No-one can take serious issue with the leopard for pouncing down on the neck of a wayward sheep and dragging the carcass back up the rocky outcrop to her cubs for a leisurely feed. It’s what leopards do.
Engaging the leopard in any special pleading about the benefits of keeping this particular sheep alive is, well, it’s just silly, isn’t it?
The gathering wave of strikes means the scent of blood is thick in the air and Cosatu’s haunches are bunching and its tail is twitching.
The trade union federation is sniffing the scent of blood. As the strike season gains momentum the coincidence with the Fifa World Cup is causing Sipho and Sally Normal deep anxiety.
“How can Cosatu hold the World Cup to ransom?” I hear our good citizens gasp.
But the real question should be: ‘how could Cosatu not seize this once in a lifetime opportunity?’
The trade union movement has leverage right now – and for a limited time only – like it has never had before.
Our politicians have inevitably embedded themselves with the Fifa invasion – with about as much moral fortitude as those journalists who embed themselves with superior invaders in other kinds of wars.
Cosatu member unions already had the extra leverage they derived from having backed the right gang in the Polokwane Putsch, but it is the potential to disrupt the Fifa World Cup that gives its voice a new continent cracking resonance.
You want a settlement three times the inflation rate? You’ve got it, baby – just don’t take the focus away from a moment as potentially rich as that perfect Zidane head-butt.
When management and unions stare each other down, a thousand considerations come into play – and while much hinges on the price of the package that will be paid for labour this is not the only consideration.
Management might accept a higher settlement if labour agrees to lock in an acceptable rate of increase in the years ahead – and vice versa. Or the parties can shift bits of the package around so that either management or labour feel that they are getting a better deal.
But there are other and more complicated influences on the bargaining process and one of them consists of getting a fat guy to lean on the other side for you.
If this was the USA 70 years ago organised crime might have lent a hand to one side or another, depending on the interests of some business oligarch, a connected Senator or a union boss playing the field. In South Africa the fat guy is the state and for a variety of reasons he is likely to lean on management and business owners.
When striking Transnet workers marched on parliament last week to insist that Minister S’bu Ndebele back their demands, the politicians sent Mawethu Vilana, a former Cosatu researcher out to speak to the angry workers. This from The Sowetan
Vilana said the government took the strike very seriously and that Deputy Transport Minister Jeremy Cronin and Deputy Public Enterprises Minister Enoch Godongwana were “involved” in trying to find a resolution.
The strike against Transnet appears to be close to resolution, but a larger national strike against the electricity price increase is gathering its skirts in the wings.
Cosatu is led by the kind of people whose instincts are to think of Fifa and the astonishingly named Sepp Blatter as just another gang peddling products that ensnare the user with false promises of bliss. But Cosatu also represents a constituency that loves the Beautiful Game and like a small boy is having to sit on its hands it is so excited about the coming festivities.
So Cosatu is not without limits on its behaviour and nor are its member unions. Cosatu has increasingly failed in the last several years to win over the “ordinary citizen” or ‘the middle ground’ when its strikes have spilled over into public protests. Just one too many image of groups of fat people dancing down a road with sticks, turning over rubbish bins and breaking shop windows has meant that anyone who is not a Cosatu member is less likely to stand as firm as those fabled Apartheid oppressed communities that stopped buying Fatti’s and Moni’s pasta to support the brave workers and their leaders who eventually went on to form Cosatu and drive the revolution itself.
The heroes always live long ago and their legend gleams more with time. But it is difficult to imagine a world in which Cosatu’s leveraging the World Cup for narrow financial gain is celebrated as a blow struck for transformation and liberation.
But in the same breath it is important to remind ourselves that Cosatu is just doing what it must do. It’s purpose is to ruthlessly fight for the advantage of its members over both the vested interests of the powerful, the collective interests of the nation and/or the desperate interests of the weak and downtrodden. In truth, the leopard really has no choice and cannot change its spots.