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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 June 2007, 14:00 GMT 15:00 UK
Why SA unions are flexing muscles
Strikes for higher wages have brought much of South Africa to a standstill. But some see the action as a battleground for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) leadership contest later this year. Robert Schrire, head of politics at the University of Cape Town, tells the BBC what he thinks lies behind the dispute:

Strikers in South Africa
The strike is less about money and more about power
The language is salary but the issues are not salary.

And you can see the [original] demand for 12% is simply not a realistic demand and labour must know it's not realistic.

They've also indicated very little flexibility in terms of something reasonable.

I think an economist would probably agree that if they could get 7.5% this would be a major victory.

They're not even talking in terms of a realistic figure and that indicates that there are more issues at stake than simply the money.

It is really a clear question.

They're asking: "Who is going to run this country?"

Is it going to be the weakened presidency of Thabo Mbeki? Or is it going to be, as they see it, the ascending forces of Cosatu (Congress of South African Trade Unions), the SACP (South African Communist Party) and the Jacob Zuma supporters?


(With regard to the governing alliance,) at the moment there is a totally artificial unity between the three partners (Cosatu, the SACP and the ANC) and this has been very clear for a very long time.

The only reason that it has lasted is that the ANC was the only game in town and the other two partners essentially were junior partners.

We're beginning to see Cosatu taking advantage of a weakening President Mbeki , a divided ANC, to see if they can renegotiate the alliance in terms at which Cosatu would be at least an equal partner if not the dominate partner in the coalition.

And one of the consequences will be that unless a very conciliatory leader emerges as the new ANC president, who can bring all these parties together, we're going to see an acceleration in the history of change.

Everybody knows the alliance will break down.

Most people regard this as a 20-year possibility, we may see it sooner rather than later.


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