Resistance has been hampered by political confusion prevailing within COSATU. Many union officials, and ordinary members, retain their loyalty to the ANC, and so fail to correctly grasp the class agenda and class nature of the ANC. There has been no co-ordinated response to GEAR, or even an official review of COSATU’s ongoing alliance with that party.
By failing to understand the role of the ANC in the war on the working class, COSATU has been unable to formulate a coherent and effective response, and has instead [fallen] back on pleading with the ANC to “consult” the unions more when developing policy. This is a far cry from the revolutionary and [combative] COSATU of the 1980s, which fought the apartheid State to a standstill.
COSATU’s failure to give a lead to other sections of the working class in the fight against neo-liberalism has undermined the possibility of a countrywide, working class-based campaign against neo-liberalism.
However, there have been a number of important local struggles that clearly demonstrate the willingness of workers to fight privatisation and austerity. A wave of new community organisations has sprung up to fight against neo-liberal attacks by local municipalities. In Chatsworth township near Durban, African and Indian workers and their families have fought back against evictions and service cut-offs. In Soweto, the Electricity Crisis Committee has mobilised resistance to electricity cut-offs and outrageous service charges.
At the University of the Witwatersrand, militant academics, students, and above all, workers in the National Education Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) fought a courageous, but ultimately unsuccessful, six-month battle against 613 retrenchments in 2000. In Johannesburg and other cities, the mainly African South African Municipal Union (SAMWU) and the mainly white and coloured Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) have campaigned against the privatisation of municipal services. Despite being a COSATU affiliate, SAMWU has taken a principled stand against GEAR and privatisation, and has not been afraid to tackle the ANC directly.
The most important recent development has been the unification of anti-neo-liberal campaigns in Soweto, at the University of the Witwatersrand, and in Johannesburg in the Anti-Privatisation Forum in July 2000. The new coalition – to which Bikisha Media Collective is also affiliated – has sought to link union and community struggles through joint actions and strike support; a rolling campaign will also be launched in 2001…
See also : Resistance to Neoliberalism: A View from South Africa (1997); Africa, neo-liberalism and anarchism (Chekov, WSM); What ‘Appen To South Africa? 1976-2005: Defiance to Apartheid, Neoliberalism, And Recuperators Of Defiance