South Africa's Strikes Leave Country Reeling

The three week strike by government workers in South Africa that was suspended last week ended badly for both the government and the public-sector unions. Teachers, nurses, and civil servants tentatively won wage increases of 7.5 percent—more than double the rate of inflation—but after going without pay during much of the strike, it will take far more than two years just to match what they would have earned had they accepted the government's initial offer. But if there's a silver lining for a country now being shaken by factory and mine workers trying to match raises won by their government counterparts, it's that the enmity generated by the strike could yet lead to the fracture of the African National Congress's ruling alliance and spur the formation of a stronger and more dynamic opposition. Bolstered by its stand against apartheid, the ANC has dominated the country's parliament since the first all-race elections in 1994. But the party has become increasingly incoherent ideologically, as its pro-business leadership has diverged from its allies in the trade-union movement. A split might be a healthy next step in the Rainbow Nation's democratic evolution.