Workers’ Rights in South Africa: Does the Ruling ANC Party Represent the People? By Eric Draitser

27 December 2012Global Research –


This week’s elective conference of the ruling African National Congress (<strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC) in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa highlighted what has become an ever more apparent and painful reality to working people in that country and political observers around the world – the revolution of 1994 effected little more than cosmetic change.  The ruling class in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa, though fronted by black faces, continues to work in the service of Western finance capital and the neoliberal agenda, lining their own pockets while the streets, mines, and slums ring with the cries of the workers and the poor demanding justice.

As the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC convenes in Mangaung [i] to chart its economic policy and lay out its vision for the future of <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa, there remains the most important question: does the ruling party actually represent the people?  If their conduct this past summer in regards to the Marikana massacre[ii] is any indication, the answer is a resounding NO!  In fact, every decision taken by the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC has furthered the interests of the financiers and capitalists who continue to exploit the natural and human resources of the country. For example, the issues of mine nationalization, workers’ rights, unemployment etc. all demonstrate the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC’s unwavering support for the Washington consensus.

This, coupled with the recent political resurrection of Cyril Ramaphosa, one of the principle exploiters and intermediaries between the political ruling class and the international financiers, demonstrates unequivocally <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa’s descent into the quagmire of neoliberalism.

 ANC and the Economic Policy Prescription

One of the central economic questions in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa has been, and continues to be, the issue of the mines and their nationalization.  The natural resources of the country, the principle reason for their colonization in the first place, have been part of the allure of the country for investors.  However, the nationalization of these resources has also been one of the central demands of the workers, particularly the mineworkers, for years.

The core of the conflict is between the workers, who labor and toil deep inside those mines for little pay and the international business interests which own the mines, who try to prevent any form of nationalization at all costs.  The <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC, the elected body which claims to represent the people of <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa, took the position this week that[iii], “Mine nationalization is off the agenda.”  Instead, the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC leadership, composed of a black ruling class that has more in common with international capitalists than it does with black mineworkers, has proposed a series of so-called “reforms” which do little to undermine the fundamentally exploitative business arrangement that exists – a perpetuation of the status quo. One of the most insidious of these so-called reforms is the call for the creation of a state-owned mining company which will partner with private capital in mining ventures.  This utterly transparent attempt to further entrench the ruling class and enrich themselves without harming the co-conspirators around the world can only be seen as a further betrayal of the workers by the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC.

Aside from mine nationalization, the political ruling class has outlined an openly pro-financier monetary and fiscal policy.  Focusing on deficits as the centerpiece of the fiscal policy is directly in line with the Washington consensus which, as we see playing out in the headlines in the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>US daily, does nothing for the people while providing huge benefits for the wealthy, the only group for whom deficits are ever really an issue.  As for monetary policy, here the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC again shows its utter contempt for the working people of <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa, championing inflation targets over employment and growth.  If one needed any further evidence as to the collaboration between the political elite and their partners in business, one can simply look at the open letter recently issued by thirty of the most prominent business leaders, urging the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC to adopt this exact policy.  Once again, it seems that the interests of the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC and the capitalist exploiters are aligned, while those of the working class and the poor are ignored. President Zuma has given the green light to this program, going so far as to warn that there must not be any deviation from this course: an obvious reference to the iron fist with which his government has beaten down the labor uprisings throughout the country.

The ruling <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC party claims that they will attempt to force corporations, which have enriched themselves on the backs of the workers, to reinvest some of their profits in order to generate economic growth.  However, as usual, the party provides no clear plan as to how they would actually do this.  Instead, this is another mere platitude by the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC to placate an understandably upset people.  It should be noted that, under <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC leadership, “Businesses in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa have effectively been on an investment strike for some time. <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South African corporate savings are at a multi-decade high. The sector was sitting on roughly R520-billion in mid-2012 – the highest levels since 1995.”[iv]  In other words, the financiers and corporate oligarchs have been making record profits without actually spurring any real economic growth and, in fact, have been doing better than at any point since the end of apartheid.  This means then that, despite the revolution of 1994, there has no tangible and permanent economic progress for the mass of <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South Africans.

Glorifying Traitors, Silencing Dissent

No single figure more clearly symbolizes the moral and ethical bankruptcy of the ruling establishment in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa than does Cyril Ramaphosa, the newly appointed deputy to President Zuma. Ramaphosa not only is a corporate oligarch himself, he has shown utter disdain for the plight of mineworkers at Marikana and elsewhere.  In fact, Ramaphosa referred to the courageous strikers at Marikana as “criminals” and urged “concomitant action” to be taken.[v]  In other words, Ramaphosa urged his fellow collaborators in positions of power to crack down on the Marikana workers and, in a very direct way, contributed to the circumstances that led to the massacre.  However, in examining Ramaphosa and his clear allegiance to corporate interests, we must remember that he is no less than a traitor to the labor movement and the cause of social justice in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa.

Ramaphosa was seen as one of the heirs-apparent to Mandela in the wake of the 1994 revolution, having founded the National Union of Mineworkers. However, for a number of political reasons including conflict with former president Thabo Mbeki, he left the movement to establish a powerful and far reaching corporate empire. In so doing, he aligned himself with those same forces which, just a few years earlier, had been supporting the racist apartheid regime.  Moreover, he became the exploiter of workers rather than the “crusader” his reputation would have had you believe. Now, this same traitor to the cause of the working class and social justice is going to be in charge of shaping the economic destiny of the country.  This is, to say the least, a sad state of affairs.

As one examines those insidious figures that have risen to prominence within the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC, one must also focus on those true leaders who have been purged.  In this context, none is more important than Julius Malema, former head of the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC Youth League.  Malema, recently expelled from the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC on dubious charges, had been one of the most vociferous voices of dissent within the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC, always standing up publicly for the working class and the poor in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa and throughout the region.  As a recent article from the Mail & Guardian explains:

 Malema was originally found guilty by the national disciplinary committee of sowing   divisions within the ruling party in November last year and was sentenced to a five-year suspension by the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC. He was found to have unfavourably compared the leadership style of President Jacob Zuma to that of former president Thabo Mbeki, and made                        remarks about bringing regime change in Botswana. His suspension was turned into an expulsion after Malema appealed the sentence and the NDCA granted the young                      firebrand and the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC the opportunity to argue in mitigation of the original sentence.[vi]

This attack on free speech within the ruling party is more than just a simple attempt to silence Malema.  Instead, this was an orchestrated purge of him and a few others who represent a new generation of leaders whose allegiance is to the people and social justice, not to national and international business interests.  It should also be noted that one of Malema’s cardinal sins was speaking favorably of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe and the ZANU-PF party with regard to land expropriations, advocating for similar programs in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa, along with his condemnation of Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC-T party, widely understood to be the darlings of the imperial powers. Naturally, this sort of truth-telling is dangerous to the ruling establishment of the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC and necessitated decisive action to get rid of Malema and his circle.

 Sleeping with the Enemy

If the systematic oppression and repression of the workers and the poor were only the work of the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC, perhaps it would be easier to mount effective resistance.  However, the Congress of <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South African Trade Unions (COSATU) has effectively transformed itself into a collaborator in this injustice.  As political author William Gumede points out:

[COSATU] has to deal with the perception that there is a deep divide between union  members and leaders, who are seen as the new elite, while the rank and file, grassroots    members are struggling…There is the feeling that the alliance is not giving them as much as they are putting into it… The alliance for many ordinary members doesn’t offer much protection or deliver material benefits.[vii]

The inescapable fact that Gumede and others have pointed out is that COSATU has transformed itself into the political elite of the labor movement, contenting itself with trying to influence elections and the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC, thereby allowing the ruling class to continue their exploitation of the workers. In fact, it is this form of collaboration, along with the continued institutionalized white privilege, which has created what lawyer, lecturer, and activist Tshepo Madlingozi has referred to as “class apartheid”.[viii]  This is a critical point because, as we examine the legacy of the post-apartheid rule of the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC, we must critique it based on the reality of life for the people, not the ascension of a select few.

The mineworkers’ strikes at Marikana and elsewhere demonstrate clearly the discontent of the workers at their supposed labor representatives.  The wildcat strike, unsanctioned by the National Union of Mineworkers, itself an affiliate of COSATU, was led by what can be called a dissident union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).  This breakaway faction led by workers shows the power, but also the danger, of challenging the status quo in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa.  Moreover, it shows the degree to which COSATU is in bed with the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC and the ruling class in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa.

The uprising of organized labor in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>Africa is merely a product of the corruption, ineptitude, and betrayal of the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC and the ruling establishment.  Instead of representing the people and propelling the country in a progressive direction, away from the horrific legacy of apartheid and toward a prosperous future for all <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>South Africans, the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC leadership and its collaborators have shown themselves to be traitors to the cause of social justice and freedom which, at one time, the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC symbolized.  By pushing a neoliberal economic agenda while simultaneously silencing dissent and suppressing worker uprisings, the <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>ANC has discredited itself.  It is now time that the voice of the people, not just the elite few, finally be heard.

Eric Draitser is the founder of He is an <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>independent geopolitical analyst based in <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>New York City. He is a regular contributor to Russia Today, Press <strong class=’StrictlyAutoTagBold’>TV,, and other media outlets. You can reach him at


[i] 012-12-19-mine-nationalisation-off-the-agenda-as-anc-appeases-businesses


[iii] 012-12-19-mine-nationalisation-off-the-agenda-as-anc-appeases-businesses

[iv] Ibid.

[v] 012/dec/20/cyril-ramaphosa-return-nelson-mandela

[vi] 012-12-19-00-mangaung-conference-keeps-malema-out



One thought on “Workers’ Rights in South Africa: Does the Ruling ANC Party Represent the People? By Eric Draitser

  1. Marlene Papas says:

    Mr. Draitser Sir, Please, please read my letter. Its not well-written and full of mistakes, but it comes from my heart and I’d really appreciate a bit of your time to read it. I love South Africa and all her people, especially her poor, downtrodden and forgotten ones. I realize your essay above, is a 2012 piece, but it remains an excellent summary even to date, requiring only the recent horrific xenophobia flare-up to be added and the sharp increase of justifiable fury by the people at the treatment of a self serving, corrupt and greedy fat cat government — you brought the real story behind the official false narrative, which most ordinary South Africans remain clueless about, not to mention the uneducated poorest of the poor. Tragic that after 20 years only, it is slowly dawning on SA, that the paradise promised them by Nelson Mandela, was also stolen, as so many other Paradises were stolen that John Pilger enlightened the world about, also South Africa’s deal with the devil.

    Where did the ANC government go wrong, apart from the sell-out? Did they not have sufficient commitment to their people to provide well-built schools and more critically, source highly qualified teachers, which would have ensured that over the last 20 years the poor and neglected majority, out of step with modern tech, would have had access to schooling and after completion of their tertiary studies, been qualified to secure their futures? Could they not at least have bargained for that? Now, these people are without the educational tools to ensure their futures and with over a million generally more skilled and educated foreigners flooding the country from the mid-nineties, SA own bitterly poor, are held guilty of xenophobia, when actually it is the government who failed them, failed to equip them for outside competition, the government who did not limit the influx of foreigners per annum, in order to look after its own citizens first. A government, who in actual fact is but a puppet of international masters, owning and controlling all SA’s resources and big corp industries, down to the SA Reserve Bank, which is Rothschild owned. What an ungodly mess! Where land distribution was achieved and farms returned to the original owners, most of these people lacked farming experience to keep these farms productive and where white farmers assisted, when they left, farms fell mostly to decay, with government overseeing absent.

    Heart breaking, too when I first read about Mandela’s capitulation. He was old and tired, locked up for 27 years. Even if he had refused to give in, how will we ever know that he and his family were not threatened in typical global bankster style, or SA turned into a blood bath? Although Mandela was far from perfect, rapacious Ramaphosa, can never be compared to him — Mandela had a passionate dream for his people, even forgave us whites and called us his children, his Rainbow Nation. May he truly rest in peace.
    But as for the way Mandela, Mbeki and now Zuma governed and continue to govern South Africa — it is only a matter of time, before ongoing tension spills over and ignites into bloody revolt. Apart from racism still experienced, more or less contained, a genuinely committed ANC government could have made all the difference if they had from the outset called on us all to “nglanganisa” (work together) as ONE to build homes, schools, clinics, sport centres, share teacher skills and IT, accounting, nursing, engineering, etc .. even if out of our homes initially…. we’d have got so busy as a nation with it all and long term projects, without a push or a shove, we would’ve grown into a united nation…. Still we coped, as the world noticed during the 2010 Soccer World Cup, which turned into a national high, even if people condemned the cost of the world class stadiums. In 20 years SA had overcome really scary moments…many racial flare ups, much corruption… got over the Eugene Terreblanche saga, got over Julius Malema’s calls to, “Kill the Boer”, “Kill the white farmers”, causing yet more whites to pack for Perth or elsewhere, but then the shameful lack of service delivery riots commenced, which continue to this day and in between the dreadful Marikana Massacre, Ramaphosa named from the beginning as an international collaborator, but swept under the nation’s large carpet and then Zuma’s lame apologies — while black and white condemned this for the horrific blight it was on SA’s “young democracy” — then the first xenophobia attacks and again brutality at the hands of the SAPS, leaving people raw and reeling. Finally Zuma’s Nkandla scandal was exposed by a highly worthy Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, which served for the first time, to really narrow the racial gap between South Africans and primitive as it was, Malema was applauded for getting up in parliament’s holy-of-holies and with his freedom fighters, calling on Zuma to “Give back the money!”
    With all the above dramas, it became apparent to many small business owners and professionals of all races (those who worked and even played together due to their integrated professional milieu and their commitment to a peaceful SA offering a future for all), that the ruling party had now again brought out their old race card, fanning hatred between white and black to detract attention from their fraud, corruption and blatant self serving thievery of the nations coffers, as of course many of these scandals were out in the open. However, while today SA’s business world citizens of all races see through the government’s shenanigans, most of the poor and suffering majority are easily swayed to stay loyal to the ANC, especially with elections close and fear rampant that the few whites in the country may come to power again. That is why today, the sorrow I feel for South Africa, which could have grown into the only true multi-racial, multi-ethnic country in the world, runs deep for those who remain innocent, but outcasts, sacrificed by their own, condemned to remain uneducated (kept dumbed down on purpose?) and neglected to starve, both physically and spiritually. I have only ever known those around me, help them where I can, but while their comprehension of politics are limited, they know just from unjust. There is no hate from these rural blacks towards whites who truly become part of our families,as we provide employment, generally pay well above minimum salaries, help with school fees for their children and teach them computer and general skills, because we want them to become independent adults, future leaders of SA. Yes, granted, many whites (English and Afrikaans speakers) remain racist, but mind their P’&Q’s, because its no longer tolerated in public spaces. Yet, it remains a struggle, but at least we can pull up whites who let off with racism on online blogs. But anger is is mounting towards the government, from all quarters — black, Indian, so-called Colored people, Chinese, whites and others and this mix combined, is turning South Africa into a powder keg, ready to explode. Should that happen, South Africa is doomed. A country which to this day, continues to be held hostage and raped by a multi-billion dollar international elite…. and we all know who they are… I guess the ANC elite who was in on the banking elite sell-out, felt bitter and betrayed and rightfully so. However, the tragic part is, that because SA’s white elite knew about it, maybe the ANC thought ordinary white South Africans did too, which we didn’t. Only got to hear about it all after Madiba died and then many whites wouldn’t believe it anyway. Mr. Draitser, the greed of these evil neo-cons are turning our lives into hell and throwing away whatever we can still save of South Africa’s future. Why don’t you and John Pilger do a film together on South Africa and crack open the whole can of worms? South Africans of all races will then have a chance to heal.
    How, Mr Draitser can I, as an old pensioner, get the world to hear the cries of the most vulnerable in our land? — Especially when it looks like the whole world could be cloaked in a deadly mushroom cloud any moment…
    PS: I have watched you on RT’s CrossTalk with Peter Lavelle a number of times…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.