18 February 2013

South Africa: Cosatu Sees No Future for Agang

Photo: Melody Chironda/AllAfrica
Mamphela Ramphele, Former Managing Director, World Bank and former Vice-Chancellor, University of Cape Town.Mamphela Ramphela has spent a lifetime as a leading campaigner for social justice both domestically and globally. She sits on the board of directors of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has noted the announcement by Mamphela Ramphele that she is launching a new ‘party political platform’ called Agang.

Every South African has the constitutional right to form a political party, win votes and be elected to public office, and we welcome any new party for providing the electorate with new and different choices.

However COSATU sees no future in this party. As with any new party we get the inevitable political demagoguery – “We are here to invite people of my generation to rekindle the South Africa of our dreams. We are here to invite people of my sons' generation to experience for themselves the thrill of living in an age of excitement and possibility. We are here to mobilize to build a world-beating 21st century democracy.”

We have however to look behind such fine but empty words, at the record of the person uttering them. What we can expect from someone who was a Managing Director of the World Bank from 2000 to 2004 and the Chairperson of Gold Fields from 2010 until she suddenly resigned just days before her Agang announcement.

How seriously can we take someone who has just stepped down as head of a big, ruthless exploitative mine employer when she talks of our “legacy of the exclusionary economic and political systems that continue to characterise the primary sectors of mining and agriculture” which “undermines our present and future economic prospects”.

Are the World Bank and companies like Gold Fields not perfect symbols of those “exclusionary economic and political systems” she now condemns? Why did she not condemn such systems when she was working for them?

When she declares that the “greatness is within our grasp if only we can reach out across divisions and self-interests and put the country first”, whose interests does she think must be sacrificed in the national interest?

Her answer, not surprisingly from someone from her background, but without any evidence to substantiate it, is “privileged union leaders” who she claims have become distant from the workers. She ignores the fact that those leaders have been democratically elected and re-elected by the workers they represent. They are a proxy target for the organised workers themselves, the class who such people as Ramphele always perceive as their biggest enemy.

Who is she - a recent head of a brutal mining employer - to lecture worker on how they should be organised? The reality is that she wants workers to be weak and leaderless.

Stripped of its bombastic rhetoric, Mamphela Ramphele’s speech offered no solutions to the triple crisis of unemployment, poverty and inequality but was a manifesto for neoliberalism. She speaks for the class of capitalists which has embraced her and now sees her as a saviour from their working class enemies.

Her economic policies are totally indistinguishable from those neoliberal views of the Democratic Alliance, who want to free the market economy so that it can exploit the workers more ruthlessly and increase the profits of big business.

Workers should not be fooled. The ANC has an incomparably better track record of struggle than any of the opposition parties, including this latest one. There are still issues to be debated and resolved within our alliance, but we are far more likely to begin the economic transformation of our country under a movement forged in the furnace of the liberation struggle than one led by a former World Bank bureaucrat and head of a mining monopoly.

Patrick Craven (National Spokesperson)

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