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Cosatu has warned that factions, corruption and criminality pose a threat to continued worker support for the ANC, and if the party does not urgently address this, it could lose the 2024 general elections. 

This is the message the trade union federation delivered in its political overview ahead of its national congress later this month. 

The ANC, which is dogged by financial, administrative and operational challenges, suffered its worst electoral performance during the municipal elections in 2021 when its support fell below the 50% mark for the first time since 1994. This resulted in the former liberation movement losing the crucial Gauteng metros of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and Tshwane to a DA-led multiparty coalition.

“If the ANC is to win and retain power in the 2024 elections, nationally and provincially, then it needs to decisively deal with corruption, rebuild the state, end load-shedding, fix embattled SOEs [state-owned enterprises], spur the economy and reduce unemployment,” according to the report.

Chief justice Raymond Zondo, who chaired the state capture commission, said the ANC, parliament and government failed to take action to halt state capture, while President Cyril Ramaphosa has previously said the ANC was “accused number one” in corruption.

The party has since implemented the step-aside rule which calls for those facing criminal charges to step aside from their positions or be suspended. Those affected by the rule include corruption-accused suspended ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule and eThekwini chair Zandile Gumede, among others.

Ramaphosa, who was elected ANC president on an anti-corruption ticket in December 2017, could himself be a victim of the step-aside rule should he be charged for any offence over the Phala Phala farm allegations.

Allegations he formed part of a cover-up of the burglary at his farm in Phala Phala have threatened to put a cloud over his anti-corruption and reform agenda. The allegations, which were brought forward by former spy boss Authur Fraser and which Ramaphosa has denied, are the subject of investigation by law enforcement agencies and security organs.

Several state security organs are investigating claims of a cover-up after a large sum of foreign exchange was stolen from his farmhouse in Limpopo. His political opponents within and outside the ANC are clamouring for him to step aside to facilitate a thorough investigation into the matter. 

“Political fatigue has not hurt the ANC alone but also the [tripartite] alliance as well, as we are seen to be part of the political establishment and responsible for the political and economic pain society is experiencing,” Cosatu said in its congress documents, which were released during a media briefing in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Cosatu says coalitions are likely to occur in Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape in 2024, “as well as nationally”.

“Cosatu will need to prepare for this eventuality and possibly a government that does not include the ANC nationally and in major provinces.”

Meanwhile, data released by Stats SA on Tuesday showed that second-quarter GDP decreased by 0.7% — after the first quarter’s growth of 1.9% — with the devastating floods in KwaZulu-Natal and load-shedding contributing to the decline.

In its documents, Cosatu states that the “deterioration in the economy has been accompanied, exacerbated and, at times, caused by a deterioration in governance”.

“Corruption has significantly increased across the state, SOEs and local government. Many municipalities have become dysfunctional, and an increasing number are struggling to pay their workers. Several key SOEs have collapsed and retrenched thousands of workers,” the labour federation said.

“There have been efforts by President Ramaphosa to turn the tide and tackle corruption,” with the Zondo commission highlighting state capture. “Many compromised ministers and officials have been replaced. Increasing numbers of persons are being brought to trial for corruption, however, few of the most senior accused have been brought to justice.”

Former Transnet executives Brian Molefe and Anoj Singh were arrested last week on fraud and corruption charges linked to state capture.

Cosatu said while the ANC is “facing many difficulties”, the dangers of opportunistic and reactionary elements using the current situation for their “own self-serving interests is very real”.

The fact that the ANC " admits that it is facing an existential crisis is bound to have implications” for the historic mission of the national democratic revolution, the tripartite alliance’s blueprint to address socioeconomic challenges.

“It also means that the prospects for the transformation of the economic base, the shift from the current neoliberal trajectory and addressing the multiple crises of unemployment, poverty, inequality, patriarchy, separate geographic development and xenophobia, would also fade in the medium term.”

Cosatu’s national conference is scheduled to be held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on September 26-29.

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