Cosatu-SACP ‘vat-en-sit’ on the rocks

2012-09-08 17:41

The “vat-en-sit” arrangement between the SA Communist Party (SACP) and labour ­federation Cosatu is nearing an end, with the party considering a new home.

Cosatu has for years provided the SACP with office space at its Joburg ­headquarters, but the slowly deteriorating relationship between the two organisations threatens to end the arrangement.

In some provinces, SACP staffers are housed in offices of Cosatu affiliates.

But some Cosatu affiliates are pushing for trade unions to increase financial support to the SACP – a matter to be discussed at the federation’s congress next week.

Cosatu believes it should help the SACP because the party represents the working class, which is Cosatu’s constituency.

“We are looking into finding our own building,” said an SACP insider who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It might take some time, but we are working on it.”

Two of Cosatu’s large affiliates, the National Union of Mineworkers and the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union, have already resolved that assistance to the SACP should be expanded to office space free of charge.

The practice, according to an SACP insider, is that rent is deducted from the money that was supposed to contribute to the SACP’s upkeep.

“The reality is that we never really got that money. Our rent is almost always equal to our political fund so the money goes back to Cosatu anyway,” the source said. “We’re even cramped on a floor at Cosatu House.”

The two organisations have recently found themselves frequently defending allegations that their relationship has turned sour. Some Cosatu affiliates are irked by the SACP’s defence of government and ­support for President Jacob Zuma’s bid for a second term as ANC president.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi conceded that there has been some ­serious tensions with the SACP, but said the relationship has remained “good”.

He said: “It may not be perfect ... You had right from the beginning the car, a BMW. That thing caused (tension) for a moment.”

Cosatu was unhappy that SACP general secretary and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande bought a luxury German ministerial sedan when the economic climate threatened jobs.

“Then you had a moment when Cosatu said the SACP is not as good as it used to be when it had a full-time general secretary.”

However, Cosatu will continue to finance the SACP and even increase the funding.

“We continue to provide material support as the federation and lots of the unions provide that support directly,” Vavi added.

“This is our party and it will not get money from elsewhere. It has to be supported by the workers.”

In his draft secretariat report to thecongress, Vavi urges Cosatu affiliates to look for different formulae to help the SACP.

The party also has bilateral agreements with some affiliates which fund specific programmes, ­“including in the past some full-time staff positions”, his report reads.

SACP spokesperson Malesela Maleka told City Press they preferred to “give ­Cosatu delegates space to discuss their internal matters”.

He said: “We’d like to tread carefully so that we don’t interfere with the business of Cosatu.”

While the party appreciated Cosatu’s ­assistance, Maleka said they would not be dictated to on positions they took.

“We’ve never understood our relationship with affiliates to be paternalistic to say because we fund you, you can’t do this or say that.

“If people want to fund the SACP and want to tell us what to do, then thank you.”

Vavi’s report said bilateral meetings with the SACP focused largely on areas of “tactical difference” and “areas of irritation”.

“Regrettably, all these differences feed ­into a view that Cosatu and the SACP leadership no longer enjoy a close relationship,” Vavi said.

But he added that the differences were “not personal” but “organisational”.


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