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Dispatch: South Africa's Strike Season and ANC Tensions

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Analyst Mark Schroeder examines South Africa's recent strikes in the context of internal divisions within the country's ruling party's alliance.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress, or ANC party, is in the midst of their annual strike season. And recently, South African companies have come to agreements with some of the unions representing different sectors of the economy, including the gold miners, the coal miners, retail petroleum workers. The current strike season in South Africa really reveals the tensions within the ANC governing alliance.

The ANC came to power back in 1994 with the transition from apartheid to democracy, but the ANC itself is an umbrella party. There is the core ANC as a political party but there is also union representation from the Congress of South African Trade Unions, or COSATU, as well as the South African Communist Party, SACP, but there are other groups that are involved in this alliance including, the ANC Youth League led by its president, Julius Malema, as well as the ANC Women's League. During the struggle against apartheid they could all agree that they faced a common enemy, and they had a common consensus in confronting that apartheid regime. But since that transition in 1994, they lost that sense of cohesion, that unity of purpose and some groupings, such as the COSATU or the ANC youth league, have really been quite adamant in pursuing their individual and unique interests.

In terms of political self interest with an eye toward re-election, as well as trying to guide macroeconomic policy, the Zuma administration is trying to accommodate as best it can this wide-hat umbrella alliance. With regards to COSATU and its labor demands, the Zuma administration has been careful not to breach its relationship. COSATU for its part has been successful in negotiating pay raises ranging from eight to 10 percent for these unions that have been on strike in recent weeks, including the gold miners who settled Aug. 2 and the coal miners [who settled] a few days ago and as well as the retail petroleum workers.

These rival factions of the ANC alliance, notably COSATU and the South African Communist Party, SACP, are also self-interested in maintaining their relationship and alliance with the ANC. If they were to breach this alliance and form their independent political party, they could not contest against the ANC. The ANC still maintains the majority of vote support from the black South African population.

Moving forward, the Zuma administration will try its best to accommodate these various interest groups within its governing alliance, and it will not fundamentally burn any bridges. And if Zuma can maintain sufficient support, despite the criticisms, despite accusations of indecision, but to maintain enough accommodation from these various groups and avoid a breach, then he will be re-elected as president of the ANC. And that position will assure him of re-election as president of South Africa when national elections are held in 2014.

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