Campaigning on a platform of "A People's Contract to Create Work and Fight Poverty," the ruling African National Congress (ANC) received nearly 70 per cent of the popular vote in South Africa's third democratic election in March, 2004.
The ANC's trade-union ally, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), was at its side, providing logistical support through their extensive affiliate networks. COSATU, the country's largest trade-union federation, with 1.8 million members, called the election "a resounding working class victory."
Underneath the facade of unity and common purpose, however, lurks the unresolved tensions between the ANC and COSATU on the overall direction of the government's economic program. Presumably the ANC's electoral platform was written to bridge differences between the ANC and COSATU--and the ANC voting constituency more generally--on key socio-economic matters like job creation and social-service delivery. By emphasizing the need to create jobs and fight poverty, the ANC responded to its own constituency's criticisms of its performance to date.
But at the same time, the call for a "people's contract" was viewed with some cynicism in light of the ANC's style of government, especially under President Thabo Mbeki, who succeeded Nelson Mandela in 1999. Mbeki has become known as much for his top-down policy-making style and his intolerance of dissent within the ranks as he has for his commitment to neoliberal economics.
There is …