In order to save itself the spectacle of an ugly spat at its last congress, Cosatu deferred its most important resolutions to a special meeting to be held on Monday. Ahead of the meeting, Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini gave some indication of what the outcome of the meeting might be, in a speech to the MK military veterans. AMCU and Julius Malema are the new public enemy number one now, and that’s where the fight will be taken. By SIPHO HLONGWANE.
The speech that Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini gave at the congress of the Mkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) is probably the easiest one he will give for quite a while. He is known to be staunchly for the ANC president Jacob Zuma, as is MKMVA. Neither of them like the former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema very much, and both have blamed him for any divisions in the ANC or tripartite alliance. Both also value party and alliance unity above all else.
So all the Cosatu president had to do to curry favour was to turn up at the MKMVA congress and give it to Malema with both barrels. That is precisely what he did.
After the usual history lesson, especially detailing how those who had laid their lives down for the struggle against apartheid were trade unionists, Dlamini said, “Our history continues to be insulted by those who dress in MK colours. They insult those who disagree with their opinions and are organising with AMCU to weaken the National Union of Mineworkers in the mines in order to destroy the tripartite alliance so they can come back to the very ANC that they are trying to destroy.”
He continued with the obvious Malema references: “The MK veterans and Cosatu must remain vigilant against the enemies of our revolution who dress in our clothes and sing our songs. Any [true] revolutionary will not use that platform [the Marikana massacre] to attack our movement but to deepen class warfare against the real enemy: capitalism.”
Dlamini’s speech followed along lines laid by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at the trade union federation’s congress three weeks ago, where blame for the revolts and wildcat strikes in the platinum mining belt has been pinned on on the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and Malema, both of whom are apparently nefarious tools of counter-revolution. He warned that those who carry on killing mineworkers and insult the leadership of the ANC would soon face the might of the tripartite alliance.
He then hinted at a future battle.
“We have the resources. We have the structures. We are saying to the MK veterans: come and help us,” Dlamini said. “We want your military skills on the ground to defend the revolution against demagogues who want political survival. We are going to the central committee meeting with a similar task. Ours is to defend the leadership collective and the five resolutions of the 52nd national congress of the ANC.”
Unsurprisingly, the message was very warmly received. The MKMVA openly declared war on Malema a few days before the ANC itself suspended him pending another hearing that would eventually see him thrown out of the party by the ear, and association’s fighting words on that day forced a back-track on their behalf by the ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.
The real pall over Dlamini’s speech is the central committee meeting. The Cosatu CC does not meet at the drop of a helmet, but this emergency meeting was one of the critical self-preserving compromises to make the congress in August as survivable as possible. All political considerations, including Cosatu’s stance on the ANC leadership debate, its role in the alliance, corruption and non-delivery, and transforming the state were deferred to this meeting. But if the federation president’s speech is anything to go by, their response to Marikana is also going to take high precedence in the deliberations. More specifically, a strategy to counter the spread of AMCU, to prop up NUM and to shoo Malema and Malema-style populists away may very well emerge.
The meeting itself may prove to be a spectacular crash of heads, as unions like the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) will differ strongly to the NUM and Dlamini on the question of a second Zuma presidency. The NUMSA also wants wholesale nationalisation of key industries like mining, an idea which the mineworkers union desperately wants to pour cold water upon.
The key message of Dlamini’s speech reveals a certain tone deafness that both Cosatu and the NUM have had since Marikana: they have consistently placed the blame for the wildcat strike on the employers, medicine men, Malema and everywhere else except themselves. While it may strictly be true that they didn’t start the strikes, the NUM leaders were simply not accessible to the workers anymore. The whole union wasn’t. AMCU and Malema merely spotted a chink in the armour and came pouring through.
The whole point of watering down Cosatu’s criticism of the Marikana massacre has been to protect itself by protecting the NUM from criticism, and shielding the police and by extension, the ruling party. The central committee meeting is likely to have a similar outcome, even with the presence of unionists who would rather sing from a different song sheet in that meeting.
It is hard to find true unity anywhere in the tripartite alliance, but the MKMVA and Cosatu are certainly united in their hatred of Malema. For one afternoon, they could use the word ‘unity’ and truly mean it. DM
Photo: Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini (Jordi Matas)