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BBC's Greg Barrow in Johannesburg
"Mr Mbeki blamed apartheid for many of South Africa's problems"
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Monday, 18 September, 2000, 15:17 GMT 16:17 UK
Mbeki attacked over job losses
South African President Thabo Mbeki
Mbeki appeals for calm as cracks in the government coalition emerge
South Africa's main trade union body has strongly criticised President Thabo Mbeki's economic and social policies, blaming them for creating joblessness in the country.

Cosatu President Willie Madisha spoke of a political crisis within the government alliance which includes the unions, the South African Communist Party and the ruling African National Congress Party (ANC).

Our alliance, contrary to the wishes of some, is endurable. Although we have our ups and downs our objectives have made us more cohesive

President Mbeki
Speaking during the annual conference of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, Mr Madisha also expressed grave misgivings about Mr Mbeki's refusal to acknowledge a direct link between HIV and Aids.

However, during President Mbeki's address to the trade unionists, he papered over the cracks in the coalition, blaming recent rifts on racism.

Job losses

Mr Mbeki told the congress that the economy needed to be restructured to boost growth and acknowledged that it had legitimate concerns over job losses.

Members of Cosatu
Cosatu blames the government for the loss of jobs
"It is worth noting that despite differences over the transformation process in the economy as well as other sectors of our society, our alliance, contrary to the wishes of some, is endurable."

"Although we have our ups and downs our objectives have made us more cohesive and focused,"he said.

Divisions have been emerging between the ANC and its partners in the governing alliance.

Unionists feel the government's Growth, Employment and Restribution (GEAR) strategy, is responsible for the loss of nearly one million jobs since the ANC took over in 1994.

He said the mnost urgent challenge facing the South African working class remained "the loss of quality jobs".

"We're sitting on a time bomb that threatens .... South Africa in social chaos," the Cosatu leader told Mr Mbeki.

Mr Madisha also called on the government to clarify its position on the cause of Aids.

He said Mr Mbeki's controversial stance was causing confusion and hindering the fight against the disease.

However, Mr Mbeki made only a passing reference to Aids and instead concentrated on the legacy of apartheid which he blamed for many of the country's current social problems.

President Mbeki has questioned whether HIV is the only cause of Aids, saying that other factors, such as poverty, may be involved.

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See also:

11 Sep 00 | Africa
ANC in showdown with unions
29 Aug 00 | Africa
Apartheid 'still alive' in SA
30 Aug 00 | Africa
South Africa: Racism runs deep
30 Aug 00 | Africa
Mbeki: Whites must do more
11 Jul 00 | Africa
Aids threat to Africa's economy
14 Sep 00 | Africa
'Don't call me Manto'
14 Sep 00 | Africa
SA Government steps into Aids row
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