The real reasons why Numsa and Cosatu split

“There is an apparent cause [for Numsa’s expulsion from Cosatu] and there is a real cause,” says Free Market Foundation Economist Loane Sharpe. “Zwelinzima Vavi’s romantic dalliances are part of the apparent cause, but the real cause is threefold.”

What really caused NUMSA’s expulsion from Cosatu, according to Sharpe:

  1. A dramatic loss of union membership. “Last year alone unions lost 10 percent of their membership. As a result all trade unions – not only Cosatu – are becoming more like businesses. Over 30 percent of their revenue is derived from offering financial services such as commuter insurance, funeral cover, household insurance, life assurance and educational loans for members’ children.

  2. A change in the generational profile of union members. “The average job seeker in South Africa is 27 years old and has a totally different attitude to wage negotiations than the previous generation. Young people today are much more individualistic, they want to negotiate directly with their managers and they don’t want this overall approach that unions have long propagated in terms of collective rather than individualised bargaining. This is the trend all over the world and unions are struggling to adjust.”

  3. Tremendous growth of the black middle class. “In 1994 there were only 1.8-million black people in the middle class – today there are 5.9-million. The ANC – because of its links with Cosatu and the ANC – is overwhelmingly in favour of the working class, yet the action of the 21st century is going to be the emergence of the black middle class. That is going to change politics, economics, society and everything. We can forget about Vavi and we can forget about Numsa. These developments are just symptoms of a much bigger pattern of events occurring in the background.

Click here to listen to the Soundcloud clip for more detail.

Also read “The State of the Unions” in which we discuss the size of unions in South Africa, what they do and their likely future.


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