The Legacy of Vavi, a cultic personality driven agenda based leadership
– An opposition from within alliance embrace –
Recent rumblings in organised labour exemplified in COSATU is lending itself to the critical question has COSATU, the workers vanguard, fallen prey to usurp by individual or personality politics.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to discern how much of what its voiced, as Vavi talk or COSATU consulted policy. Vavi is the legitimate general secretary of the COSATU and is its primary spokesperson so he must speak.
That is not the challenge nor the point of contention but what is being said, warrants scrutiny. I would be the first to admit that it is rather challenging to understand how a COSATU functions daily as it represents a cohort of federations scattered across the job sector of an SA economy, to articulate in a daily fashion on critical issues in a leading sense.
Yet the COSATU we talk about has many challenges, not to mention the politics that it finds itself mired in with competing individuals readying themselves for its upcoming elections. These contestations while in democratic sense normal and to be expected has in latter days emerged in factions of those who endorse the ANC leadership and those who increasingly have assumed the role of an opposition within alliance embrace. It appears the flu of Mangaung has infiltrated the workers body, if the dissenting voices manifesting in COSATU leadership is any indication of assessment.
COSATU increasingly seeks to deconstruct itself separate from the ANC as the hope of a South African economic future. It off late has become the champion against corruption with its well publicised Corruption Watch, the same we must still see if it will deliver the claimed fruits. COSATU seeks to be known as the face of the legitimate custodian of the SA citizenry and people. It purports to be the watchdog of human rights. An internal opposition in a tripartite alliance who claims a right above others.
So oppositional is the COSATU as led by Vavi in its daily utterances that one could mistake it to be in alliance with the official opposition of Democratic Alliance. COSATU with its approximate 2million members is involved in ANC politics and pronounce on ANC issues that has little if anything to do with workers issues. It is vocal on lending credence to a claim that it is out to unseat the current ANC leadership at least by being defiant, often in tit for tat remarks if the last exchange of membership to the ANC of the workers is read carefully.
COSATU’s Vavi is the medusa of androgynous reinvention; the hydra with many tentacles of sjamboks dishing out lashes to the ANC, Government and Business. It is Vavi who knows about hit lists. It is Vavi who knows who has what knife out for whom. It is Vavi who castigates ANCYL’s leadership as charlatans parading in self interest. He exerts and challenges the authority of the ANC in leading this alliance, arguing the centre of the Alliance must be in what I choose to call a “hung parliament of dualism”. Let us not forget that at some stage there was a call for restraint others went as far as asking that Vavi be disciplined.
COSATU’s mouthpiece hogs the media as he barks at all and has shown COSATU or rather himself in contestation to run this country either in co-governance or by false attempt at manipulating the leadership of the ANC. One is simply not sure when it is Vavi or COSATU speaking.
COSATU’s mouthpiece spares no opportunity to prove the opposite of an ANC leadership claiming a moral high ground of being immune to corruption and has chosen the corruption mantra the convenient political football in SA politics as his campaign theme, and assegai with which he hopes to bury his personal political foes.
So vocal has Vavi become on none-worker issues that his president Sdumo Dlamini found his utterances objectionable on the ANC President, clearly revealing the factions and camps in COSATU.
Dhlamini also asked for explanations on the Malema address of the COSATU Gauteng march. The provincial Chairperson of COSATU in Gauteng wrote a scathing article in which he in his personal capacity is taking the COSATU president to task. These are clearly signs of what COSATU has become under a Vavi leadership.
It appears that Vavi thrives in factionalism, his latest antics on the DA application for access to information on the NDPP scrapping of charges against Zuma (which is the DA’s right) is another salvo he delivers from a loaded and pointed gun.
The love affair he shared with SACP’s leadership namely Gwede Mantashe (Chairperson of the SACP and ANC Secretary General, Blade Nzimande (Secretary General of the SACP and Cabinet Minister) and Jeremy Cronin (Deputy Secretary General of SAC and a Deputy Minister of Transport) seems not existent anymore.
May I add not because COSATU stands disparate from the SACP in common economic outlook principals but more so due to personality driven agenda based politics, that profusely finds enemies in comrades despite the legitimate cause of redress and transformation for which the alliance came together to create a better life for all.
One would not be wrong to say that there is gulf between COSATU and the SACP not by original design or member animosity but by individual personality driven politics. Nzimande warned recently against this personality and agenda informed campaigns where workers or the poor is used by some to fight the legitimate and duly elected government.
To show the twisted saga of personality self-interest politics, Zwelinzima Vavi, not long ago was at pains to call the Malema led ANCYL leadership and others tenderpreneurs hellbent on robbing the masses, necessarily undoing the gains of the freedom fighters through crass materialism intoxicated by avarice and greed.
To demonstrate this accusation COSATU organized its march against the Limpopo Administrion of Cassel Mathale an ally of Malema, its claim was a march against corruption.
The same Vavi told all on the eve of the much publicised e- toll and ban labour brokers drive and march that “no politician will be on any stage”. He however as is claimed succumbed to the call of the workers to have Malema a politician speak. Anyone that understands politics could see right through this as a means of defiance against the ANC, who subject to a second and final NDCA appeals hearing has expelled Malema. So vitriolic is this desire to be oppositional that any and all tactics are acceptable even when one may use one who is directly the opposite of what one claims to be in morality.
The same Malema, Vavi generously accused of crass materialism. Clearly a game plan for those who know would tell that at some time in the not so long ago history, Vavi was promised the low in stock value ANC chairmanship (for it was offered to many). He was unfortunately not the only one offered that others include Paul Mashatile, Tokyo Sexwale, even Thabo Mbeki’s name came up around the time of the Centennial celebrations.
This lead one again to ask is Vavi on his personal political and even “presidential” campaign where he seeks to bully his way in the name of the workers. Has COSATU become this factionalised beast, the product of self-interest and tool to create or extend ones political career?
Are all views expressed by Vavi, as the spokesman of COSATU, policy positions or are these personality positions? I’m on record for observing this trend as far back as 2010, which I observed then as the first signs of Vavi concoction of COSATU in personal interest emerged.
Off course he has a right to his political ambitions, off course he has a right to his views, off course there is nothing sinful in him aspiring. Yet there is everything wrong if he seeks to do this in the name of the workers. There is everything wrong if he seeks to challenge an ANC leadership in oppositional faction mode when his constituency shares a tripartite alliance in which critical programs are discussed agreed on adopted.
If you ask me, Vavi does not learn for less we forget how the workers lost in 2010, when an ANC led government dug in its hills and refuse to concede to the demands of COSATU with its adamant 8, 6% and R800 housing allowance. After a marathon of all night deliberations, the bespectacled Vavi emerged on morning live sounding like he was contesting for the job of Themba Maseko, then spokesman of Government. He was considered by many in COSATU as a sell out for having agreed with government.
Again now with the e-tolling a legitimate challenge for we ordinary public must raise our voice. But COSATU as an alliance partner was part of the deliberations on ANC Manifesto and government plans in which e-tolling was discussed at least so we are told by ANC leaders. The same ANC leadership who this week is meeting its alliance partner COSATU again for the umpteenth time to iron out differences.
Differences not in policy or necessity but differences emanating from the toxic personality politics, for the cult of individualism rules COSATU. The essence of the alliance is sutured not in personalities nor in co equals but in sanguineness of mind that dictates the prevailing need to continue working for a better life for all as rightfully and legitimately led by the ANC.
Government dug in its hills and said it won’t move notwithstanding Vavi’s threat to take the next march to the gantry’ infested Gauteng freeways. This last march was a success for the groundswell of numbers in opposition to the government e-toll plans struck a chord with a much wider constituency the same COSATU cannot claim as theirs.
For the record the people did not march against prevalence of labour brokers, the subject which is handled at NEDLAC. Government’s stance is clear regulation not abolishment; this is irking the daylights out of COSATU’s Vavi. Who is yet to find a correct weapon to stave off an ANC leadership who fears not to govern despite threats?
Vavi has become the darling of the media, as they found in him a voice that strikes an opposition chord. Given the tension one wonders with all the bickering and complying why COSATU has not yet gone on its own to contest elections informed by an economic system that constitutes the axis of a claimed socialist model.
I guess it can’t do that for the role and place it finds itself in is an enviable one where COSATU claims a right to reprimand all but itself. It is yet to own up to its role in job shedding, it is yet to accept joint responsibility in the mess our education finds itself. It is yet to acknowledge that COSATU leaders are not as clean as they purport to be. That it too desires the power to control this country in governance without accepting legitimate responsibility for its failures.
We should not be surprised if more emotional rhetorical views are shared, for in the build up to Mangaung and the COSATU elective conference political expediency will rear its head more often as friendships prove less longevity and enemies kiss and make up in the name of personality cultic and individual interest, the fuel behind much of what we see in our public tripartite alliance discourse.
Clyde N. Ramalaine, a Member of ‘The Thinking Masses’