may prove far more difficult than the national campaign. Communities have consistently raised the problems of corruption of councillors, the indifference to problems raised with local leadership and general failure to deliver. These problems, whether real or just perceptions, must be systematically and consistently addressed.
Linked to delivery is the challenge of building the capacity of Cosatu locals to engage effectively with the Integrated Development Plans (IDPs). Failure to do so will reduce grassroots structures into mere spectators of the unfolding transformation. The locals must engage with local issues with our Alliance partners and the local issues mean helping with capacity to engage with local level delivery issues and taking advantage of the participatory systems established at the local government level.

Cosatu Political Paper – May 2004