Cosatu plans a shadow Cabinet

Trade union federation Cosatu is planning to form a shadow Cabinet to keep tabs on President Jacob Zuma’s new administration and ensure it delivers on the ambitious promises in the ANC’s election manifesto.

The labour federation will establish a deployment and accountability structure that will oblige all its leftist leaders in Zuma’s Cabinet and in the provincial and national parliaments to be accountable directly to Cosatu.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian this week that these plans will top the agenda at Cosatu’s national congress in September.

Despite improved relations between the ANC and its alliance partners, there has been little sign that the Zuma-led government is prepared to make the changes to macroeconomic policies that Cosatu has been pushing vigorously in the past few months.

Dlamini said the congress will consider new strategies to put pressure on Zuma and the ANC to consider some of the left’s policy proposals. ”Our theme for this year’s congress is the consolidation of working-class power in defence of the creation of decent work,” he said.

In his state of the nation address last month Zuma was silent on ANC resolutions, such as extending the qualifying age for child support grants to 18 years and extending free education to undergraduate level. The Zuma government has not outlined how it intends to fast-track the implementation of industrial policies that Cosatu and the SACP believe are vehicles to create work.

In a veiled attack on Planning Commission Minister Trevor Manuel, Dlamini told the M&G Cosatu was aware that some in the so-called 1996 class project are trying hard to influence Zuma to continue with the growth, employment and redistribution (Gear) policies introduced in that year.

”We will follow the remnants of the 1996 class project, whether they are in the alliance or government,” Dlamini said. ”By including them in his new Cabinet, Zuma gave them a second opportunity to behave. They should be loyal to the policies of the ANC. We know others want to be more influential and make outrageous statements [on policies]. I don’t want to talk about individuals, but what I know is they will be dislodged,” said Dlamini.

Although Cosatu respects the fact that leaders of the left deployed in government have the responsibility to report to Zuma and the ANC, he also expected them to report to the new Cosatu accountability structure.

Dlamini said the structure will enable Cosatu to tighten the accountability of those of its leaders deployed to government. ”We take it that these leaders know the agenda of decent work and industrial policy. They know what Cosatu sought to achieve through this platform.”

The structure will have the power to recommend to Cosatu’s central executive committee to recall those who fail to pursue a working-class agenda. ”We made serious mistakes in the past by deploying people in Parliament without them accounting to Cosatu. It’s not going to happen this time around. Anyone who moves far away [from the left agenda] will be punished,” said Dlamini.

Also on the agenda will be the effectiveness of the alliance between Cosatu and the ANC. ”There are people who say Cosatu will not be capable of representing workers’ issues while in bed with the ruling party. On the other hand, there are those who question [the rationale] behind Cosatu’s aggressive stand on the new government when it is in an alliance with the ANC.

”This puts us in a position where we need to devise an approach that will satisfy the aspirations of our members and make sure that government delivers, without creating the impression that we are putting it under pressure.”

Dlamini acknowledged that Cosatu risks losing some of its members if the union allows the perception that it is no longer relevant to the interests of the working class to continue.

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