ANC-led alliance urged to unite to ensure continued leadership
Addressing more than 400 delegates attending the South African Democratic Teachers Union (Sadtu) national conference at the Birchwood conference centre, in Benoni, Zuma acknowledged all the three alliance partners – the ANC, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party – were going through a difficult time, as infightings between different factions within the organisations continues.
“We are faced with challenges and it is not for the first time that the revolution is faced with challenges. What becomes critical is how revolutionaries respond to those challenges. At times, the challenges are coming from the opposition, but at time from within. [As government] we have done a 20-year [assessment] report. But we have not done [the same report] politically [looking at the health of the alliance]. Have we been able to keep the alliance tight as a leading force? Take us one by one and ask if the ANC has been healthy. There have been challenges, but we are surviving.
“We [the ANC] have gone to two conferences [2007 and 2012] and [it is clear] the new culture has emerged. What do we do? If you take Cosatu, I think it has its own challenges, challenges like a storm. Those in the eye of the storm receive more damage. Cosatu has been in the eye of the storm, but it will survive,” said Zuma.
He down played a number of service delivery protests across the country, saying this was not an indication that his administration was not doing a good job. “We have policies and programmes to deliver to the poor. There is no country that exist[s] that give[s] poor people houses for free. The reason there are no protests in other countries is because they are no programmes. [Here] people are expecting services more quickly. That’s why there are protests. We have done well but there are challenges.”
The ANC task team, established to resolve divisions within Cosatu, was scheduled to meet the federation’s leaders on Thursday evening, to present a report.
‘Isolate the most dangerous enemy’
Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini told the Sadtu conference “we’re going to the ANC … to listen how far they are with the process”. “We’re all informed by one thing: our unity is not for sale.” He said, “What is critical [is that] we move to unite this organisation against those who want to destroy it”.
The tough-speaking Dlamini said the “golden rule is always to isolate the most dangerous enemy”. The “clarion call” in the alliance should be “war to the enemy and unity amongst the people”, Dlamini said. “The enemy would be everybody fighting the revolution.”
Courts battles affect finances
Dlamini lambasted disgruntled Sadtu members who are commonly resorting to courts to resolve matters. “Just as it has been happening with Cosatu, Sadtu has been in and out of courts,” he said. “It’s an imposition of an untenable situation,” Dlamini said – and then claimed Cosatu was financially strained due to many court challenges. “I can tell you Cosatu is battling financially because a large portion of its money has been used to defend itself in court.”
The lawyers, including senior councils that Cosatu ropes in to defend its cases in court “are expensive, they don’t come cheap”, Dlamini told delegates. He said if a member is not happy with organisation decisions, they shouldn’t go to courts – but instead lobby their view in meetings. “It’s our understanding politically, that we cannot have courts solving our problems.”
Strength in unity
But Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi, who had been suspended for having sex with an employee at Cosatu’s headquarters, was reinstated after the South Gauteng High Court ruled his suspension was invalid. In July the Mail & Guardian reported Sadtu leaders in six provinces claimed they were being purged ahead of the conference.
Alongside Eastern Cape, the implicated provinces were the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, North West, Northern Cape and Free State. Suspended regional leaders in KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape subsequently took the union to court, hoping to gain rights to attend the conference.
Delivering her message of support to Sadtu, basic education minister Angie Motshekga sang the union’s praises. Contrary to what Sadtu constantly comes under fire for from its critics, Motshekga said it “has put the children first for the last 20 years [of the country’s democracy]…. We acknowledge your dedication and self-less service.” Motshekga, who’s also president of the ANC Women’s League, said the alliance must “dare not fail” in “healing” divisions in Sadtu.
“Our strength is in our unity. We will keep the organisation united at all cost.” She promised Sadtu she’d continue promoting teacher development. Motshekga said while the country’s school education was improving, quality also needed to follow suit.