World in view: South Africa cuts

March 6, 2020

From the March-April 2020 issue of News & Letters

by Gerry Emmett

South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced plans to cut the wages of public sector workers. This will bring him into conflict with his former allies in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU). Ramaphosa was elevated to the presidency with the aid of COSATU.

The African National Congress, COSATU, and South African Communist Party make up the ruling Tripartite Alliance. Ramaphosa, a founder of the mine workers’ union and anti-apartheid activist, has come to represent the contradictions of post-apartheid society.

The one-time union leader is now one of the richest people in South Africa, with an estimated fortune of $450 million. He sits on the international boards of Coca-Cola and Unilever corporations, and is married to the sister of a mining billionaire.

Ramaphosa also sat on the board of the British mining company, Lonmin, during the 2012 Marikana massacre of striking mine workers. In the most brutal post-apartheid use of government force against citizens, 17 miners were killed and at least 78 injured.

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