When the lines blur

The South African Municipal Workers Union might well believe they have a legitimate reason for demanding the removal of the Johannesburg council from negotiations over the metro police strike - and speaking directly to the ANC.

The South African Municipal Workers Union might well believe they have a legitimate reason for demanding the removal of the Johannesburg council from negotiations over the metro police strike - and speaking directly to the ANC.

According to their logic, the man they want out, Chris Ngcobo, is a "deployee" of the ruling party and therefore the party has the power to recall him - as they have recalled other deployments in other areas.

There are many problems with this. The main one being the union's inability to differentiate between party and state. The ANC would set a precedent it would find hard to repeat if it allows itself to be dragged into what essentially is an employer-employee dispute.

Whatever indiscretions Ngcobo might - in the view of the union - be guilty of, he commits them in his capacity as an employee of a legal entity. His contract is not with the party.

Government is already a major employer in many other areas outside the big cities.

Surely it cannot be expected that the ANC will have to intervene each time there is a crisis at any of the parastatals.

If anything, perhaps the union has shown some of the dangers of institutionalising cadre deployment.

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