Socio-economic inequalities, triple challenges and consequences of ineffective effective leadership in South Africa

26 Jun 2017

This article describes the significant role that government and trade union leaders should adopt to enhance economic growth and confront the triple challenges facing South Africa: inequality, poverty and unemployment. Trade union leaders, in particular, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) in alliance with the African National Congress (ANC), the ruling party in government, and the South African Communist Party (SACP), are expected to be major role-players in the formulation of economic policies regulating labour matters via platforms such as the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC) as well as the bargaining councils to negotiate strategies to build improved socio-economic levels in South Africa. Political and organised labour’s leadership in a democratic state such as South Africa should provide expression to the common interest and should give direction to policy formulation and its implementation. The Constitution (Act 108 of 1996) of South Africa and legislation such as the Labour Relations Act (Act 66 of 1995) endorse the existence and operation of trade unions such as COSATU. As the largest workers’ federation, COSATU has a strong alliance with the ruling party in government upon which it has an advantage as a bargaining entity. However, it appears that both political leaders in government as well as leaders of the organised labour (COSATU) engage in delaying tactics which derails socio-economic development. This conduct has a negative impact on society and perpetuates high levels of unemployment which leads to poverty and contributes to ongoing inequality. This article argues that inconsiderate and ineffective leadership from both political leaders in government and organised labour militates against the development of a truly democratic South Africa. A recommendation from this study is that the policymakers and structures which serve towards formulation of labour policies such as the NEDLAC must seriously pursue effective initiatives to moderate the level of labour matters. Effective political leadership demonstrated by government and the organised labour can help to yield results that can reduce socio-economic inequalities.