Johannesburg

Last week a conceptual barrier carefully constructed by South Africa’s elites since 2015 was suddenly cracked at the University of the Witwatersrand Great Hall, by two of the country’s leading economic personalities: Pravin Gordhan, who served as a pro-business finance minister for seven years until being sacked in March, and super-consultant Iraj Abedian, who in 1996 co-authored the country’s post-apartheid structural adjustment programme. Two more solid bourgeois representatives would be hard to find.

It is arguably the most important political development of South Africa’s post-1994 era. In the early hours of November 8, South Africa’s largest union, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), was expelled from South Africa’s largest union federation, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).

The political significance of NUMSA’s expulsion derives from three key, interrelated areas of impact.

ANC-led alliance

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