Vavi’s ‘brave’ stance

2011-04-07 00:00

COSATU boss Zwelinzima Vavi was yesterday described as “brave” following his harsh criticism of “corruption and greed” in the government.

Political commentator Professor Adam Habib, deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg (UJ) added: “Ironically enough, Vavi’s pronouncements are good for the ANC’s image, because he is in the ANC, but ANC leaders do not see this,” Habib said. “It’s important that more voices are heard against corruption and not silenced.”

Speaking on Tuesday, Vavi deviated from his prepared speech to warn that the DA could take control of Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape.

“You may find a very embarrassing situation: Nelson Mandela Bay under a Democratic Alliance leadership,” Vavi said at a bargaining conference of the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), according to quotes in the Business Day.

“If we are not careful, and if we allow people to take our movement in the direction they are taking, very soon we may have to call someone President Zille — which will be an absolute nightmare,” Vavi said, diverting from his speech prepared for delivery.

He said the ANC is “infested with corruption and greed”.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe declined to respond to Vavi’s statement.

“The reality of the matter is that we are campaigning. Anybody with time to do analysis and make predictions, good luck,” Mantashe told Business Day.

But former education minister Kader Asmal said: “It doesn’t help for Vavi to carry on criticising; he must do something. Vavi gives politics a bad name by continually complaining in public without taking any action.”

Asmal appealed to Vavi to support the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac), an independent anti-corruption body.

“There are too many people who come out and criticise one another, but don’t take any action. Otherwise Vavi’s rejection of a predator state and corruption is merely blasé,” said Asmal, who serves on Casac.

Asmal believes Vavi does have a point with his criticism of moral values in South African politics: “There is a small group of elite who think politics is synonymous with making money. However, the silence of the churches is what surprises me most. To eat sushi from women’s bodies is not only in bad taste, but also a reflection of our society’s moral values. It is astounding and disturbing that churches are silent about it.”

Dr Piet Croucamp, a lecturer in political science at the UJ, believes Vavi is trying to distinguish himself from the “elitist concept by which South African politics is characterised nowadays as a result of ANC political competition”, by defending the unemployed — “something that labour trade unions don’t usually do, because they represent the working class”.

Croucamp says Cosatu is specifically aware of the fact that corruption causes a one-sided allocation of scarce resources, which should be used for poverty relief.

“Vavi is sending a clear message to the ANC that, particularly during election time, Cosatu’s alliance with the governing party does not mean a common interest in all circumstances.”

Professor Richard Calland, executive director of the Open Democracy Advice Centre (Odac) and a lecturer at the University of Cape Town, said, “It is understandable that alliance partners will exploit the fact that the government needs them during election times.

“However, we welcome the fact that Cosatu is using this opportunity to highlight issues like corruption and put some pressure on the ANC and government in that way.”

Casac supports Vavi in his criticism of corruption. Casac executive secretary Lawson Naidoo said Casac wants voters to use the elections to prove that corruption and unethical conduct will not be tolerated.

“We are proposing an independent anti-corruption agency that can fearlessly investigate corruption in the private sector and public service.”

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