The Oliphant is not even in the room
WE WERE pleased, here at the Mahogany Ridge, that Cosatu was going out to bat on behalf of Jerome Rose, the MyCiTi bus driver who was dismissed earlier this month for Godbothering on the job.
Rose, you will recall, had been a driver on the Cape Town- Atlantis route. One Friday he was given a verbal warning to stop leading passengers in prayer after one of them, a Milnerton resident, had complained about his behaviour.
The following Monday he was at it again, arguing that he was “a Christian first – then a bus driver”. The next day he was given a final written warning, but on the Wednesday, Rose again started his working day with prayers. The suspension and disciplinary hearing came on Thursday, and the next day, well, he was, alas, just a Christian.
Rose intends to appeal his dismissal and Cosatu will be defending him, its Western Cape secretary, Tony Ehrenreich, has confirmed. “The City of Cape Town must stop its liberal nonsense that undermines religion,” Ehrenreich said. “We are a God-fearing nation and have a right to practise our religious convictions.”
He further suggested that the complaint from “one rich customer from Milnerton should be ignored as this city and its facilities should not be used to pander to these spoilt brats”.
Funny, but we were just thinking the same thing. This, after all, is the season of goodwill and stuff to all mankind. How heartless then of the city to at this time dismiss an employee who, for all we know, could be suffering from a mental illness.
Perhaps Rose does believe he has not only been called to deliver passengers to the shiny terminus at the Civic Centre but also to drop their souls off at the even shinier one at the end of their dreary passage through this life.
Besides, given their sins, and according to Ehrenreich they are legion, ranging as they do from callously sucking the lifeblood from the poor of Du Noon and elsewhere to the cynical flaunting of bicycles along Otto du Plessis Drive, who can honestly say that Milnerton’s brats should not be included in commuters’ prayers? They too, surely, are worthy of salvation.
But now that he has a bit of time on his hands, perhaps Rose could say a few prayers for Cosatu as well. Judging by reports from their national congress in Johannesburg this week, it would appear the trade union federation is in for some rough times.
Here, then, is a troubled house. The congress was the first without Numsa, the expelled metalworkers’ union that was its biggest affiliate, and without its former general secretary and poster boy, Zwelinzima Vavi.
Its president, Sdumo Dlamini, has warned that an escalation of tensions within Cosatu, including the all-too public squabbling among its leaders, was weakening the alliance with the ruling party – which, he said, spelt trouble for next year’s local elections. “If we say to people the ANC is still relevant and capable of leading society and has managed to deal with its issues of disunity, how will we do that with the way things are right now? How are we going to mobilise our families? It’s not a good story to tell. It will be difficult (to campaign).”
Agreed, a quandary. But why not stress the nature of blind allegiance, that it should not be questioned? It’s worked in the past.
Further adding to Cosatu’s woes, however, was Labour Minister Mildred Oliphant’s unpleasant message to congress. Thing was, she said, government was mostly gatvol of their strikes. They were bad for the economy.
Strikes, she continued, had become a “fashion statement”, undertaken merely to show off union support, and really did little to further the interests of workers.
As one commentator put it, “People are just tired of workers refusing to do what they are paid to do, and of strikes going on forever and ever.”
In fact, the more cynical among us believe the reason strikes are interminable is to spare workers the embarrassment of returning to work and discovering they’ve been off the job so long they can no longer remember what it is they do.
But what was most noteworthy about Oliphant’s speech was that it suggested a Damascene conversion – at least as far as her own job was concerned.
Her critics have grown hoarse from pointing out her perpetual absences from labour committee meetings and her refusal to give proper answers to parliamentary questions. The problem, they say, was that the Oliphant was not even in the room.
So what happened? Why the sudden interest in labour? Has Luthuli House put the fear of whatsit in her? Time will tell.