Cosatu boss behaves as if he is President Vavi

2009-09-26 12:25

PRESIDENT Zwelinzima Vavi. That’s quite a thought but in a democratic state it’s as entirely legitimate an aspiration for the trade union leader as it is for each of us. At this week’s 10th Cosatu congress Vavi threw his hat into the political ring.

Cosatu’s longest-serving ­general secretary is tired and told the ANC and the South African Communist Party that he was ready for political office. And not as general secretary, he said. Which means he would like the presidency.

If he’d like political power this is the way for Vavi to get it, not by his action this week – Cosatu bayed for Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel’s head.

It demanded that the government ban and not regulate ­labour brokers.

It insisted that government revoke the Green Paper on the National Planning Commission. By raising temperatures of a turf war Zwelinzima ­behaves as if he is already President Vavi.

This is because of the odd system of governance of the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP. Throughout the administration of the former president, Thabo Mbeki, the unions complained that his government had ­become an ANC-led government rather than an alliance-led ­government.

That, essentially, was what this week’s Cosatu congress was about. The union federation wants to ensure that it ­co-governs.

This was the tacit promise it received when it placed its significant weight behind President Jacob Zuma when he ran for the highest office.

Now Cosatu wants its own way or it will seek to make the state ungovernable.

Zuma is in an impossible spot of his own creation.

By setting up a cabinet of ­unworkable compromise and not clarifying the exact similarities and differences between the different ideological strains within it, he has left government open to the turf wars that started at the congress this week.

Is Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel in charge of economic policy? Or is Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan? Or is Manuel, who ­after all has been charged with formulating the grand 2020 ­national plan, which must of necessity be guided by economic policy?

These are tough questions and there is only one person who can clarify them and bring an immediate cessation to hostilities. And that person is ­Zuma, not Vavi.

It was the ANC that won the election in April, not Cosatu. And it governs all of us, not only the blue-collar workers, as much as they hold up more than half the sky.

To that end, government’s mandate to canvass opinion through green papers and its economic stewardship is much broader than the agenda ­Cosatu set out. If Vavi wants to be president now, it must be on his own ticket.


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