"This paper has tried to demonstrate that COSATU remains extremely powerful and influential in South African society, particularly because of its close relationship with the ruling party, the ANC. This power and influence would be the envy of many a trade union federation in other developing countries today. However, several factors negate this influence and, instead, bear testimony to the organisational weaknesses that are increasingly becoming apparent in the federation. The existence of these contradictory processes, influence and loss of organisational power, make it nearly impossible to predict the future of the federation. What we can say with a degree of certainty, however, is that the future of the federation is a matter of fierce contestation between those forces that prioritise political influence and those that give primacy to building organisational power. On the one hand, the democratic environment serves to enhance the extension of the political influence of COSATU; on the other hand, the advent of democracy, the growth in size of unions and the global economic environment, including the current economic downturn, serve to exacerbate the loss of organisational focus and power. Union movements in the rest of the world have learnt the hard way that political influence is impossible to sustain in the absence of organisational power. Sadly, COSATU does not seem too keen to learn from the experiences of union movements in other parts of the world."