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Mackay, Shaun and Mathoho, Malachia (2001) Worker Power: The Congress of South African Trade Unions and Its Impact On Governance and Democracy. Centre for Policy Research: Johannesburg Research Report: No. 79: 1-42.

This report forms part of phase three of a research project entitled ‘The impact of foreign
political aid on civil society organisations in South Africa’, conducted by the Centre for Policy Studies. This, in turn, forms part of a broader study on the impact of foreign political aid on civil society in Africa, co-ordinated by the Institute for Development Studies (IDS) of Sussex University in the United Kingdom. Other country studies are being conducted in Ghana and Uganda by institutional partners based in those countries; they are the Centre for Basic Research in Kampala, Uganda, and the Department of Political Science of the University of Ghana. This phase of the South African country study has been funded by the Royal Danish Embassy and a private donor. Other components of the study have been funded by the British Department for International Development (DFID).

This paper forms part of a larger study on foreign political aid, democratisation, and civil
society in South Africa which examines the extent to which civil society contributes to democratic pluralism by creating the space for groups that would otherwise have difficulty in accessing the formal system. It looks at how civil society bridges the limitations of formal democracy or representative government, and how donor funding contributes towards or obstructs this.

Specifically, this paper examines the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), its influence on government policy and legislation, and its role in ensuring enhanced government accountability. It furthermore examines whether the congress’s practices and values have contributed to the consolidation of democracy, and how donor aid has influenced its activities and impacted upon democracy.

The paper pays particular attention to the nature of the relationship among COSATU (and its affiliates) and government institutions, as well as the role of rank-and-file union members in COSATU.

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