The South African government will miss this year's target of creating 500,000 jobs in the formal sector, says President Jacob Zuma. Mr. Zuma was speaking to thousands of workers at the opening of the tenth annual congress of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), in Johannesburg. He told them the jobs plan had been "set back" by the current global economic crisis.
COSATU spokesperson Patrick Craven says the organization has some disagreements with the South African government. COSATU is a trade union federation with almost two million members. It was founded in 1985 and is the biggest of the country's three trade union federations, with 21 affiliated unions. The organization was instrumental in this year's election of President Zuma.
With that with that type of backing, the organization expects the current South African government to endorse policies that are more "developmental interventionist economic policies which create more jobs," says Craven.
COSATU and Mr. Zuma's government have not always agreed. They recently clashed over the decision by the South African Defense ministry to ban unions in the military. The standoff led to last month's strike by some members of the South African Defense forces.
It is an issue that Craven says he hopes both parties will work to resolve during the conference. But there is broad agreement about the need for more policies designed create jobs, he says.
COSATU backs the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), a program launched by the South African government to redress some of the economic inequalities of the apartheid era. But, says Craven, few workers in the private sector have benefited from it.
"In the private sector, virtually nothing has changed. Those black people that have benefited tended to be very small group of people…who get richer and richer while the vast majority of workers don't see any benefit at all," he says.
South Africa's economy, like those of other developed nations, has been hard hit by the global economic recession. COSATU's president, Sidumo Dlamini, estimates the loss at up to 475,000 jobs and fears almost a million jobs will be lost by the end of the year. He says that was "a blow to the fight against inequality and poverty."