"We're not forming an MDC yet and we're no apologising to ANC" – COASTU
Cosatu insisted on Thursday it would not apologise to a "panicking" ANC for hosting a civil society conference which the ruling party described as "oppositionist".
"We are not an apologising federation, we are not a federation that will keep on apologising just because somebody else is not happy about what we say," Congress of SA Trade Unions president S’dumo Dlamini told reporters in Johannesburg.
"Therefore… there would have been no need… for Cosatu to apologise for hosting the civil society conference."
Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi added: "We think that the ANC must trust us… just like we trust them."
Dlamini was responding to news reports that Cosatu would apologise to the ANC after hosting the civil society conference end-October, a move which sparked criticism from ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
"We noted that the ANC, the [SA Communist Party] and [SA National Civics Organisation] were not invited, positioning the conference as an alternative block to the alliance," Mantashe said a few days after the conference.
These comments from the ANC were discussed at a Cosatu central executive committee (CEC) meeting this week.
Dlamini and Vavi were briefing the media on Thursday on the outcome of the CEC meeting.
"Why they [the ANC] are panicking is out of my imagination," said Vavi.
"Informed by an uninformed insecurity and paranoia it [the ANC] suddenly smells a rat and develops all manner of conspiracy theories… Cosatu in particular is angered by a baseless accusation that it is fomenting a regime change in South Africa."
Vavi said he conceded at the CEC meeting that it was a mistake for him to have announced that he would not stand for re-election in the next congress.
This had led to media speculation that he might be starting an opposition party, similar to the Movement for Democratic Change in Zimbabwe, an opposition party led by a former trade unionist.
"The media… have sought to present the Cosatu general secretary as some kind of Messiah… [but] the truth is that the general secretary is no individual operating outside the discipline and policy of the federation," said the CEC statement, read out by Vavi.
"Cosatu is committed to the alliance and has no agenda whatsoever to form an MDC. This does not mean that Cosatu must give in… and refuse to discuss the political environment it finds itself operating in."
Vavi then went on to criticise the government’s New Growth Path announced this week, which aims to create five million jobs by 2020.
He said some of the suggestions in the document were good, but others, such as moderate wage increases and the capping of executive bonus’ and salaries would be difficult to implement.
Vavi warned that it would take "not just months, even years" to finalise the New Growth Path plan aimed at boosting the economy.
It would be hard to enforce the capping of executive bonus’ while, at the same time, employers would leap at the opportunity to keep salary increases relatively low.
"Is it going to be a partnership where the other side is asked to give its life?," asked Vavi, who likened it to a "chicken and pig" situation, where the chicken lays the eggs for breakfast, but the pig needs to be killed for his bacon.
"This is going to be a very, very serious discussion that will test our stamina for social dialogue in this country," said Vavi.