Cosatu: Sack white government

Cosatu: Sack white government employees in Western Cape

After months of infighting and amid a lack of inner unity COSATU’s provincial secretary for the Western Cape calls for the sacking of over half of all white public service employees if the ANC manages to win the province in upcoming elections

Cosatu: Sack white government


The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) made headlines last week by demanding that more than half of the Western Cape’s white senior civil servants be fired in the unlikely case that the ANC should win the DA-governed Province during the 7 May 2014 general elections.

COSATU’s provincial secretary Tony Ehrenreich said, “Their employment would have to be terminated – and within a year. They’ll have to go and start their own businesses. They are better placed to start their own businesses because they have both the networks and the historical infrastructure to do this.”

Ehrenreich also said that the “sunset clauses” set forth in the South African Constitution, designed to allow a peaceful transition during the first five years of democracy, had long expired, and further implied that along with the 1999 expiry date any “white preference” on the job market should also have ceased.

The outspoken Provincial Secretary of COSATU went on to say that only about 16 per cent of the population in the Western Cape was white and added, “The most recent figures we have are that senior management at the provincial government is made up of at least 57 per cent whites.”

“That means whites are over-represented in terms of the demographics of the Western Cape, so roughly half the whites in senior positions in provincial government would have to go.”

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille spoke out against Ehrenreich’s claims, and stated that 65 per cent of public positions were actually held by black and coloured officials.

“The statistics are a total lie and he knows it. It’s a total lie,” Zille said. Having clashed with COSATU before, the DA leader doesn’t seem keen on making any concession to the organisation.

COSATU, which has been supporting the ruling ANC government as part of the Tri-partite Alliance with the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party, has been suffering several setbacks lately and might well be out to win public sympathy and support in order to avoid further fragmentation.

Its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), decided to gradually distance itself from COSATU on account of long-standing political infighting, and is now in the process of leaving the umbrella organisation altogether while simultaneously withdrawing its support for the governing ANC.

An ongoing leadership challenge within COSATU continues to shed further light onto internal schisms within the organisation, as Cosatu President S’dumo Dlamini and General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi returned from court earlier this month after settling allegations that NUMSA-backed Vavi had shared an extra-marital affair with a junior employee. It later turned out that rather than sexual relations, allegations of financial mismanagement were at the heart of Vavi’s six-month suspension ahead of the controversial court decision in his favour. However, while COSATU is trying to regroup and win back trust from the public, a future suspension of Vavi has not been ruled out.

With Workers’ Day celebrations set for 1 May 2014, the belligerent unions and their vociferous leaders will have plenty more opportunities to draw further attention to themselves before the national elections take place.

By Sertan Sanderson, 2014