Vavi stuns ANC, warns SA could become 'banana republic'

COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi warns in a report prepared for the federation's central committee meeting this month that South Africa could become a "banana republic", and threatens to repudiate President Jacob Zuma's leadership.

He says that, during a bilateral meeting between Cosatu and ANC leaders shortly before the ANC’s national general council meeting in Durban, Mantashe responded with “rough language” when Cosatu presented the ANC with a discussion document on the “predatory elite”.

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Zuma had left the room when Mantashe lashed out at Cosatu for its public statements against corruption.

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“The manner of presentation; the anger combined with arrogance, positional postures, insults and rough language appeared designed to provoke a walkout by Cosatu,” Vavi writes in the political report prepared for the June 27 gathering.

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He says Cosatu suggested adjourning the meeting until after the NGC. “Since the NGC we have not taken up the matter. No further bilaterals were held,” he writes.

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Mantashe apparently circulated his response to the discussion document in writing, saying the ANC wouldn’t be “frogmarched and won’t be blackmailed – Cosatu may walk if that is what it wants to do,” Vavi quotes him as saying.

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Cosatu’s central committee meeting is a mid-term review since the federation’s last congress in 2009. In its analysis, the report compares the ANC’s attitude towards the federation to the bad treatment it received during the era of former president Thabo Mbeki.

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Vavi chronicles the period from just before the 2007 Polokwane conference to earlier this year – which he describes as having been the “most dynamic and volatile” era in South Africa’s political history since 1994.

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The report confirms that Cosatu believes the ANC Youth League is on a campaign to remove Mantashe and Zuma.

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“If they succeed in this campaign, the ANC as we have known it will be history. Our country we love so much will go straight down the direction of a banana republic. The current challenge of corruption will be institutionalised with a risk that the very country will be sold to the highest bidder,” Vavi writes.

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But despite his fears for a future without Zuma and Mantashe, Vavi calls in the report for a discussion on whether, “given the shortcomings of the current ANC leadership, Cosatu will be in a position to mobilise for their re-instatement” at the ANC conference in 2012.

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He singles out a former ANC-YL leader, Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, for criticism for appointing chief executives to SAA, Telkom and Transnet, and for appointing new SAA and Transnet boards without consulting the ANC deployment committee.

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“During the era of the previous minister of public enterprises, Barbara Hogan, nothing could happen in any state-owned company without consultation. Now that a ‘left wing sympathiser’ has been deployed, we see the 1996 class project style of marginalisation of unions,” writes Vavi.

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The ANC previously accused Cosatu of pushing for “regime change” after the federation convened a civil society conference last year.

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The Cosatu report talks of deteriorating relations among the alliance partners, and of the SA Communist Party having “abandoned” its positions on issues such as the reconfigured alliance.

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Vavi’s report gives a frank analysis of the fracturing of the coalition that toppled Mbeki in Polokwane and brought Zuma to power.

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He warns against the federation’s over-reliance on the ANC’s top six officials in the face of an emerging “conservative” anti-Cosatu power bloc in the party.

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“If we place all our eggs in the top six basket, we will lose the fight,” Vavi says.

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Cosatu is fighting to influence the ANC amid resistance from nationalists within the ruling party, who fear a left-wing takeover. The workers’ federation is also unhappy about the SACP’s being weakened by having most of its office bearers in government.

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Vavi describes Cosatu’s relationship with the ANC Youth League as “complicated”, and says some, but not all, ANCYL leaders are tenderpreneurs.

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He cautions that Cosatu must not let down its guard, because the new group of tenderpreneurs are even worse than the so-called “1996 class project” – the group of ANC leaders led by Mbeki who promoted “trickle down” economic policy of the mid-’90s. The 1996 class project was “clear about their class agenda and followed this agenda with military precision,” says Vavi. But “the new tendency largely depends on demagogue zigzag political rhetoric in the most spectacular and unprincipled fashion, and is hell bent on material gain, corruption and looting.”