On Friday, the ANC struck back mightily at Cosatu's accusations. What could have been seen as an ideological tennis match between the alliance partners is now turning into a fight of panzer divisions.
The ANC has done something almost unprecedented: it has publicly attacked an alliance partner. On Thursday Cosatu’s general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was about as angry as he’s ever been in public. On Friday the ANC’s Jackson Mthembu upped the emotional ante. He accused Cosatu of “being on the warpath”, of being divisive, of telling untruths. You know, the stuff you’d expect him to say about, well, the Democratic Alliance. Which is all the more interesting, because Mthembu also claimed Cosatu was behaving like an opposition party.
And he had a go at Cosatu for breaking that old alliance golden rule; thou shalt not talk about the alliance in public. Well, of course, Mthembu was saying that in front of a thicket of microphones, at a press conference he had called.
The upshot is that the ANC national executive committee and Mthembu, clearly and officially, believe there is no move afoot to unseat Gwede Mantashe at the ANC’s national general council meeting in September. Vavi clearly believes there is. Mthembu says there’s no move to talk about the succession at the moment. In fact, he rejected claims that there was such a movement “with the contempt they deserve”.
Déjà vu is the phrase you’re looking for. That’s exactly what Smuts Ngonyama used to say. So it’s probably true. But Mthembu’s justification is that Cosatu has been attacking the ANC for some time and it has now been forced to respond in public. Also, in case you’re wondering, Mthembu had spoken to Mantashe on Friday morning. So presumably this press conference had backing at the highest level.
Mthembu says Mantashe had not been contacted by Vavi before making his statements and that’s really the issue. Interesting, because yesterday Cosatu said it had won several battles within the alliance meetings only to see them ignored when pronouncements were made on government policy.
Friday also brought some more information on the grown-up ANC’s view of its Youth League. They’ve been told to “shut up about 2012”. (Mthembu’s soundbite.) Of course, the question now is whether they will or not.
History tells us the Youth League will not shut up. It also tells us that people who say the ANC is united are wrong. And it tells us that the alliance will somehow last. And that there is far more fun and games to come.
By Stephen Grootes
(Grootes is an Eyewitness News reporter)
Photo: The ANC’s top six at Polokwane conference. The Daily Maverick