Mixed reactions to leaders

2009-09-22 12:37

Johannesburg - Delegates at the 10th conference of the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) had mixed reactions to the alliance leaders at the start of the second day of proceedings on Tuesday.

Some expressed support for SA Communist Party general secretary and Minister of Higher Education Blade Nzimande who, along with other ministers who spent over R1m of public funds on official cars, had earlier drawn criticism from Cosatu.

Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven called the expenditures on luxury cars a "slap in the face of the unemployed and people living in shanty towns".

Nzimande on Monday told the delegates: "I know very well that socialism will not come in a BMW. I have not forgotten that."

'Wrong signal'

"We agree that it was a mistake to accept the million rand car," said SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) delegate and SACP member Tinzi Lubabalo.

"It can send the wrong signal to the poor about the person who is advancing their interests."

National Union of Metalworkers of SA delegate Fana Dlamini said he believed Nzimande was trying to walk a fine line between his position as leader of the SACP and as a member of the government.

"He's now a minister in government and some policies might contradict communism. As a minister and [general secretary of the SACP] he has to manage those contradictions," said Dlamini.

Dlamini was more qualified in his support of President Jacob Zuma. On Monday, Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi said delegates were not as enthusiastic about Zuma's speech on Monday as they were at a previous conference in 2006.

Vavi, however, said he believed the delegates' enthusiasm was restored by the end of the president's speech.

A different Zuma

"In 2006, when he was not the state president he was a different Zuma," said Dlamini.

"I was expecting him to say a lot on the soldiers' wages and their working conditions."

He believed Zuma's new position as president required him to be more cautious.

However, Lubabalo believed delegates were still as excited about Zuma as they were in 2006.

"It was the same, except that people didn't stand on the tables," he said.

"He gave a well-prepared speech. It covered the values of the workers."

Zuma 'surprised people'

National Health, Education and Allied Workers' Union delegate Christine Mokonyane said she believed Zuma acted correctly in reaching out to political organisations beyond the left.

"The way he appointed people, he looked at the nation... He surprised people.

"I think if they can work together they can accomplish something," said Mokonyane.