Public Service Strike Drives Wedge in South Africa’s Ruling Alliance

Public Service Strike Drives Wedge in South Africa’s Ruling Alliance

JOHANNESBURG -- The divisions that have time and again beset South Africa's tripartite alliance -- consisting of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) -- have returned to haunt the union and further threaten its existence.

This time, the rifts are playing themselves out in a devastating public-service strike that pits South Africa's president and head of the ANC, Jacob Zuma, on one side and the leftist allies that propelled him to power within his party and the country on the other. No sooner had Zuma urged workers, who are pressing for an 8.6 percent pay increase instead of the government's offer of 7 percent,to return to work than COSATU went public about its grievances and urged workers to disregard Zuma's order.

"The abandonment of patients, including babies in incubators, as well as schoolchildren, is difficult to comprehend and accept, no matter how sympathetic one is to the needs of workers," Zuma said in his first public address since returning from a state visit to China.

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