Africa News blog

African business, politics and lifestyle

South Africa’s unions flex their muscles

May 18, 2009

After South Africa’s unions came close to blocking the listing of mobile phone group Vodacom, new President Jacob Zuma may want to keep a closer eye on his left wing allies.

The attempt to sink the $10 billion bourse debut of Vodacom, which went ahead on Monday after an 11th-hour court ruling, hurt the rand currency and revived investor concerns over Zuma.

There was no doubt the bid had undermined Zuma’s strenuous efforts before last month’s election to assure business and investors that there would be no policy shift towards his left wing allies once he took office.

Lawyers for the government opposed union federation COSATU’s attempt to stop the listing in court and made clear the Zuma administration stood by what had been agreed already.

But investors still want reassurance from Zuma that other deals would not face similar challenges by his allies.

COSATU, which has 1.8 million paid-up members in the country of nearly 50 million, said it was angry and disappointed at the court allowing the listing to go ahead and called on South Africans to boycott Vodacom.

But by taking a strong stance on the Vodacom listing, the labour federation may be positioning itself to play a bigger role and could intensify its protest action against other businesses.

Will that be good for South Africa? How successful will the unions be? What will Zuma do about it? What can he do?


I doubt this will be good for South Africa, its not the first time that a dominant trade union scared away potential investors. South Africa needs all the investors it can get to combat sky rocketing unemployment figures.


I agree with Nikkei. Apart from unemployment, starving people are everywhere and beggars from every other African country are found on the streets of Johannesburg.
In my opinion any communist union with so much support is a threat to democracy!

Can anyone tell me why they wanted to stop the listing? I mean does it have anything to do with them anyway? Now they call for a boycott on the company! WHY!?

This country carries on knocking into walls and obstacles as they fly past, instead of doing the right thing. All the people in positions of power think they’re invincible and that the public doesn’t see what they do; or maybe forgets.

Everytime something like this happens investor confidence dips, then picks up again and then the next thing will happen. Xenophobia, rascism, killings, rape not to mention ALL THE CORRUPTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

President Zuma should, in my opinion, tell COSATU to worry about wages and their workers. He should remind them that they are not a dominant force in South Africa and they MUST take a back seat (if not the seat furthest from the action) when matters do not concern them.

Posted by Neill | Report as abusive

President Zuma has shown leadership in this issue by backing the business up and should continue to strke that balance between partisan gains and the interests of the country. He now is in office and should not be led by threat from unions or whatever organisations that supported him. He has to show leadership in involving them in his vision for the country


Good decision by President Zuma, hope he continues backing the businesses.


Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see