AMANDLA ISSUE 16 | EDITORIAL : Viva COSATU Viva
The Alternative Information and Development Centre (AIDC), the publisher of Amandla!, is a founding member of the Right 2 Know campaign and is vigorously opposed to the idea of a media tribunal and other censorship. However, when reading the anti-union and anti-worker sentiments splashed across our dailies during the public sector strike, a natural urge to reach for the censorship spray gun and black out the rubbish had to be consciously suppressed.
How much more should the COSATU leadership not feel when confronted with headlines that read ‘Strikers losing out, unlike union bosses? Trade union bosses continue to draw their salaries while 1.3-million public servants face mounting debt and lost earnings’ (Times 2/9/2010). Even though COSATU’s general
secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, has had to endure a number of attacks on his integrity, the latest in respect of his wife’s purported involvement in a scheme to
market financial products to COSATU members, the CEC (Central Executive Committee of COSATU), and its general secretary have rejected the ANC and SACP call to establish a media tribunal.
With Blade Nzimande, SACP general secretary, having pinned his colours to the mast and calling on his supporters to ‘intensify the struggle for an independent media tribunal’, and with many SACP members playing leading roles in COSATU, it took great courage and a strong insistence on its independence, for the COSATU leadership to reject calls for a media tribunal. ‘The CEC cannot go and support something that is meant to give refuge to corrupt individuals.’ How easy it could have been for COSATU, on the eve of the ANC National General Council, to win friends and perhaps more political space within the factioned ANC by coming out on the side of the demagogues howling for a tribunal.
Critically, for the future of the country, has been the way COSATU has come out against the corrupting of the state and society by what Vavi calls a ‘predatory elite’. This stance, more than any other, has brought relations between COSATU and the ANC almost to breaking point. Having accused ANC president Zuma of acting in a tardy way in dealing with allegations of corruption against two senior ministers, COSATU’s general secretary was threatened with a disciplinary hearing by the ANC. The evolution of the ZEE phenomenon (Zuma Economic Empowerment), most blatantly seen in the Arcelor-Mittal deal which could make Zuma’s son Duduzane a billionaire, marks a new trend by big capital to fast-track the development of a black bourgeoisie linked to the levers of power. This provides them with political cover from policy interventions that make inroads into their monopoly control over the South African economy.
In fact, COSATU has taken a significant step towards challenging the continuity of neoliberal policies of the Zuma regime and it’s blocking of proposals for the adoption of a new growth path by authoring a comprehensive alternative economic policy titled, A Growth Plan Towards Full Employment. The COSATU plan,
while not claimed to be a socialist programme, has great potential to shift the current balance of forces in favour of working people and make anti- capitalist alternatives possible. This will depend on COSATU relying on popular mobilisation through struggle rather than hoping to persuade policy makers in high office. The public sector strike has many lessons for COSATU to consider in this regard. Workers pushed for the strike against the inertia of some union leaders who considered the conditions for a strike to be unfavourable. The same union leaders tended to act too bureaucratically when calling off the strike. Bureaucratism, and conservatism are common phenomena in big institutions, especially trade union movements all over the world. By announcing the intention
to lead the ‘mother of all living wage campaigns’ COSATU may well have the antidote at hand. A successful living wage campaign will depend on selforganization, ingenuity and creativity of the workers themselves. Self-activity will breathe vitality into the grassroots structures of the union and win the support of grassroots communities.
COSATU has signalled they are no longer waiting on the Zuma administration to deliver. They are undertaking a new course to ensure that the next decade is not another decade that benefits business and the new elite.
Part of this new course is an enhanced urgency to find partners in the society to build a fighting alliance against corruption and neoliberalism. To this end COSATU will call a conference with civil society to unite progressive forces to challenge the predatory elite. It will be crucial that the broadest range of
progressive forces embraces this moment and joins our labour movement in keeping alive the dream of social justice and a society free from exploitation.
An injury to one is truly an injury to all.