Vavi, An OFFER at Prime time, or a poisoned chalice

         Either way he remains compromised  –


An old adage goes – you cannot fight more than one war at a time. I want to add you cannot have enemies all over and survive.


This week we hear as relayed by the media the words of the ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe that Vavi should quit organised labour politics as led by shortsighted leaders and go to parliament on an ANC ticket.


This offer in jest, which also contains a veiled instruction perhaps, is worth dissecting.


Maybe we should ask is this an offer or not? I hold it is an offer but not without recognising the compromised state, the recipient finds himself in if he has any individual political aspirations for any high office anytime soon.


It is an offer because it recognised two things; one that Vavi is potentially history in a COSATU context. COSATU as quiet as it seems will not relent on the Vavi issue. If COSATU respects itself, it cannot let Vavi simply slide, for it would make a Vavi stronger than the organisation. Almost like a repatriation of Malema would do to the ANC.


Thus, Vavi will not be able to make a comeback in COSATU particularly because he has consistently shown very little regard for its constitution, leadership and the CEC suspension conditions necessitated by the investigations against him.


At another level, it is an offer because it offers Vavi a second bite at what he was offered before but in strength of COSATU role and leadership rejected when he had the power to do so.


In this epoch being offered an opportunity as is advanced is not one to be easily scoffed at because the context has changed so drastically for Vavi in definition of organised labour sense. The truth is beyond the rhetoric and utterances of tweets the space has become very small for the suspended GS of COSATU who for all practical purposes is the former GS of COSATU.


He is for all intends and purposes in the political wilderness and regarded as oppositional in his praxis of politics. Some go as far as calling him the enemy from within, which is a costly enemy to have in organised labour context.


It is also an offer of a peace- pipe, because Vavi has been very vocal in attack of the ANC leadership and the direction it was heading on a number of fronts.


Yet the condemning of the ANC leadership was not necessarily from a purist perspective but one informed by personal political ambition if the NUMSA General Secretary Irvin Jim’s unauthorized visit to Nkandla on solicitation of a Vavi deputy presidency post attests. Vavi it is claimed sits behind the vitriolic claims and statements of NUMSA leadership. Therefore, to hear a new NUMSA president Patrick Chirwa calling for a Zuma resignation is really a Vavi statement.


At another level the offer comes with a clear understanding that should a Vavi who is in a sense politically homeless choose to be in an SA parliament on an ANC ticket he will be contained to toe the party line.


Vavi will struggle to mobilize in parliament for the agenda he has thus it is safer place to have him play his politics.


This offer if accepted by Vavi will also destroy the claim of power a lusty NUMSA leadership has in identifying with a Vavi as the potential leader of a worker’s party as is branded around by NUMSA. It will neutralize this claim and render it of less personality focus.


If Vavi opts for accepting the offer, he will therefore have to choose between a NUMSA advanced political future role, and an ANC position with potential side offers yet nothing remotely to what Jim went to Nkandla for.


If Vavi opts not to seriously consider the offer, he remains compromised since the constituency of organised labour as led by COSATU will not smoke a peace pipe easily.


Potentially it could be a neat strategy in brilliance of good cop bad cop feature.


COSATU who must contend with its biggest affiliate, who seeks to influence it to drop the ANC, will remain the bad cop for Vavi, when the ANC leadership now becomes the good cop.


A good cop that firstly acknowledges it cannot direct neither instruct a COSATU, whilst it may be concerned about hegemony and a parlayed unity at least for the most vulnerable time of its post democracy era if elections is the barometer.


Good cop for extending an olive branch of peace, in parenthood of maturity to say, you were naughty but we have hope you can come right. Whilst you are guaranteed a salary a major issue for any working father who has a family to take care off. Particularly when you hear Agang-SA with its claimed R500 millionaire strong leader pleading poverty and cannot pay staff salaries. It confirms the daunting task of fundraising even for multi-millionaires.


Vavi therefore remains compromised because NUMSA backing him, has opted for sensible reasons to stay in COSATU, yet NUMSA can’t guarantee Vavi any drop of the existing cases particularly because Vavi is second respondent in the NUMSA case against COSATU. This latter issue lends itself to the hardened and justified stance of the existing COSATU leadership. Ultimately, this will make it very difficult for him reinstated in a COSATU leadership.


Vavi is compromised because he created too many enemies in COSATU and thus he will never be trusted in this federation. For some his legacy has been the destruction of COSATU and he cannot claim innocence, which he conveniently so easily does.


Vavi is compromised because his future political existence is no longer in his hands but in the hands of other. The others include essentially the ANC’s who is willing to make him an offer.


Yet this offer is in my opinion perhaps a stroke of brilliance in ANC leadership and it is also a poisoned chalice.


A stroke of brilliance because we cannot assume this was a Mantashe decision, but it must be an ANC leadership position, which was arrived at through discussion. Therefore, it is not Mantashe that gives Vavi a lease on political life though considerably minute to what he claimed in an organised labour setting, it is really a Zuma led ANC that gives his so-called enemy hope thus respect.


Vavi if he is in any sense aware of his compromised state as things stand now would be a fool not to consider this carefully. A poisoned chalice because he whilst condemning others in the SACP leadership for selling out in accepting ANC position as claimed offered by Zuma, will now in acceptance of the offer also be in that same line and thus will never be able to argue or condemn others.


For if he rejects this offer again he will have accept that he wrote the final script in his Alliance politics and thus his future would be almost similar to a Malema outside the ANC fold. He has upset the leaderships of the ANC, SACP, and COSATU with his utterances and stance and the ANC is the only one willing to make him any offer.


Should he opt for rejecting this offer in assuming a potential NUMSA constituency he will have to persuade them to part with the idea and strategy of staying in COSATU to influence COSATU otherwise? The latter the resolution of the December 2013, Special Congress.


That would not be an easy task, furthermore if he rejects this offer he would confirm that his involvement in worker politics was not as exempted and free from self-serving, already a notion that is held by many.


In the end Vavi, is compromised and whatever decision he makes, reject, or accept the offer as extended by a Zuma led ANC leadership, he remains compromised.


The ANC was brilliant to have issued a challenge and Vavi somewhere soon must respond, because it is not as if he has mug time or many options left.


Yet what is clear the ANC wants Vavi out of organised labour politics regardless to how it is out in very choice words. Perhaps this is the toughest call for someone who had made this sector his political world as base to influence a varied context.


You cannot but respect this Zuma led ANC for proving very tactical and strategic on political leadership.



Clyde N. Ramalaine

********Article appears courtesy DUSTY MUSINGS political analysis and commentary 2013-2014 (Due March 30, 2014)


This entry was posted in COSATU.

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