Cosatu Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi will be campaigning for the ANC in the upcoming elections, despite his criticism of the government and his allegiances to the National Union of Metalworkers SA (Numsa), Cosatu leaders said on Wednesday after a meeting with the South African Communist Party (SACP). Blade Nzimande took the opportunity to attack former Comrade Ronnie Kasrils and his Vote No campaign. By GREG NICOLSON.
Vavi wasn’t present at Wednesday’s briefing but Cosatu and SACP leaders insisted he was legitimately unwell so couldn’t attend. He was part of the meetings and drafting the joint statement, they told the media. “Is he going to be campaigning for the ANC? He is campaigning for the ANC. I’m sure you have read his latest pronouncements in support of the ANC,” said Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini. He said Vavi would be active in events supporting the ANC’s election campaign as all Cosatu leaders need to support a decisive victory for the governing party. “He has already started doing Cosatu work which includes campaigning for the African National Congress,” said Dlamini.
Vavi returned to work last Monday after eight months on suspension. Both Vavi and his strongest ally, Numsa, claimed the suspension was political as he was outspoken on the failures of Zuma’s government.
The federation remains divided over Vavi and Numsa’s resolution not to support the ANC in this year’s elections. A meeting looking at whether to suspend the union, Cosatu’s largest affiliate, was postponed last week, which will likely put off the most difficult decisions until after the 7 May elections.
Vavi is in a tough spot. Numsa is his main supporter and would most likely want him to push their more radical position, paying back their support and fierce advocacy for his return. While the SACP and Cosatu spoke on Wednesday about uniting the working class behind the ANC, Numsa sent a press release:
“Our ruling politicians and elites are busy spreading the ideological fog of a ‘good story to tell’, whilst the black African majority is faced with abject poverty and living under scandalous conditions 20 years into our neoliberal democracy. Our country remains a place where poverty and opulence exists side-by-side,” it read. “Our true story remains that of class struggle to build an egalitarian society as envisaged in the Freedom Charter, as opposed to the current neoliberal path that favours the bosses and politicians and their extended families.”
Since his return Vavi hasn’t taken Numsa’s stance, instead walking the fine line of pointing out the challenges of the government and ANC while encouraging its reform. Dlamini warned anyone who’s unhappy with Vavi’s actions: “We’ve said if there’s such a call made somewhere threatening or blackmailing him that if he campaigns for the African National Congress he’ll be dumped. He can’t be dumped. How do you dump him? Because he is in Cosatu. Cosatu has a programme; he represents the policies of the federation,” said the Cosatu president.
Asked about Cosatu’s commitment to implementing the Freedom Charter, Dlamini said the document’s goals continually need to be evaluated. Certain ambitions are far from being achieved, but government has been working at others, such as providing housing and other services.
The Cosatu and SACP leaders also raised doubts about former minister and ANC struggle stalwart Ronnie Kasrils’ campaign to vote against the ANC by supporting opposition parties, other than the Democratic Alliance, or spoiling ballots. “He’s a Polokwane griever,” said SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande, accusing Kasrils of being bitter after Thabo Mbeki lost the ANC leadership to President Jacob Zuma. “It’s a propaganda trick,” Nzimande continued.
On Tuesday, Kasrils said the key difference between Mbeki and Zuma’s governments was that under the latter decisions were being made on the basis of whether they enriched government elites and their backers. “This thing that Nkandla is wealth accumulation is not true. It’s not true. It simply is not true,” added Nzimande. He claimed the issue with Nkandla was not whether Zuma’s house was built with public money, because, he said, the reports didn’t find that, but whether the some of upgrades were security features or not. Nzimande said the Public Protector’s report could not be seen as above that of the inter-ministerial task team, whose report largely exonerated the president, in contrast to that from the Public Protector, which found his family unduly benefited and Zuma should pay back some of the money spent.
Nzimande wasn’t bothered that a number of supporters of Kasrils’s “Sidikwe! Vukani!” campaign were prominent in the Communist Party. “Every production process produces its own factory faults. So that’s what they are. In fact some of them are well-known old factory faults,” he said. “It appears that there is no principle in what they are doing. I mean if Ronnie Kasrils wanted really to appear to be so principled, why didn’t he do this at the height of Aids denialism when he was a minister or deputy minister? If he was a principled person he should have walked away at that time. Some of us for instance were being scolded if not slaughtered in the ANC meetings for having said we must accept the scientific view that HIV causes Aids. So there is no principle.”
Kasrils addressed the issue on Tuesday, apologising for not doing enough to change government policy. “Does that mean I must shut up and be quiet now?” he asked. Very few of the current ANC leaders appear to have a conscience, Kasrils claimed. DM
Photo: Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini (left) looks at the inimitable SACP General Secretary Blade Nzimande at the briefing at Cosatu House.