Crowd boos leaders of ANC at Cosatu rally
ANC and alliance leaders yesterday used labour federation Cosatu’s 30th anniversary at Durban’s Curries Fountain stadium to rally around former president Nelson Mandela’s legacy and defend him against claims by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) that he was a sellout. ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, SA Community Party (SACP) secretary-general Blade Nzimande and Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini all lashed out at EFF leader Julius Malema attaching a “sellout” tag to democratic South Africa’s founding president during a speaking tour abroad. Yesterday marked the second anniversary of Mandela’s death.
Dlamini, the keynote speaker at the anniversary event, which was attended by several thousand people, called on Malema to apologise for the comment, which he described as a “lifelong mistake”.
“Shame on these children that do not respect the elders,” said Dlamini. “Shame on these children that can undermine all of us in this country and call him [Mandela] a sellout. Shame on you, Julius. You can’t spin this. You must apologise … You have committed a lifelong mistake.”
Attacking the former ANC Youth League president over his lavish lifestyle, Dlamini said that, unlike Malema, Mandela had not lived large.
“Nelson Mandela never led a march and took a helicopter to Mauritius to enjoy a wedding. Nelson Mandela never demolished a R3 million house and rebuilt it,” Dlamini said.
Dlamini compared Mandela to international revolutionary icons like South America’s Simón Bolivar, and African leaders like Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba.
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An angry Ramaphosa also tore into the EFF for being “peacetime revolutionaries” who “had never been in the trenches”, who “know nothing about the struggle” but “have the temerity to open their mouths and insult a national icon and say he sold out”.
“Nelson Mandela was not a sellout. He never sold out. Nelson Mandela stayed in prison for 27 painful years because he wouldn’t sell out,” he said. “Nelson Mandela was a hero of our revolution.”
Nzimande accused the EFF of populism and said the party should not “gamble with our revolution”.
Turning his attention to mine workers’ union Numsa and expelled Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, Nzimande said the labour federation’s recent 12th congress had marked the defeat of an attempt to take over Cosatu.
Ramaphosa thanked the Cosatu leaders for being “vigilant” in dealing with the threat and called on them to build the federation and its affiliates, a task he conceded would be “very difficult”.
Turning to shop floor matters, Dlamini issued a demand to president Jacob Zuma that his state of the nation address next year should be used to announce the detail of a national minimum wage.
Dlamini said Cosatu’s congress had pegged a national minimum wage at between R4 500 and R6 000, and said it would most benefit vulnerable workers in highly exploitative industries like security, agriculture and the restaurant sector.
He also called on President Zuma not to sign off on new taxation laws until the department of social development and Treasury had completed their work on developing policy for a social security system to benefit workers who had lost their jobs.
Meanwhile, the tensions in the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal structures spilled over into the governing alliance yesterday when newly elected provincial chairperson Sihle Zikalala and his leadership were booed by crowds attending the Cosatu rally.
The crowd, which had been disciplined most of the day, roared their disapproval when Zikalala and his deputy, Willies Mchunu, were acknowledged by Cosatu’s Dlamini.
The crowd also booed at the rest of the ANC provincial leadership when its presence was acknowledged.
Zikalala ousted Premier Senzo Mchunu as party chairperson last month in an election seen by many members as rigged.
Fingers have been pointed at Zikalala, who was previously provincial secretary and, therefore, had control over the administration of branches and members.
The eThekweni region, where the rally was held, has a strong Mchunu support base. Zikalala has been linked to the so-called Premier League, a loose association of leaders of Mpumalanga, Free State and North West who are the engine behind former Home Affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s bid for the presidency.
On Monday, Mchunu supporters marched on the party’s provincial offices for the second time to demand a rerun and a halt of all activities of the new provincial leadership.
They have also vowed to march on the ANC’s Luthuli House headquarters in Johannesburg.
The party’s national executive committee has now appointed a task team to look into the dispute.
STOMPING GOOD TIME From left: SACP general-secretary Blade Nzimande, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, Sanco provincial secretary Richard Hlophe and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa dance on stage at Cosatu’s 30th anniversary celebration at the Curries Fountain stadium in Durban yesterday