Workers must make themselves felt in the ANC, says Zuma

President Jacob Zuma on Thursday called on workers to become active participants in the shaping of ANC policy.

In his address to the Numsa national political commission in Johannesburg in his capacity as the leader of the ANC, Zuma said workers should “influence the ANC from within”.

“The ANC is what it is today, because of South Africa’s working class consciousness,” Zuma was quoted as saying by EWN’s Stephen Grootes. “The fact there are no union leaders on the ANC NEC is a big shortcoming. How do you expect to influence policy if you’re not at the centre.”

Zuma said he will always have “working class feelings” and called on the working class to work towards building a stronger ANC.

“We as workers in South Africa succeeded to make the ANC a progressive organisation, a revolutionary organisation,” he said.

The president also constantly noted the importance of the “crucial” relationship between the ANC and South Africa’s unions in shaping the future of South Africa.

The comments were welcomed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), South Africa’s largest union structure and tripartite alliance member with the ANC.

“It has been a long standing policy of ours to have members join the ANC and make their voices heard.
We recognise we can’t dictate what goes on in the ruling party and membership is the only way workers can directly influence ANC policy,” Patrick Craven, Cosatu spokesperson told the Mail & Guardian.

Zuma has his work cut out for him if he wishes to court the labour movement in the run-up to the ANC’s Mangaung elective conference in December: Cosatu has remained one of the fiercest critics of the Zuma administration, despite their vociferous support for his election as president in 2009.

Most recently, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has vowed to press ahead with a strike planned in protest against the state’s e-tolling plans.

While Zuma’s party-specific message to workers was conciliatory, his government’s spokesperson on Thursday expressed little patience for workers’ displeasure with the tolling plans.

“This will be the name of the game,” Jimmy Manyi said. Those who oppose the tolls “must get used to it”.

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