Cosatu no crutch for ‘walking wounded’

2012-04-30 00:00

LABOUR federation Cosatu wants to avoid backing candidates for the ANC’s leadership elections again — unless it really becomes necessary.

The Witness has obtained a frank discussion paper prepared for last week’s Cosatu’s central executive committee meeting, in which it also criticises its tripartite ally, the SA Communist Party

It says it wants to avoid a repeat of the ANC’s 2007 Polokwane conference “where the ‘walking wounded’ claimed the support of Cosatu”, which included “a lot of characters who were no friends of the working class”.

The federation at the time threw its weight behind President Jacob Zuma to defeat former president Thabo Mbeki, with Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi calling Zuma an “unstoppable tsunami”.

In the paper, Cosatu said it had done so because “the environment left us with no choice” as it was opposed to the direction the government’s economic policies were taking and blamed Mbeki for these.

The alliance has since experienced new strains and Cosatu has become impatient with Zuma, who it has described as an indecisive leader.

In the paper, Cosatu also berates the SACP, accusing it of having become too supportive of government’s “conservative” policies.

In the paper, Cosatu says it has given “assurances” to the ANC and the SACP that it would not again openly discuss the ANC leadership and “publish” its preferences in the run-up to the party’s elective conference in Mangaung in December.

Cosatu will “not debate who our preferred candidates are going to be in the Mangaung conference unless in our assessment things have fallen back to the pre-Polokwane conference situation”.

But it said it should guard against the “new tendency” taking over the ANC, which it describes as the “backers” of the candidates for the ANC’s presidency mentioned in the media. These backers could “capture the ANC and the state for private accumulation agendas,” the document says.

Following Zuma’s inauguration as president in 2009, there have been concerns within the ANC about the enrichment of his family members in business, as well as his link to prominent businesspeople.

Some within the alliance are also suspicious of the business links of possible candidates for the presidency in Mangaung, such as former businessman and Housing Minister Tokyo Sexwale and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, whose partner Gugu Mtshali is a businesswoman.

Cosatu says the “political environment” since Polokwane has been “highly fluid and unstable” and politics “zigzags wildly, depending on which forces have the upper hand at a given moment”. There are also those resisting changes in policy to make the government more worker-friendly, it says.

Cosatu regularly complains that the ANC in government doesn’t pay heed to its policy demands, such as the scrapping of labour brokers or its resistance to the introduction of a youth wage subsidy. But it scored a victory last week by convincing the ANC to postpone the implementation of Gauteng’s controversial e-toll system.

In the paper it says it will “outline criteria for the type of leadership collective we would like to see” and “publicise these criteria as a recommendation to delegates, rather than proposing names of individuals”.

These criteria should include “a proven track record of clean governance, integrity and high levels of morality in the exercise of leadership”.

Cosatu also says in the paper it wants to meet with the ANC in the next few weeks to discuss the party’s policies on leadership.

Cosatu says its 2007 proposals on leadership were largely ignored by the ANC in its organisational renewal discussion document ahead of the party’s June policy conference.

The discussion document “doesn’t address the question of improving the representivity of leadership structures”, although the ANC’s national executive committee has in the past used its powers to co-opt unionists.

But this is an “ad hoc mechanism which can be deployed at will”, Cosatu says.

Cosatu admits that, although the ANC’s nominations for leaders will only open in October, the succession battle has already spilled over into the labour federation and caused internal strain.

ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu couldn’t be reached for comment yesterday.

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