ANC fears MDC-type opposition party

THE conference held by a coalition of civil society groups in October — including the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the Treatment Action Campaign — have triggered fears within the ANC that this is the first step in the establishment of a workers party similar to the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe.

he ANC’s top leaders convened at Luthuli House in Johannesburg on Monday to discuss the conference. Party members were not invited to attend the conference, which is now seen as being "oppositionist" in character.

"We noted that the ANC, the SACP [South African Communist Party] and Sanco [South African National Civics Organisation] were not invited, positioning the conference as an alternative block to the [tripartite] alliance. The argument that [an invitation to the ANC] would trigger a demand by other political parties to be invited is … an argument that reactionary forces always used," said ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe in addressing reporters on Tuesday on the outcomes of a meeting of the national working committee.

The ANC has also called an urgent meeting with Cosatu to discuss the trade union federation’s role in the conference.

Mantashe implied at the press briefing that those who had funded the ruling party during the struggle years were now the ones who would be funding the opposition grouping.

‘Not panicking’

"The funding of divisions of liberation forces is funded by those who supported them originally. This funding is normally directed to organs of civil society with an aim of forming opposition parties."

Although Mantashe insisted the ANC was "not panicking", he made a lengthy statement to explain why Cosatu had been wrong to attend the conference and why Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi had been out of line in his reference to the "predatory elite" that Vavi says is prominent in the ANC.

ANC insiders said the TAC’s involvement in the conference particularly irked the ANC, because relations between the two organisations had been strained since the administration of president Thabo Mbeki.

Insiders say the ANC’s strategy in dealing with those in the ruling party’s anger about the conference was to isolate Vavi as the culprit, which would not tarnish the party’s relationship with Cosatu.

"They want to make it seem like it is him who broke away, and target him on his own," an insider told the Mail & Guardian.

Mantashe also alluded to this strategy.

"The civil society conference can easily be used as a vehicle that propels individuals with ambitions who understand that individually they cannot go very far."

The fear of a rise of an MDC-type formation plagued the ANC during the Mbeki administration, which was said to be the reason for the frosty relationship between Mbeki and Cosatu.

Despite the ANC’s anger at the conference, Mantashe termed the relationship between the ANC and Cosatu as "workable".

He added that Vavi would not face disciplinary action from the ANC because he had not been "specific" in remarks about the predatory elite in the ruling party.  – Mail & Guardian