Cosatu-led marches were less about graft and more about its cho­sen can­di­date,says Clyde Ra­malaine

The Sunday Independent - - DISPATCHES -

THE PRES­I­DEN­TIAL con­test for the ANC’s 54th con­fer­ence from De­cem­ber 16 to 20 is in full bloom if we ob­serve the po­si­tions taken by a va­ri­ety of stake­hold­ers. Or­gan­ised labour, we are told, ex­ists to work it­self out of ex­is­tence, yet that might have been the his­tor­i­cal and noble ideals of plau­si­bly the first gen­er­a­tions of or­gan­ised labour from a Euro­cen­tric evo­lu­tion.

Or­gan­ised labour, as un­der­stood by Cosatu and the SACP and as part of the tri­par­tite al­liance, has long nailed its colours to the mast by choos­ing an ANC pres­i­den­tial can­di­date. Its can­di­date is ANC deputy pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa.

On Wed­nes­day, Cosatu and the SACP staged na­tion­wide marches claimed to be against state cap­ture, cor­rup­tion and job losses.

On the sur­face, any march against cor­rup­tion, state cap­ture or an in­ces­sant job-shed­ding econ­omy would be jus­ti­fied.

The say­ing goes that there are nei­ther per­ma­nent en­e­mies nor per­ma­nent friends in pol­i­tics.

We lived through it again when we saw the strange bed­fel­lows – Cosatu, the SACP and Business SA – team­ing up and aban­don­ing ide­ol­ogy, rhetoric and sym­bol­ism be­cause they col­lec­tively took refuge in a can­di­date for their own rea­sons. As per­haps a his­toric first, business (which is de­fined in the dis­par­ity of clear-cut white own­er­ship) en­dorsed the Cosatu-led march.

They agreed on two things: Jacob Zuma must go and Ramaphosa should be ap­pointed to lead as soon as pos­si­ble. Yet it isn’t rocket sci­ence to de­ci­pher the cen­tral­ity of pol­i­tics in ANC elec­tions as the real rea­son for the marches.

Since Cosatu’s last event in May, when it de­nied the ANC pres­i­dent the right to speak and chose to boo some of the top six while it hon­oured oth­ers, the fed­er­a­tion has pretty much been an ob­server of the un­fold­ing pres­i­den­tial elec­tion tus­sle that in­cludes eight can­di­dates, the most since 1952 when Al­bert Luthuli was elected.

It was there­fore only a mat­ter of time be­fore Cosatu would or­gan­ise an event in the 90-odd days left be­fore the con­fer­ence. Any­body who didn’t an­tic­i­pate the orches­trated mass action does not fol­low pol­i­tics.

The marches were less about the cited themes, which no march can ad­dress or al­ter in one day, and more about its cho­sen can­di­date – Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa.

The aorta of the ANC-led tri­par­tite al­liance is an­chored in mu­tual re­spect of mem­bers’ au­ton­omy and in­de­pen­dence to pur­sue their right­ful con­sti­tu­tional aims. The in­de­pen­dence af­fords each mem­ber the right to de­velop its own poli­cies and stage un­fet­tered elec­tions since none ought to at­tempt to di­rect the other.

While the ANC has at­tempted to up­hold the prin­ci­ple of mem­bers’ au­ton­omy in not direct­ing its poli­cies or can­di­date choices, Cosatu and the SACP of­ten at­tempted to di­rect the ANC in its choices of lead­er­ship. Gwede Man­tashe, as the sec­re­tary-gen­eral for the past decade, has of­ten been at pains to rep­ri­mand the al­liance part­ners for their over-ea­ger­ness to want to di­rect the ANC – even through black­mail.

The al­liance, in prin­ci­ple, ex­ists to fur­ther the aims of the agreed na­tional demo­cratic rev­o­lu­tion and must re­main vig­i­lant and cog­nisant of the di­verse pol­icy aims of each as in­di­vid­ual part­ners.

Let us first af­ford Cosatu and the SACP the right we af­ford our­selves to have a pre­ferred can­di­date. However, there was no need for Cosatu and the SACP to de­ceive us with the rea­son for their na­tion­wide marches. They should have been hon­est with us, as South Africans, to say we will stage events to per­suade the de­ci­sion-mak­ers to opt for our can­di­date. We would have wel­comed this in an elec­tive season.

It is to be ex­pected that Cosatu, like the SACP, would seek to have its own rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the ANC’s top six. We have seen that the last three sec­re­taries-gen­eral – Ramaphosa, Mot­lanthe and Man­tashe – all came from the or­gan­ised labour fold of the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers, a Cosatu af­fil­i­ate. The state of NUM con­firms a sad re­al­ity of an old wounded lion tee­ter­ing on ir­rel­e­vance and di­rec­tion­less lead­er­ship, rav­aged by the work of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Minework­ers and Con­struc­tion Union, the Na­tional Union of Met­al­work­ers of South Africa and even now the South African Fed­er­a­tion of Trade Unions. NUM has suf­fered damn­ing losses in its rep­re­sen­ta­tion in, for ex­am­ple, the min­ing sec­tor.

Cosatu, as with its cur­rent gen­eral sec­re­tary Bheki Nt­shal­intshali, at­tempted to con­vince us in its claims that it knows Ramaphosa and he gave up his life as young at­tor­ney to start the NUM.

With this back­ground, Cosatu be­lieves its can­di­date must be re­warded for his role in form­ing or­gan­ised labour.

One can ap­pre­ci­ate the pas­sion, yet it also is mis­placed since the ANC con­fer­ences aren’t about ei­ther re­ward­ing some­one or ac­knowl­edg­ing or­gan­ised labour lead­ers as en­ti­tled.

Why would Cosatu and the SACP choose the themes of state cap­ture, cor­rup­tion and job losses as the rea­son to take South Africa to the streets? You guessed right.

These are all sexy and hip con­tem­po­rary themes, emo­tion­ally loaded and eas­ily de­fen­si­ble themes to rally peo­ple. State cap­ture is the sub­ject of in­ves­ti­ga­tions on many fronts, among them the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Author­ity (NPA), the Hawks and the leg­is­la­ture. We also know that the pres­i­dent has com­mit­ted to a ju­di­cial com­mis­sion, which is held up in re­view since the pre­vi­ous public pro­tec­tor’s in­struc­tions that the com­mis­sion must be con­sti­tuted ac­cord­ing to con­sti­tu­tional ex­perts presents a plau­si­ble case of en­croach­ment on the pres­i­den­tial con­sti­tu­tional pre­rog­a­tive.

To stage marches on state cap­ture is mis­lead­ing, since they can­not has­ten the in­ves­tiga­tive pro­cesses.

At a Cosatu event in Lim­popo re­cently, Ramaphosa fell for the pop­ulist rhetoric that some­thing must be done when he ac­cused the NPA and Hawks of rest­ing on their lau­rels with regard to state cap­ture. A week later when in­formed of his pop­ulist rhetoric, he re­gained his san­ity and asked that the NPA and Hawks be af­forded a chance to do their work.

State cap­ture, as drama­tised in our clas­si­cally con­di­tioned minds as a po­lit­i­cal tool aided by me­dia craft, will con­jure emo­tions, espe­cially since Zuma is a soft tar­get while not even in the race for a third term.

Cor­rup­tion, the un­wel­come staff rider, is of­ten as­sumed to have joined it­self to us in 2007 as some mis­chie­vously seek to di­rect our think­ing. It is a given that cor­rup­tion in our demo­crat­ic­gov­er­nance so­journ mir­rors the life­span of de­vel­op­ment of in­fant to adult: Un­der Man­dela it was an in­fant (for two to four years), it was a pubescent un­der Mbeki (for 12 years), its voice broke un­der the brief stint of Mot­lanthe (for eight months) and it be­came an adult un­der Zuma (for nine years).

Cor­rup­tion must never be de­fended. However, sev­eral ANC con­fer­ences have pro­nounced the need to erad­i­cate this par­a­site of our democ­racy.

The onus is on Cosatu and the SACP to ex­plain why they as­sume that Ramaphosa, who is part of the ANC lead­er­ship, is ca­pa­ble of deal­ing with this de­mon and ef­fect­ing ANC res­o­lu­tions that ap­pear to have had no im­pact. How was he help­ing work­ers when he con­cluded a R3 500 min­i­mum wage as the best offer?

Tell us how he will trans­form the econ­omy from its pale male own­er­ship and mo­nop­o­lised con­text in which whites rule. They must tell us how rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion will be made a re­al­ity with Ramaphosa at the helm.

The SACP must also tell us how it can ide­o­log­i­cally rec­on­cile with the cap­i­tal­ist stance its rhetoric con­demns. It can­not be about the re­in­state­ment of former fi­nance min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han and and his deputy Mce­bisi Jonas or the job se­cu­rity of other SACP cab­i­net min­is­ters. It has to be about the up­lift­ment of work­ers.

There is an in­ter­est­ing claim that sug­gests that the rea­son for job shed­ding is linked to the pres­i­dent.

The re­craft­ing and glar­ing at­tempt of snapshot anal­y­sis for­gets that South Africa is a democ­racy with the brit­tle eco­nomic legs of agri­cul­ture (highly sub­sidised un­der apartheid) and min­ing that has been shed­ding jobs since the 1990s.

Even dur­ing the smoother era of global eco­nomics, the era Mbeki and Clin­ton presided over, South Africa was al­ways a job­less econ­omy. It is there­fore dis­hon­est to frame job shed­ding in post-2008’s global eco­nomic re­al­ity as re­lated to the in­cum­bent.

An­other di­men­sion of job shed­ding is Cosatu’s fault; or­gan­ised labour sel­dom owns up to its role in crip­pling job cre­ation – it as­sumes its tasks at Ned­lac and other plat­forms are to reg­is­ter its own self-interest. Or­gan­ised labour must own up to its role in the state of our econ­omy be­cause it has been co-govern­ing with its de­ployed min­is­ters, deputy min­is­ters and peo­ple in key po­si­tions across the state. It must ad­mit to the business of union­ism.

The marches were about Ramaphosa’s can­di­dacy and nothing else. We ex­pect the SACP’s lame Red Oc­to­ber cam­paign to be fashioned along the same topic. It ap­pears that the SACP, once the van­guard of work­ers’ rights, has aban­doned its just cause and re­placed it with a new man­date of be­ing a cab­i­net guard.

I never knew the day would come when I would agree with Zwelinz­ima Vavi of Saftu, al­though for dif­fer­ent rea­sons, that Cosatu and the SACP can­not claim the moral high ground when they have been part of the ANC gov­ern­ment.

The marches have come and gone and nothing hap­pened. This some of us an­tic­i­pated long be­fore the event that there would be ral­lies for Ramaphosa’s can­di­dacy.

Nothing wrong with that, just don’t de­ceive us about the rea­son for them – a po­lit­i­cal agenda to in­flu­ence the ANC pres­i­den­tial elec­tions out­come. Ra­mailane is a po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor.

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