Vavi, Nzimande at loggerheads
TENSION within SA’s ruling alliance showed yesterday when its top leaders commemorated the 20th anniversary of slain struggle hero Chris Hani’s death in Boksburg.
Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande delivered speeches that could be seen as attacks on each other, in what has become a regular fight over the interpretation of Hani’s legacy.
Mr Vavi launched the first salvo, using one of Hani’s famous statements that he was not interested in a government job. Mr Vavi said: “At a time when many leaders were seeking jobs as government ministers or officials — with better salaries — Chris Hani took on the lowly paid, but politically crucial, position of general secretary of the SACP.”
Mr Nzimande, Hani’s successor, is now minister of higher education and training.
Mr Vavi is part of a bloc that has criticised the decision by the SACP to allow Mr Nzimande to join the government, saying this weakened the party — traditionally an intellectual anchor of the African National Congress (ANC) and the unions.
The position of secretary in the tripartite alliance formations is generally a full-time role, meaning whoever is elected secretary should not accept another job. But the SACP decided to allow Mr Nzimande to accept a Cabinet role.
Speaking immediately after Mr Vavi yesterday, Mr Nzimande said those who used Hani’s statement to “rubbish” SACP decisions were “vulgarising” his stance on government jobs, when there was no way of knowing for sure what he would have done had he been deployed.
An example of Hani’s inclination to follow party decisions was that he had “opposed the suspension of the armed struggle”, but defended the ANC’s decision in this regard once his own viewpoint was defeated.
“Unfortunately some in our own ranks try to use the statement comrade Chris made, to try and rubbish SACP decisions about participating in our own government,” he said.
Mr Nzimande defended the increased presence of communists in the Cabinet. “This government is not an enemy government. It is our government,” he said.