Dear Zwelizima Vavi
I am writing you this letter on your capacity as the general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), an ally of the ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC).
Without any doubt, the question that lingers in many South Africans’ minds is, “How did our beloved country get to where it is today?” merely eighteen years into freedom.
Among those who have dared to answer this question include the so-called political analysts whose pseudo-analyses have failed to point out that COSATU has immensely contributed in getting us to where we are today.
In essence, COSATU ought to be addressing the contemporary challenges faced by the working class in this country. Surprisingly, it is more concern with the ANC’s internal affairs so much that it has neglected the working class.
It serves no purpose of justice that COSATU would selflessly address workers’ needs while it is in political alliance with workers’ biggest enemy, the government. The recent outbreak of wildcat strikes gives credence to an assertion that the self-serving COSATU’s affiliated union leaders have neglected the working class.
At least workers, having refused to be represented by National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM’s) representatives during the wage negotiations and pelting your car with stones, have finally realised that they are being used as the stepping stones to advance political fortunes of certain individuals.
We would not have seen a reversal of apartheid like atrocity at Marikana, had COSATU concerted its effort in addressing the contemporary challenges faced by workers in this country, as it does with the ANC’s internal politics.
We would not have seen an outbreak of countless wildcat strikes had COSATU concerted its effort in addressing the contemporary challenges faced by workers in this country, as it does with the ANC’s internal politics.
Almost a week after Marikana atrocity, COSATU issued a statement in which it said it does not blame the government while it is directly blameworthy for playing politics at the expense of the working class.
Interestingly, amid the strikes, COSATU did not even bother to convene a special meeting to discuss the strikes or workers’ demands like it did recently to discuss the ANC’s nomination process to inter alia convince Kgalema Motlanthe not to stand against President Jacob Zuma for ANC presidency.
I thought that whether Motlanthe runs for ANC presidency or not does not only lie solely with the ANC branches but also has nothing to do with COSATU, more so because at your recently held elective conference, the ANC did not interfere with your internal processes, but the opposite happens.
Your conference swirled primarily around the ANC’s internal politics; you even sung pro-Zuma songs, instead of discussing the contemporary challenges faced by the workers. After you were re-elected unopposed, you excitedly told the ANC to watch and learn, insinuating that it should also undemocratically retain its current futile leadership.
COSATU of lately is disturbingly all over the place, even where it has no bearing. If it could apply the same energy it applies on matters falling outside its scope of duty to address workers’ contemporary challenges, we would not have seen the outbreak of labour unrests.
The proposed e-toll and Secrecy Bill in this regard bear classic examples. These matters fall outside COSATU’s scope of duty. They have to be addressed by the civic organisations such as Opposition to urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) and Right2Know Campaign, not COSATU. City Press earlier this year reported that COSATU benefitted from the same e-toll through Kopano Ke Matla, yet you claimed that you never knew about the system.
Now returning to the question lingering in many South Africans’ minds, “How did our beloved country get to where it is today?” You, the general secretary of the South African Communist Party (SACP), the expelled and the former ANC Youth League’s Presidents Julius Malema and Fikile Mbalula respectively, Free State (FS) Premier Ace Magashule among others, have to answer this question. At least Malema has already apologised for having Zuma elected as the President of the country.
You supported Zuma for the ANC presidency knowing very well that he has no vision of his own except squandering the taxpayers’ hard-earned money to renovate his homestead Nkandla. You knew that with him at the helm, you would easily swing key decisions to your favour. Hitherto, you have only shifted the centre of power to the ultra-leftists. The communists have taken over the ANC, something that Thabo Mbeki stood firmly opposed to.
Uncompromisingly, you supported him while corruption charges were pending against him, until he dubiously evaded the process of justice. In fact, you were one of those who said the charges against him were politically motivated. You even said he is an ‘unstoppable Tsunami’. Ironically, two years at the helm, corruption had risen exponentially to an extent that COSATU set up a Corruption Watch. However, the body is futilely non-existent.
To answer the question, there are four facile factors that got us to where we are today, namely:
· supporting Zuma in 2007 who has no respect for the rule of law and the South Africans in general while corruption charges were pending against him did not only set a bad precedence, but also compromised a hard-fought fight against corruption;
· the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) policy;
· Key public institutions occupied by merely functional literates incumbents; and
· Politicisation of unions for economic gains
With respect to the first point, how do we expect the Zuma-led government to fight corruption while he himself does not only have to answer on the same charges, but is in contempt with the Supreme Court of Appeals’ (SCA’s) ruling that his legal team should hand over the transcripts of the spy tapes to the Democratic Alliance (DA)?
Zuma has no respect for South Africans too. He wilfully lied in Parliament that his family is building Nkandla while there is sufficient evidence that taxpayers’ hard-earned money is corruptly squandered with impunity.
As for the BEE, the policy has failed to redress the economic divide. Instead, it only benefitted a hand-picked clique of overnight millionaires like your Khulubuse Zuma, Duduzane Zuma, Malema, Tokyo Sexwale, and Cyril Ramaphosa among others.
The policy has seriously corrupted the government tendering system, tempting even companies that subscribe to a fair bidding process. Broadening the policy into Broad Based BEE (BBBEE) made matters even worse because most companies are now bringing in ANC members on their boards to increasing their chances of winning government tenders.
Initially, I did not support nationalisation of mines but seeing that the BEE is not bridging the economic divide, nationalisation of mines is the only way to go or else, the government should step in the private sector to bridge the economic divide.
Take for example, two University graduates with the same degrees and experience working for the same company, doing the same job at the same levels, one’s salary by virtue of skin colour is twice the other one, this for me highlights a cryptic failure of the BEE. The government in this regard should step in, conduct salary audit in the private sector and then enforce standard measures to strike the balance.
Taking into consideration the fact the Black graduates have to spend few years redressing the legacy of apartheid in their families and also having to repay the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) with forever increasing interest rates.
The third point, most recently the key public offices or institutions are occupied by merely functional literate incumbents who do not have the knowledge and understanding of dynamics of globalised world. Take our incumbent State President for example, he does not know whether the country goes forward or back. This is a major problem.
Another classic example is that of forever acting Chief Operations Officer (COO) of the Public Broadcaster Hlaudi Motsoeneng who is also functionally literate. His decisions, from censoring the names such as Nkandlagate and homestead on South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC’s) news, the cancelling Metro FM programmes and banning certain adverts do not only leave much to be desired, but also point to the fact that the key public offices are held by merely functional literate incumbents who do not understand certain dynamics.
Fourthly, to truly represent workers or your members’ interests, COSATU should de-politicise itself and concert its effort in addressing the contemporary challenges faced by the working class in this country. It is sad indeed to see poor workers fighting for a decently living wage like R150 per day or seeing the unbearable living conditions of the miners in this country.
I hope you will spare some time to reflect on these issues raised.
By Molifi Tshabalala