ANC warns unions about protests

African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Gwede Mantashe warned trade unions on Thursday against public attempts to push the government to give in to demands.

“You are projecting the [President Jacob] Zuma leadership as weak and indebted to various constituencies,” Mantashe told a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) congress in Johannesburg.

Some trade unions were creating the impression that “the ANC must react instinctively to demands”, said Mantashe.

He cited a protest by the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) to the South African Reserve Bank offices in Pretoria on Wednesday as an example.

“I am not sure the Numsa march was helpful,” said Mantashe.

“I need to talk to comrade Vavi about that,” he added, looking at Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Mantashe said the Numsa march to the Reserve Bank on Wednesday, while it was meeting to discuss interest rates, was “counterproductive”.

Numsa marched to bank’s offices in Pretoria to demand a cut in interest rates and the scrapping of inflation targeting.

The Reserve Bank was under pressure from all sectors to drop rates following news this week that South Africa was in its first recession in 17 years.

Mantashe said the Reserve Bank would not want to be perceived as having buckled under pressure from unions if it decided to drop rates.

“It is not a household tactic to march because you are actually pushing them not to drop rates,” said Mantashe.

Numsa officials were furious after learning the Reserve Bank would not accept their memorandum of demands.

But Mantashe said unions were welcome to talk to the ANC about their complaints.

“It [protest action] may be counterproductive, particularly when there is an ANC that is there to listen and engage.

“It doesn’t help if those doors are open and you keep kicking the door.

“Walk in and engage,” said Mantashe.

Earlier, Vavi told the congress that the tripartite-alliance between the ANC, Cosatu, and the South African Communist Party had never been as strong as it was now.

“The alliance has never been so strong.

“It is a spell of unity we have never seen,” Vavi said.

“The challenge is how we will keep this unity strong.”

Vavi called for “a shift by the new government to more expansionary economic policy” to deal with the recession.

This should include “a radically expanded public works programme”.

Mantashe said the government would do its utmost to combat unemployment.

But he warned that the current economic situation was not going to make it easy.

“This situation is going to impact negatively, particularly on the question of creating more jobs,” said Mantashe.—Sapa

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