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South Africa’s largest trade union federation was quick to break into stirring songs of class struggle during its recent congress and COSATU members showed an impressive ability to sign along in unison.
But the question of what it is fighting for these days and its role in the ruling tripartite alliance with the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party has never been under such great scrutiny as it has since President Jacob Zuma took office in May.
Zuma’s struggle for power would have been much harder to win – perhaps even impossible – without the support of the unions and he was happy to take centre stage at the COSATU conference in a bright red Mao-style suit.
But while ever ready to promise support for fighting poverty, Zuma has shown scant sign of agreeing to union demands for everything from big increases in spending to the nationalisation of the central bank.