Is Vavi courting the middle class?

2012-03-12 00:00

ONE has to wonder what the government will think of making us pay for next. We are being charged for all sorts of things just nje. Our government has decided that it will make us pay for things that it is supposed to, and should be, paying for. Actually, it is what we are already paying for anyway, through myriad taxes, levies and VAT. Now we have the lovely e-toll that those of us who live in Gauteng must pay for.

Instead of giving us more opportunities to make money, the government gives itself more opportunities to take money from us. A smart move would be to ensure the creation of opportunities for more people to make enough money in order to increase the taxable pool. But no, let's make those who already pay more, pay even more anyway. We have a tiny minority paying taxes to support a large population who can't pay taxes. It is an unsustainable practice.

Of course, this is not to say I don't understand the bind in which the government finds itself. The government leads a highly economically divided society. One almost sympathises with the government's philosophy: get those who can afford to pay, to pay for those who need basic services but who cannot afford to pay for them.

On the one hand, we have the middle class complaining that the government is taking too much from it, thus making it a have-not as well. The middle class want to help, but it does not want to feel as though the government is taking from it. Surely there are other ways in which the government can make money other than taking from an already heavily burdened middle class.

It was with great interest that I saw the middle class begin to support the activities of Cosatu. The very same people who used to look down on the marches were now hailing Zwelinzima Vavi.

The more Cosatu and Vavi target issues that weigh heavily on all South Africans, the more support Cosatu will have among the middle classes. If Cosatu broadens scope to more than just looking after the working class, it will have a lot of support among all South Africans.

Vavi has been speaking about truth to power, saying that some are afraid of saying anything because they are members of the ruling party. His independence has made him more popular with the middle class than the trade union he leads.

He spoke out against portions of the Protection of State Information Bill for example, something that the middle class was also speaking against. It appears that Cosatu has become the voice of the people, which the ANC used to be.

One has to respect Vavi's refusal to join the ANC's National Executive Committee. He said that his independence would be curtailed were he to become a member. We have seen how every single trade unionist has had his balls cut off as soon as he became a member of the ANC's NEC.

What could the reasons for his refusal to join the ANC's highest structures be? It is possible that he genuinely wants to stand for the people and fears being too comfortable once he shares the table of the powerful.

It could also be that he wants to build a powerful moral voice that will take the ANC to task when it seems to be going against the principles of the democratic national revolution. But some in the ANC would argue that it is capable of doing that on its own, that it does not need a watchdog, it is its own watchdog.

There are some who argue that Vavi aspires to turn Cosatu into a political party. This is not viable. A trade union can't be a trade union and a political party. It has to be one thing or another.

Let's continue watching this space. —

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