Cosatu taken to task on Zuma snub

Jacob Zuma

Jacob Zuma

CAPE TOWN — The ANC and President Jacob Zuma have taken a tough stance on Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP), saying that it was pointless to sit in a meeting with them if they were not prepared to listen to Zuma anywhere else.

Plans to hold an important alliance political council a fortnight ago ground to a halt after Zuma persuaded officials to instead seek a bilateral meeting to clear the air on ongoing leadership squabbles.

Zuma apparently wanted to know why the ANC’s alliance partners would listen to him at that meeting when Cosatu has banned him from speaking at its events and the SACP has publically called on him to step down.

On the back of Zuma’s protest, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe met with alliance secretaries who accepted the decision to seek clarity.

“[Zuma] persuaded us to say, let us engage the alliance partners before we go there, rather than . . . walking away from each other in the political council.

“Let us engage them bilaterally and remove the obstacles.”

Mantashe said it was incorrect to suggest that Zuma had said he would not attend the political council.

“We want to understand their thinking. They have taken decisions, but they have not spoken to us,” Mantashe said.

However, insiders in Cosatu and the SACP this week dismissed the proposal for separate meetings as a fruitless exercise intended to “nurse Zuma’s feelings”.

Both organisations this week publicly said the priority should be to reschedule the alliance council, which is now two weeks past due.

The ANC’s unilateral decision to cancel the meeting was also seen as a sign of disrespect, reigniting the long-held view that the ANC treated Cosatu and the SACP as junior partners in the alliance. There was a sentiment that Zuma was “running scared” because he thought that he was “going to be ambushed” with Cosatu and the SACP in the same room.

Alliance insiders said that, instead of cancelling the political council, “which was in the first place not supposed to be the ANC’s decision to make”, Zuma should have stayed away if he was reluctant and sent the remainder of the top six officials.

They said that, even if the bilaterals were to take place, the ANC’s top six did not have the constitutional power to review any decisions taken by the party’s allies, including the call for Zuma to step down and banning him from attending their events.

“They called for bilaterals pandering to Zuma’s whims. Everyone must meet as mandated by their structures under the alliance political council banner to debate,” said an insider.

Cosatu owed its decision not to attend the bilateral meeting with the ANC to the fact that its general secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali, was out of the country.

Its spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said that they would accept another invitation from the ANC should it propose another date. “We will meet the ANC for a bilateral. They just have to give us a date [and] we will meet them because we want the alliance political council to take place.”

In addition, the SACP took a decision at its central committee meeting to reject any attempt by the ANC to drag it into a bilateral. The party, which, like Cosatu, has become a staunch critic of the ANC and particularly Zuma, is said to have written a letter giving notice to this effect.

The SACP said it did not need a bilateral as there had been many of those recently. Cosatu has upped the ante, taking a resolution at its recent central committee that the alliance political council must be reconfigured and be given new powers, making it a strategic centre of power.

This would mean political decisions, deployments and the passing of ANC manifestos would be managed and approved by the alliance council. The reasoning is that too much power is centralised in the ANC and in an individual (Zuma).

Meanwhile Jacket wearing, vehicle inspections, love affairs and spring-cleaning were just some of the figurative references Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa used on Sunday while discussing problems in the ANC. “When we go around doing wrong things as leaders … in words or in deed … we must know we are impacting all the people of SA,” Ramaphosa told the party’s Western Cape policy conference in Stellenbosch.

“. . . So it is not a position where you are representing yourself and your jacket — that jacket is the people of South Africa,” said the ANC presidential hopeful, dressed in a striped woolly scarf adorned with the party colours and insignia, to loud applause.

Ramaphosa was speaking ahead of the ruling party’s national policy conference, which will start at the end of June.

Earlier, he conceded that the ANC was “going through a difficult time”.  Yet, he suggested, there was a way forward so as to ensure “that come 2019, we sweep the board”.

Ramaphosa said that the ANC needed to focus on the implementation of policies – and it cases where implementation had not been wholly successful — it needed to examine the party as the “vehicle” that was delivering these ideas.

“…Is this vehicle still strong enough to implement these policies? …Is it the type of vehicle that will give our people a better life?

“…Are these people going to continue having faith and confidence in this vehicle called the African National Congress?”

Ramphosa said that at both the policy conference, and, particularly, at the elective conference at the end of the year, “we need to come up with ways and means… as to how we crank this vehicle back to life.”

Addressing economic issues, the deputy president said that “when we manage the economy we must not be reckless; we must not drive this economy to the ground.”

Junk status and credit ratings were important concerns, as were attracting investors and creating jobs. “We are not answerable to foreign interests, to certain families, to certain individuals,” he declared.

Forging ahead, the ANC had to resolve “internal squabbles”, and rebuild trust with its supporters, “so that its love affair with our people can be regained,” suggested Ramaphosa.

He said he wanted the people to be able to say: “’Wow! There has been spring cleaning and things are much nicer now’…They want their love back.”

There was no reason the ANC should be divided, suggested Ramaphosa,

While the “moral authority of the ANC has wilted,” he nevertheless believed it would regain “great integrity”.

However, unless the party took steps to rectify the current situation, “we are going to flounder and we are going to fail…”

“The ANC that I know, and that I am deputy president of, is not an African National Congress of failure, and is not an African National Congress of defeat and is not an African National Congress of a defeated people, and is not an African National Congress that is going to fail our people . . .”

Invoking the names of party icons Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela, Ramphosa said that the party would “not betray the people”.
He promised instead that the ANC would lead the alliance with “integrity, honesty and bravery”.