At the zenith of apartheid, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP) and other progressive forces like the United Democratic Front (UDF) pursued a well-orchestrated mass democratic revolution which saw the liberation of blacks in general and Africans in particular from the clutches of white minority rule.
And for the first time, Africans who were ostracised by Hendrik Verwoerd’s apartheid system more than any other racial group, voted for representation in government on April 27, 1994.
In our irritation and self-hate, we are quick to forget and sleep with a camouflaged devil.
After the unbanning of the liberation organisations in early 1990, the ANC, SACP and Cosatu agreed to continue working together but as a Tripartite Alliance guided by a single vision of the National Democratic Revolution.
The mission was to establish a country that was “united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous” in character. These alliance partners were never under any illusion that the national general election was an end in itself, but understood it as a key milestone of the National Democratic Revolution which places the ANC at a strategic centre of power to fast-track the progression towards the full accomplishment of the key tenets of a national democratic society.
And the stubborn persistence of generational white privileges and black poverty – created by centuries of subjugation and oppression – necessitated a well-oiled alliance to be able to make a substantial dent in the apartheid legacy.
But it would appear that the revolutionary alliance has often allowed itself to be bogged down by internal strife which derives much from the “sins of incumbency”.
The democratic dispensation has not only brought political tension, exaggerated egos and grandiosity within the alliance but also led to factionalism and an implosion within individual members of the alliance.
This became a double-edged sword that led Cosatu to expel general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) without thinking, resulting in the formation of their archrival, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu).
It is the very same double-edged sword that gave delusional and divisive characters like the suspended mayor of Dihlabeng Municipality, Lindiwe Makhalema, the urge to spew bile at the sitting president of the ANC and the country – unprovoked.
The factional triumphalists, six months after the Nasrec elective conference, still do not want to accept the results which mandated Cyril Ramaphosa to unite the ANC and the alliance while steering the country out of the economic quagmire.
So far, President Ramaphosa has shown nothing but an appetite for ethical leadership and the recovery of the country’s economy which has been brought to ruin by brazen looting of state resources during former president Jacob Zuma’s administration.
In doing so Ramaphosa works tirelessly with all sectors of society irrespective of race, only to be met with unmitigated vitriol and nonsensical label, as a “white monopoly capital poster boy and media darling”, from his detractors who do not have the interests of the country at heart.
Ramaphosa’s cardinal sin is to show humility as a leader, to be receptive and responsive.
While I understand the sinister motive of his fierce detractors within the ranks of the ANC, Cosatu’s recent publicity stunt instructing him to fire Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi raised more questions than answers.
I was taken aback, given the fact that Cosatu understood and placed the strained political relations within the alliance squarely at the door of Zuma’s lack of consultation when making cabinet appointments.
Subsequently, I pondered, did Cosatu consult Ramaphosa and the ANC before its dramatic announcement of the desire for Dr Motsoaledi’s head? If so, what was the ANC’s reaction to the demand? What motivated it to play to the gallery while there is clearly a receptive leadership within the ANC?
This public instruction for the removal of Motsoaledi was so dramatic and hyperbolic, it would not have afforded Cosatu any time to consult the president of the ANC and the country. Its attack was nothing more than opportunism, hypocrisy and grandstanding.
In the final analysis, Cosatu betrayed its own wishes for consultation within the alliance in a rat race for relevance and a desire for glory.
This was not only counterproductive, but also has the potential to weaken the position of the president and set him on a collision course with interest groups such as workers and the public.
Should his constitutional prerogative not accede to the demand, Cosatu leadership would turn around, run to the media and say Ramaphosa is anti-workers while the problem lies in their half-baked and disrespectful approach. It’s wrong.
How soon can Cosatu forget that, not so long ago, they condemned Zuma’s lack of consultation which resulted in midnight cabinet reshuffles and strained political relations within the alliance?
What is good for the goose is good for the gander. DM