ANC leadership paranoid - Vavi
Johannesburg - The ANC leadership was paranoid in interpreting a civil society conference as an attempt to effect regime change in South Africa, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told the SABC on Tuesday.
"I honestly don't know what informs this paranoia on the part of the leadership. Cosatu went with the overwhelming majority of the people who participated... (It was) very clear that we are not going there to form a workers' party or a new left wing party or whatever," Vavi told the broadcaster.
"Reading the statement of the ANC, I must say it is rather shocking - inconsistent, incoherent, reflective of something that is not anywhere close to what Cosatu's intentions were in convening the civil society conference."
Vavi was commenting after the ANC said the conference last week had taken an "oppositionist" stance toward the ANC-led government.
The ANC had noted that the ANC, the SA Communist Party and the SA National Civics Organisation were not invited. This had positioned the conference "as an alternative bloc to the alliance," ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe told reporters at Luthuli House in Johannesburg.
"It's not an opposition party, but the stance is oppositionist. And we think it's a dangerous populist approach to disagreements, and it is intending to create a crisis where there is no crisis."
He was speaking after a meeting of the ANC's national working committee on Monday. The conference last week was hosted by ANC ally Cosatu, and included civil society formations. At the two-day gathering, a labour breakaway from the ANC was mooted, but shut down.
Mantashe said the ruling party did not believe the majority of Cosatu's leaders intended to effect regime change in the country.
"But we nonetheless caution that an action like the one of leading a charge for the formation... of a mass civic movement outside the alliance and the ANC might indeed be interpreted as initial steps for regime change in South Africa."
Vavi's attacks on "black political parties" and the "notable omission" of the Democratic Alliance further reinforced the conference being interpreted as a move toward a breakaway.
Mantashe said despite assertions the conference was not "anti-government or anti-ANC", Cosatu's failure to invite the ANC and to allow the government to respond to criticism levelled at it, pointed to the opposite.
Despite this, Mantashe said the ANC's relationship with Cosatu remained "working" and "workable".
There were disagreements, but in the end, the ruling party and its labour ally would talk to each other, he said.
Mantashe acknowledged there were problems, saying perhaps these could be attributed to an "ideological shift" within Cosatu.
"Many of these issues... old debates that were defeated in the 80s and in the 90s, and if they re-emerge now and they have the resonance in the federation, it may point to the ideological shift in the federation itself and the shifting of the balance of forces to the extreme.
"If that happens within the federation, it will also create difficulties in the working of the alliance."
A temporary cease-fire between the ANC and Cosatu emerged after the ANC's national general council (NGC) in September after months of tension over the country's economic trajectory and the ANC's perceived soft stance against corruption.
Commenting further on the issue, Cosatu said it was it was "shocked" at the NWC's response to a highly successful civil society conference.
"The statement fails to understand the nature and role of civil society in the national democratic revolution and raises totally groundless fears of the formation of an opposition bloc," said spokesperson Patrick Craven.
Cosatu and the other organisations who planned the conference went out of their way to explain who would be invited, and agreed that no political parties would be invited, Craven said, "as this would undermine its status as a meeting of civil society and change the whole character of the conference".
Craven said the allegation that the decision not to invite the ANC and SACP was an attempt "to put a wedge between civil society formations, some unions, the ANC and its government" was baseless.
He said Sanco was invited, it participated in the conference and there was the conference's register to prove that.
"Cosatu remains firmly committed to its alliance with the ANC, SACP and Sanco, mandated by many national congress resolutions.
"It has however also always been, and will remain, a trade union federation, independent of the ANC, the state and capital, with the right to meet and interact with any organisation, as long as this advances the interests of the working class."
Cosatu did not need to seek permission from anyone to meet and work with friendly pro-poor and pro-working class organisations, Craven said.