Opinionista Lebo Keswa 14 November 2014

The truth… A tooth fairy to politicians

There is never a dull moment in South African politics. But what often truly baffles me is when our politicians become typical. Failing to analyse politics or purely trying to fool the public.

When the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) took a decision not to vote for the African National Congress (ANC) in its special congress, the ANC dispatched its best – like Malusi Gigaba – to go to address the workers and try to dissuade them from taking a line that would see 350,000 votes potentially go to the Economic Freedom Front (EFF). The ANC was very angry. Any party that is deprived of its usual electoral canon fodder is allowed to be angry and boy the ANC was angry. Very, very angry. Numsa, which was defending Vavi against expulsion, was rubbing salt into the ANC’s wound.

They had just won a case against Cosatu in court forcing them to reinstate Vavi. Let us remember, the ANC did not really prevail in the expulsion of Vavi. After all, Vavi had been making a whole lot of noise about ANC corruption (his own shenanigans are another topic for another day), talking about the “corrupt, predatory elite” and so on – things that have annoyed all and sundry. There is no way that anyone in the ANC’s top brass was going to try harder to save Vavi. They were happy to see him hanging out to dry. Any other version of that truth they can tell to the birds.

Fast forward to last week. The same ANC (my beloved party, by the way) that did not try to save Vavi now wants us to believe they are hurt by the expulsion of a union that did not back them in the recent elections and defended the Vavi who has been nasty to them and calling them names. No, come on Uncle Gwizi! Tell that to the birds please.

The reality is that the ANC has decided to cut its losses when it comes to Numsa; in fact, when it comes to Cosatu as a whole.

The ANC is laying the basis for the collapse of trade union federation so that it can start again and throw into the wilderness, EFF style, yet another corner that is rumbling. The content of Numsa’s plea for non-expulsion must have been instructive. I will leave a lot of it to your imagination but how I wish I had been a fly on that wall.

I imagine that it went along the lines of, “Comrades, we are betraying our workers by being a sweetheart federation. We are concerned more about pleasing the ANC instead of fighting for workers. We are countenancing corruption – look at the Nkandla saga. Surely the President shouldn’t have spent so much on himself? And I trust the one with the dental gap went on and on lambasting the establishment from here to Timbuktu. Now you are telling me that once this three-hour rumbling was leaked to Luthuli House they smiled? They were not saying good riddance? Come on now – you tell that to the birds. The ANC is still very angry with Numsa. That much is evident!

What is strange indeed is why a union that took a resolution not to vote for the ANC was so desperate to remain in the alliance. The whole thing does not come across as truthful. Indeed the truth is as missing as Jim’s tooth.

While the ANC is quietly happy about the expulsion, in the public eye they must preach unity. This is the game called Politics. They must be seen to be protecting the legacy of the working class. Victories of workers over the years have brought Cosatu to life. Behind the scene is a different story; there are political giggles as we see those that had the gall to critique the movement about to be in the freezing cold to join all those who have attempted this script and failed to shoot the movie. As the Whitney song says “… same script different cast… Let me spell out the lyrics for you…”

“This is a retake of my life.
I was his star for many nights,
Now the roles have changed,
And you’re the leading lady in his life,
Lights… Camera… Now you’re on,
Just remember you’ve been warned,
Enjoy it now, cause it won’t last,
SAME SCRIPT… DIFFERENT CAST…”

The cast is now Numsa not EFF but the script is the same. If you call time out on the debilitating corruption that is tearing the movement apart, be sure you are next in line to be disciplined, to be expelled. This is not hard to read. Historically, the unions have always had more of a bark than a bite when it comes to giving the ANC a blank cheque. They threatened action, but never executed on their threats. But now here comes the Jim; he actually implemented the threat to withhold the vote, a vote which is to a politician what a bone is to a vicious hungry dog. When such a bone is taken away, don’t expect the beast to smile. The ANC is not smiling. It is Angry with a capital A. Let no one try and convince me otherwise.

So this week’s press conference was a fuss indeed.

The ANC must have received pretty bad advice about how to handle this whole thing. First of all, sending Ramaphosa would have worked in the ’80s when the workers were indeed his constituency. Now you send a billionaire to go and tell unhappy workers who are angry with the National Development Plan (NDP), which they see as his baby, to stop fighting. This was the worst miscalculation ever and it shows. Of course we all speak in with hindsight. The less said about sending Jessie Duarte to accompany him, the better.

Truly ANC, with all the talent that you can muster, this is the best you can do? Really now? But wait… this does show the ANC was never serious about stopping Cosatu expelling Numsa and then eventually Vavi. Sadly, that’s what it all boils down to. If they were serious, an emergency summit of the alliance would have been called to stop this chaos. But no, it suits them fine to get rid of this man who had the balls to speak truth to power on many of the latter day scandals engulfing the movement.

Truly it’s is now becoming evident that politics 101 adage of ‘never trusting anything that comes out of the mouth of a politician’ has come to pass in South Africa. What is sad is this is true across the political spectrum but this week you have to hand the trophy to the alliance. They were more likely singing Rihanna’s… “Cheers (Drink to that)…

Shem. Cosatu put a cherry on top of it all. The cluelessness of handling crisis shows so badly. How do you lie to the whole public about the real reason why Vavi was not at the press conference to gloat about the expulsion of Numsa? And then have this horrible Vavi letter emerge showing you told a lie?

Is there any shame left in our politics, really? Surely they did not think Vavi was going to go along with their concocted story? And these are people who are meant to be defending workers against the vicious white monopoly capital? This is truly ugly.

But there must be a silver lining.

Cosatu must use this saga to answer a cardinal question, a question that Vavi has already posed. Who are they going to choose between the party and country? But then let’s remember it’s Vavi posing this question. He has lied to his wife, what will stop him from deceiving us and apologising? And like the loyal wife, we just embrace him… This is South Africa. Do we have much of a choice?

No prizes for guessing. Meanwhile the truth is the victim and it is as much an illusion as a tooth fairy. DM

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