Mbeki called on to settle W Cape dispute

The Congress of South African Trade Unions’s Western Cape secretary Tony Ehrenreich is seeking President Thabo Mbeki’s help in his battle with the provincial government over a growth and development strategy for the province.

Ehrenreich this week accused the New National Party Western Cape Premier Marthinus van Schalkwyk of trying to undermine the African National Congress provincial minister of finance and development Ebrahim Rasool, who is driving the provincial Growth and Development Summit (GDS) process.

The summit in Cape Town on Friday is being held by the Western Cape government to endorse the national GDS process, held in June, where the government, business and labour hammered out a plan to kick-start economic growth and job creation in the country. Ehrenreich says that instead of sticking with the national agreement, Van Schalkwyk’s advisers have insisted on re-negotiating the entire document.

Ehrenreich says most other provincial governments are simply incorporating the national agreement in their own policies.
However, it should be noted that the Western Cape is the first province to hold a local growth summit. In terms of the national agreement, each of the provinces must hold a summit to endorse the strategy.

Ehrenreich said: “We pointed out that there is no provincial platform to enable labour to negotiate. But there is so much back-stabbing going on it is very difficult to work. Both Rasool and Van Schalkwyk are in the running for the position of premier next year. I think by ensuring that labour does not attend the summit, which will then result in its failure, Van Schalkwyk is trying to project Rasool as a failure.”

The trade unionist said he had raised the issue of labour being undermined with Mbeki at a provincial imbizo last month. “He had told me if labour was not accommodated I should contact him,” explained Ehrenreich.

Ironically, relations between Ehrenreich and Rasool have always been tense. Both engaged in much name-calling during labour’s anti-privatisation strike last year.

Thabo Mabaso, spokesperson for Rasool, dismissed Ehrenreich’s claims and said labour has been involved in the process from the beginning.

Western Cape minister of transport Tasneem Essop, who is a member of the negotiating team at the provincial development council, insisted the process was on track.

She said there was broad agreement on the five themes of job creation, skills development, investment, infrastructure and the improvement of the province’s harbours and airports.

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