(NNPA/GIN) – As South African Pres. Jacob Zuma rushed home from China to broker an end to the three-week-long nationwide strike, his ANC party was under heavy criticism for bringing the country to the brink.
In pictures seen around the world, schools and hospital went unstaffed as close to a million people stayed out of work. Patients with TB went unattended, criminal trials halted and garbage collection slowed.
Once known as “the party of the people,” the ANC has drifted away, critics charge, towards its supporters in the upper class.
Political commentator and author Moeletsi Mbeki, brother of former president Thabo Mbeki, did not mince words at a recent talk in the University of the Free State. “The policies of the ANC favor the Black middle class and the established businesses. They do not favor the working class,” he said.
Public Service Minister Richard Baloyi recently highlighted these concerns when he rejected trade union charges of lavish government spending on luxury cars. “Do they want ministers to ride on scooters when they do their work?” he retorted. “Mercedes Benzes,” he said, “are a tool of our trade.”
Mbeki’s lauded book, Architects of Poverty: Why Africa’s Capitalism Needs Changing, argues that Africa’s faults lay primarily with its rulers and political elites, who keep their fellow citizens poor while enriching themselves.
But Blade Nzimande of South Africa’s Community Party downplayed the threat to the ANC coalition of workers and leftists. The tripartite alliance, he said, was “experiencing wobbles,” but he attributed these to discontents, not to critics in the trade unions. Government has now upped its offer to workers from 7 to 7.5 percent.
According to The Associated Press, a key labor leader told reporters Monday that the civil servants are suspending the nationwide strike for higher wages to give union members time to consider the government’s offer.
Thobile Ntola, president of the South African Democratic Teachers Union, the largest civil service union, emerged from meetings with other unions to make the announcement to his members on the 20th day of the strike.