Cosatu’s lead­ers wal­low in myth

CityPress - - Busi­ness - Terry Bell busi­ness@city­press.co.za

US writer and hu­morist Mark Twain once wrote, fol­low­ing an er­ro­neous re­port of his death, that it was an ex­ag­ger­a­tion. The same can be said for labour fed­er­a­tion Cosatu as it cel­e­brated its 30th an­niver­sary this week.

How­ever, re­ports of the im­mi­nent death of Cosatu per­sist. And lit­tle won­der, given the at­ti­tude of Cosatu’s lead­er­ship and that of its al­lies.

Rather than ad­dress re­al­ity, they con­tinue to wal­low in myth, tinged with ap­par­ent para­noia that owes more to the Cold War past than to the present.

Take the speech by Cosatu pres­i­dent Sdumo Dlamini at the fed­er­a­tion’s na­tional con­gress at the end of last month, for ex­am­ple. He laid the blame for the re­cent tur­moil and in­fight­ing in Cosatu on an ap­par­ent US-spon­sored plot. Ac­cord­ing to Dlamini, “many of our union lead­ers have been taken to the US to un­der­take var­i­ous train­ings”.

Th­ese union lead­ers, Dlamini main­tained, were “agents of the Amer­i­cans”.

While he con­ceded that there had been a cri­sis within Cosatu, he told the as­sem­bled del­e­gates that “with­out any am­bi­gu­ity”, it had been “planned and driven from out­side”.

In other words, the lead­er­ship of the fed­er­a­tion was com­pletely with­out blame or re­spon­si­bil­ity; they had merely been vic­tims of a das­tardly in­ter­na­tional plot.

Had any ev­i­dence been ad­vanced to sup­port such wild claims, it would have cre­ated a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional in­ci­dent. But, of course, there was no ev­i­dence, merely rhetoric that added fur­ther con­fu­sion to an al­ready con­fused en­vi­ron­ment.

And the speech to the con­gress by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma did noth­ing to im­prove mat­ters. Ram­bling and ide­o­log­i­cally in­co­her­ent, Zuma in­dulged in some sim­plis­tic cap­i­tal­ist bash­ing on is­sues such as the price of bread and petrol. But while he main­tained that the en­emy was the cap­i­tal­ist class, he also stressed that the ANC was a “mul­ti­class or­gan­i­sa­tion”.

Per­haps, given this sort of anal­y­sis, it should have been no sur­prise that there was a strong move among Cosatu af­fil­i­ates to sup­port bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man and Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa to suc­ceed Zuma when the pres­i­dent’s term ends in 2019.

One rea­son ad­vanced was that, be­cause Ramaphosa al­ready had so much money, he was un­likely to be cor­rupt.

That Ramaphosa was a di­rec­tor of Lon­min at the time of the Marikana mas­sacre and sent emails in sup­port of tough po­lice ac­tion against the strik­ers did not ap­pear to count against him. This was, how­ever, a side is­sue, be­cause the mere fact that Cosatu re­mains in­volved in the de­bate about the fu­ture ANC pres­i­dent in­di­cates its will­ing­ness to re­main al­lied to the ANC.

As Zuma ex­plained, with­out any irony, a mul­ti­class ANC was bat­tling to bring about a “na­tional demo­cratic rev­o­lu­tion”, which would in­clude cap­i­tal­ists. At the same time, work­ers should fight cap­i­tal­ists to im­prove wages and con­di­tions while the SA Com­mu­nist Party strove to over­throw the cap­i­tal­ist or­der to usher in “the dic­ta­tor­ship of the pro­le­tariat”.

Each el­e­ment of the al­liance should, there­fore, unite be­hind the ANC (“unity is the key”), said Zuma – de­spite their di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed in­ter­ests.

This, it seems to me, is the ma­jor cause of the Cosatu cri­sis. So, I sup­pose, it will be a mat­ter of frag­men­ta­tion con­tinua, al­though unto death is un­likely.

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