South Africa

SACP calls for Cosatu unity

By Greg Nicolson 3 June 2013

The South African Communist Party central committee met at the weekend and while general secretary Blade Nzimande took it easy on media, the party weighed in on issues relating to Cosatu, the economy, the 2014 elections and financial services. By GREG NICOLSON.

“We are not talking names,” said Blade Nzimande when asked to provide specifics on the Cosatu members breaking the rules. The SA Communist Party (SACP) expressed concern at the disunity in Cosatu and selected a number of key problems. “The flouting of one of the core founding principles of the federation, namely one industry one union; the poaching of members; the cultivation of personality cults; the undermining of collective leadership and of working class democracy, are all practices that play into the hands of the class offensive against the working class. These practices must be unambiguously condemned and eliminated,” read the central committee’s statement.

The federation of trade unions is split in its support for general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and president Sidumo Dlamini, with a reportedly heated meeting of leaders last week failing to decide Vavi’s fate. The SACP reaffirmed its policy of “non-interference in the internal affairs of the federation” on Sunday, but the wording of its statement offers some indication of whom it blames for Cosatu’s woes.

The first jibe is directed at the National Union of Metalworkers SA (Numsa), Vavi’s staunchest supporter. The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is fuming about Numsa reportedly encroaching on its turf and taking members, which are hard to keep these days with the rise of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). Vavi is obviously the member around whom a “personality cult” has developed. Both Vavi and Dlamini were accused of undermining the collective decisions of Cosatu in their criticism/support of the ANC, while Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim has also been accused of undermining the leadership of the working class during the tiff with the Communist Party over the National Development Plan. Nzimande wouldn’t name names, but it’s been a long time since he has agreed with Vavi, on anything.

“We want a stronger and a more united Cosatu. We feel the federation must act decisively on this matter,” said Nzimande on the topic of unions poaching members. At Cosatu’s founding it was agreed there needed to be one union from the federation per industry, he explained. “Once you tinker with that you are tinkering with unity and almost the existence of Cosatu as a federation.” The Communist Party plans to raise the matter with Cosatu and call for unity, which it sees as crucial as “the persisting global capitalist crisis, slowing growth, slackening demand for our commodity exports and falling profits have inevitably produced an intensified offensive against organised labour in our country.”

Unity among the SACP and Cosatu is also crucial ahead of the 2014 national elections. The Communist Party’s central committee pledged its full support to the ANC’s election campaign and said it will “contribute actively” to the party’s election manifesto and establishing unity in the tripartite alliance to protect the ANC’s majority.

The SACP and Nzimande have been at the forefront in labeling the media anti-majoritarian and the idea that media is bent on rubbishing the alliance has spread through the partners. On Sunday, however, Nzimande said it’s useless to lash out at journalists. “As long as you don’t change ownership it’s going to be a problem,” he said, blaming poor reporting on the agenda and management policies of those who own media houses.

But it wouldn’t be an SACP press conference without some wise advice for the press. The party took issue with reports on President Jacob Zuma’s special press conference on the economy last week that linked his speech to the rand’s decline to the US dollar. “We reject this notion that the rand dropped because of the president’s speech,” said Nzimande, “It’s utter nonsense.”

SACP deputy chair, and the SA’s Public Works Minister, Thulas Nxesi argued that analysts are misguided in their view of the economy, citing reasons such as a lack of rule of law as key to its struggles while China, an undemocratic state, is thriving. Spokesperson Malesela Maleka cautioned media against quoting analysts in the financial system as experts. They’re the same people responsible for the collapse of the global economy, he cautioned.

The financial sector took a beating. The SACP took issue with the common boast that it’s world class. “In terms of basic customer service it is characterised by seriously problematic conflicts of interest, over-charging, and poor regulatory controls, including seeming indifference from the Financial Services Board in regard to financial services that most impact on workers and the poor.” The party will mobilise to fight abusive loan sharks, unregulated funeral services and those who abuse garnishee orders. DM

Photo: SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande sits next to first deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin as he briefs media after the central committee meeting on June 2, 2013. Photo by Greg Nicolson.

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