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Congress  |  Discussion

Conceptualising the Alliance Five Year Programme

Draft Discussion Document

COSATU Congress `99




  1. Introduction
  2. Context
  3. Nature of the Programme
  4. Way Forward



    • continued labour market transformation and programmes to see to the implementation of new labour legislation,


    • right-sizing of the public service informed by conceptions of the developmental state,


    • the implementation of a comprehensive social security system, and


    • The implementation of an appropriate macro-economic framework, etc.


    • COSATU should for its purpose conceptualise the nature and form of the programme. The discussion should identify the content of the programme and areas requiring further research. This may take the form of a workshop or discussion with key comrades. The discussion should also seek to take forward the resolutions of recent Alliance Summit meetings.


    • After clarifying a conceptual framework develop a conceptual paper for discussion in the Alliance and the Federation;


    • Convene an Alliance forum/summit or whatever is realistic to have a common approach and understanding of the programme and clear timelines.


    • Reach an agreement in the Alliance NOBs on process to be followed.


    • An Alliance task team could be set up to begin work on a broad framework for the programme. The task team could set up sectoral teams to elaborate key programmes within the parameters of the framework. It is in these sectoral teams that substantive work could be carried out and where necessary research undertaken;


    • The Alliance Secretariat should assume political oversight of the Task Team and develop its work plan;


    • In the event that it is not possible to resolve every issue a process to address outstanding issues should be spelt out.


    • In implementing the programme, mass organisational involvement must be included in order to combine the organisational, social power of the Alliance with its power through the State.

  2. Introduction
  3. The broad aim of this paper is to reflect on the proposed Alliance five-year programme. It is an attempt by the parliamentary office to conceptualise the nature and form of the programme. It advances broad proposals and should be seen more as kick-starting debate rather than as an end. It traces the origins of the notion of an alliance five-year programme and seeks to situate this discussion within the current context.

    At the same time, this paper reflects the concern that until political questions raised here are resolved, the actual work on the programme will not proceed. Therefore this paper needs to be discussed by the resolutions committee so as to expedite work on the five-year programme.

    The notion of an Alliance Programme was mooted in the paper "COSATU Proposal for an Alliance Programme for Socio-Economic Transformation". This paper was an updated version of the CEC Discussion Document released towards the end of 1996. The underlying rationale for this proposal was recognition that the Alliance lacked a coherent programme to implement the RDP. Such a programme would not substitute the RDP but offer a strategic vision and programme on the implementation of the RDP. Broadly the programme will serve to articulate "concrete measures to take forward in areas such as social security and the social wage; job creation; intervention in financial markets; public housing and infrastructure; training; land reform; trade and industrial policy; tax reform; and a programme to reduce wage and income inequality."

    Further, the need for an Alliance Accord was proposed as an alternative to a ‘corporatist’ accord binding government, business and labour. In the main the Alliance would reach agreement on core issues and a strategy for implementation. It would then mobilise broader society. This will also be an alliance platform to engage capital.

    The September Commission went further to propose an Electoral Pact before the 1999 elections. There is a standing CC resolution for an Election Platform as a basis for COSATU’s support for the ANC election campaign.

    The need for an Alliance Programme is broadly accepted in the Alliance. However, there is no common understanding within COSATU or the Alliance on what shape the programme should take. For instance is it a political agreement within the Alliance that thrashes out the functioning of the Alliance and its broad vision for transformation? Or is it a programme for governance aimed at informing government policy? In real terms it has to be both for we cannot countenance a situation where all is well in the Alliance but there is no transmission mechanism that translates Alliance programmes into government programmes. If the current environment persists – where there is no clear mechanism on translating Alliance programmes into government programmes - the credibility of the Alliance is at stake.

  4. Context
  5. There is broad agreement that the RDP remains the basic framework for transformation. There is a need for stocktaking to assess the extent to which the RDP has been implemented in the last five years. The programme is fundamentally a programme of governance for the next five years to accelerate implementation in line with the manifesto. As part of developing this programme there should be an audit of the RDP.

    Secondly, an Election Manifesto has been unveiled. This is far from ideal in the sense that under ‘normal’ circumstances a manifesto should take its cue from the programme rather than the other way round. Nonetheless, the manifesto read together with the RDP contains a blueprint of the key programmes/transformation priorities of the ANC/Alliance, albeit in a scanty fashion. The programme will among other things have to flesh out what is contained in the manifesto. In broad terms the manifesto is progressive but this remains fragile unless the programme unequivocally retains the progressive elements combined with a clear political commitment to implement them.

    The debate on the programme should take into account the political context/ balance of power both internationally and in South Africa. The political environment will influence the nature of the programme. At the same time a progressive programme to rally around progressive forces can alter the balance of power. If the ‘siege’ mentality persists then the programme may be minimalist. This is manifest in the obsession with the perceived constraints and problems and sometimes underplays the strength of the revolutionary movement in South Africa and the space we have created for ourselves.

    The analysis of the current conjuncture and the balance of forces in the document "An Alliance Programme for Socio Economic Transformation" remains relevant though in some areas requires modification. The paper offers a broad framework for understanding the transition in South Africa particularly the sections on "Background to the Alliance", "The post 1994 situation and the limits and possibilities of democratic transformation". A reading of the current situation will have to draw from the analysis provided in the paper.

    We need to fully exploit the space created by the ‘crisis of ideology’ faced by neo-liberalism to advance a more progressive alternative. While there is widespread desire to move beyond the ‘Washington-consensus’ there is also the danger of a "post-Washington consensus" emerging from Washington. If we use the leverage accorded by the current but fluid circumstances we would contribute towards sharpening a new discourse not dictated by the forces pitted against transformation. Therefore, the nature of the programme we emerge with as an Alliance is not only critical for us in South Africa but has resonance with the broader international progressive movement. The programme further provides a rare opportunity to qualitatively improve the way the Alliance operates.

  6. Nature of the Programme
  7. The above section attempted to give a historical account of the notion of an Alliance Accord as well as highlight its political/strategic value. It is apparent that the conceptual framework needs to be clearly defined. In practice the programme/ accord & electoral pact have come to mean the same thing or are used interchangeably. The notion of a programme, an accord and electoral pact were a response to various political conditions and an attempt to craft a more progressive alternative and a more coherent Alliance. We need to build on progress made in recent Alliance Summits and space opened by debate and discussion around the need for a post-Gear consensus for example.

    As we approach the elections we need a common understanding and a common terminology. As argued above, we need an Alliance Programme on core areas of transformation to consolidate and advance the gains of the last five years. This must be backed by a clear strategy for implementation. This programme should then be the basis of governance for the next term of the democratic movement. The Alliance Secretariat should work out channels of accountability whereby implementation of the programme by government structures can be tracked and assessed.

    Further, it must articulate clear organisational strategy on the role of the alliance in driving transformation and policy development; building organisation and cadreship development and mass mobilisation. Given the lack of progress towards a comprehensive programme, the September Commission approach of identifying issues should be adopted. In this regard, the first step would be for COSATU to identify key issues to be included in the Alliance Programme, for example (and not exhaustively):

  8. Way Forward
  9. It is clear that this will be a massive enterprise on the one hand to develop a programme for transformation and a programme for building the organisation on the other hand. Given that the focus will be on elections in the coming months it is unrealistic to expect that the programme will be ready by June. The following needs to take place:

    However, one critical questions remains. If the programme is not finalised immediately after the elections what is going to guide the new government? Also how do we avoid the exigencies of governance from derailing the programme thus making it inconsequential? This will force the Alliance to continue operating as a fire extinguisher. If we lose the momentum we will also lose the leverage created by the election process. We need to clarify whether the programme is a comprehensive programme that covers every area or covers specific issues. One possible route is to identify measures such as legislation and institutional mechanisms that should constitute the immediate programme for the ANC/Alliance so that the first day government can hit the ground running. This may include the public sector and some key economic questions.