God must be a communist - Ehrenreich

2015-09-11 14:21
Cosatu's Tony Ehrenreich (Die Burger)

Cosatu's Tony Ehrenreich (Die Burger)

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Cape Town - Tony Ehrenreich has had so many brushes with death he believes God must particularly like him.

“Maybe He is a communist,” he laughed.

But after surviving two near drownings, a serious motorbike accident and cancer of the oesophagus, the leader of the opposition in the City of Cape Town and provincial secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) is not one to shy away from a fight.

No stranger to being challenged by old people while shopping or upsetting white people who take exception to his usually contentious comments, Ehrenreich said he was happy to engage with those wanting a healthy debate.

‘I would rather die with my boots on’

He takes dirty looks and “stupid” racist remarks in his stride, and those who try to pick a fight will always get a simple “hey, fuck off”, he said.

He recently nearly had a run-in with two burly men who recognised him at the airport.

“I was heading towards the escalator when two white guys who were walking behind me called out ‘Hey! Hoekom eet jy nog die kos wat die boere maak?’ while the other guy said ‘Jy Tony, jy moenie praat van die boere nie’. I just said ‘voetsek’ and kept walking,” he recalled with a flick of his wrist.

It helped that a rugby buddy noticed the commotion and threatened to help him “moer” them and later police officers belonging to Popcru stood up for him, Ehrenreich laughed.

“I knew those two guys could moer me, but I would rather die with my boots on.”

Popularity is not important to him, he says. Born in Parow, but forcibly removed to Uitsig on the Cape Flats, his involvement with the unions started while working as a motor mechanic for the McCarthy group.

He became a shop steward, and was one of the leaders of a strike at McCarthy in 1987.

“People hate me because I challenge the power and continued privilege of the wealthy who benefited under apartheid.

Champion of the working class

“But I have long ago decided I am on the side of the working class. And I have a simple philosophy that you can’t be [the champion of] both sides. You can’t at the same time serve the greedy as well as those who are marginalised because of greed.”

The acceptance of his ideas and the fact that it resonates with the poor is important to him, he insisted. 

He isn’t shy to pick a fight in cyberspace either.

“I love tweeting old Helen [Zille],” he laughed, admitting that he enjoyed having it out with the Western Cape premier and her followers. 

“Trolling her gets her followers talking. Some respond by calling me ‘Papsak Tony’ and say I am gesuip (drunk) when I make these statements. 

“But that’s how they characterise coloured people. They can’t deal with the content of your issues.”

So for now Ehrenreich will kick up a fuss - even if it comes from other coloured people challenging him.

And yes, he has stopped shouting for the All Blacks as he did in 1994, but will only stop fighting for a representative rugby team when "people see themselves reflected in the team".

Read more on:    cosatu  |  tony ehrenreich  |  cape town

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