Opinionista Simon Williamson 12 August 2010

C’mon Vavi, do something

If Zwelenzima Vavi learnt what not to do from the multiple abortion that is Cope, he would orchestrate a successful breakaway from the ANC and make us all (well, those of us who know patriotism is more than post-World Cup mirror socks) happier – just as we were when the ANC burped the NNP.

The signs hesitantly point to it. Vavi has, under successive administrations, been humoured like a great grandfather at a birthday party. He wants all kinds of left-leaning goodness to permeate ANC policy – the banning of labour brokers, scrapping inflation targeting, weakening the rand, nationalisation. How many of those good things have the ANC implemented? Well, take the number of black DA leaders and multiply that by the number of people who didn’t vote for the apartheid government. Yes, a big fat zero.

Helen Zille, via the medium of Athol Trollip has seemingly had a bigger impact on more government policy and deed within the national assembly. Take, for example, the constant pressure placed on JZ to declare his interests after he became president – it is now entrenched policy to place interim sanctions on ministers who contravene the Executive Ethics Code. It will surely become a logical conclusion for Vavi to realise he can influence South Africa far more as a political party – with a significant number of virtually guaranteed votes – than as a tripartite alliance member who is taken about as seriously as Tony Yengeni’s anti-corruption handbook.

In my recurring dreams, Vavi’s Cosatu breaks away from the ANC and stands in an election. He is smart and credible enough, and already has a sizeable political following. While the king of the unions and the queen of the DA differ on countless principles, combined against corruption and comrade deployment they could present a front that would make the ANC evaluate itself on accountability. I don’t think it is difficult to argue that this would be the best political scenario – with a realistic chance of happening – that could grace South Africa in the near future.

And it gets better – what on earth would happen to the South African Communist Party? As far as communist organisations go, it is pretty lame. This particular branch of commie is anti-nationalisation – surely something that the Lenins, Chavezes and Castros of this world would vomit the people’s lunch upon. Much like Cosatu, the SACP is ignored by the ANC except for a few gratuitous cabinet posts – Blade Nzimande got a swanky education portfolio which he works on when he’s in the mood, Rob Davies was dished the minsistry of trade and industry, and Jeremy Cronin landed deputy minister of transport. None of which resulted in the progression of SACP doctrine. If Vavi walks out, will the SACP follow him. Or just be drowned out on the left-hand coat tail of the “bipartite alliance”?

It’s fair to say that the SACP can’t stand on its own (or it would already have tried). Blade and his boys know they’re looking at being the new IFP (currently becoming the new PAC) if they ever broke away. There’s already a left-wing organisation which is louder and prouder than them and it diverts support to the ANC – yup, that rash-like irritation, the ANCYL.

Cosatu has about 2 million members. Add another million voters and you have a party the size of the DA. More than 7% of the electorate deserted their parties in the 2009 election to vote for Cope. That’s another 1.3 million votes up for grabs (assuming no one is stupid enough to vote for them twice). The 2014 election is also the first the “born frees” (people who were born after the struggle was won) will be able to vote – the implication of this being fewer historical associations when voting. Could this also affect PFP- and NP-aligned white voters? I don’t see why not.  

You know as well as I do that one party’s grip on power is not good for democracy. My ideal world sees the ANC dropping below the 50% margin in the 2014 election, shedding about 20% and the top organisational ability in South Africa to Vavi and his party. The “Helen Patricia de Zille” party would shore up a similar percentage and we’d hopefully see the electorate spit 50% ANC, 20% DA, 20% Vavi and 10% to the IFPs, UDMs, Copes and Rajbansis of this world.

What needs to happen, though, is for Vavi to realise the impact he can have on South Africa if he leaves this sham of an alliance which translates to Vavi rubbing shoulders with people who don’t listen to him. If he really has strength in his beliefs, he will walk out and change the country with the power he has.

Come on Vavi. Flex some of those muscles. Otherwise, you and your organisation will remain the Rubens Barrichello of South African politics – number two. All the time.

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