The ANC and President Jacob Zuma have taken a tough stance on Cosatu and the SA Communist Party (SACP), saying that it was pointless to sit in a meeting with them if they were not prepared to listen to Zuma anywhere else.City Press has learnt that plans to hold an important alliance political council a fortnight ago ground to a halt after Zuma persuaded officials to instead seek a bilateral meeting to clear the air on ongoing leadership squabbles.Zuma apparently wanted to know why the ANC’s alliance partners would listen to him at that meeting when Cosatu has banned him from speaking at its events and the SACP has publically called on him to step down.On the back of Zuma’s protest, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe met with alliance secretaries who accepted the decision to seek clarity. “[Zuma] persuaded us to say, let us engage the alliance partners before we go there, rather than ... walking away from each other in the political council. "Let us engage them bilaterally and remove the obstacles.”Mantashe said it was incorrect to suggest that Zuma had said he would not attend the political council.“We want to understand their thinking. They have taken decisions, but they have not spoken to us,” Mantashe said.However, insiders in Cosatu and the SACP this week dismissed the proposal for separate meetings as a fruitless exercise intended to “nurse Zuma’s feelings”.A sign of disrespectBoth organisations this week publicly said the priority should be to reschedule the alliance council, which is now two weeks past due. The ANC’s unilateral decision to cancel the meeting was also seen as a sign of disrespect, reigniting the long-held view that the ANC treated Cosatu and the SACP as junior partners in the alliance.There was a sentiment that Zuma was “running scared” because he thought that he was “going to be ambushed” with Cosatu and the SACP in the same room.Alliance insiders said that, instead of cancelling the political council, “which was in the first place not supposed to be the ANC’s decision to make”, Zuma should have stayed away if he was reluctant and sent the remainder of the top six officials.They said that, even if the bilaterals were to take place, the ANC’s top six did not have the constitutional power to review any decisions taken by the party’s allies, including the call for Zuma to step down and banning him from attending their events.“They called for bilaterals pandering to Zuma’s whims. Everyone must meet as mandated by their structures under the alliance political council banner to debate,” said an insider.Cosatu owed its decision not to attend the bilateral meeting with the ANC to the fact that its general secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali, was out of the country.Its spokesperson, Sizwe Pamla, said that they would accept another invitation from the ANC should it propose another date.“We will meet the ANC for a bilateral. They just have to give us a date [and] we will meet them because we want the alliance political council to take place.”But City Press understands that there was no appetite from the majority of Cosatu’s national office bearers and that such a meeting would also be snubbed until the ANC convened the alliance political council.In addition, the SACP took a decision at its central committee meeting to reject any attempt by the ANC to drag it into a bilateral. The party, which, like Cosatu, has become a staunch critic of the ANC and particularly Zuma, is said to have written a letter giving notice to this effect. The SACP said it did not need a bilateral as there had been many of those recently.Cosatu has upped the ante, taking a resolution at its recent central committee that the alliance political council must be reconfigured and be given new powers, making it a strategic centre of power. This would mean political decisions, deployments and the passing of ANC manifestos would be managed and approved by the alliance council. The reasoning is that too much power is centralised in the ANC and in an individual (Zuma).