/ 8 November 2007

Vavi calls for worker-biased ANC

The Congress of South African Trade Unions’ (Cosatu) interest in the African National Congress’s (ANC) national conference is influenced by the will to retain an ANC bias towards the workers of the country.

This is according to Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi, who was speaking at the general council of the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu) in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

”Cosatu’s interest in the conference is informed by our interest in retaining the ANC as a progressive left movement biased towards the working class.

”Further, we have an interest in ensuring that it pursues a far bolder programme to transform our society from its colonial basis.”

He said Cosatu’s ninth national congress had taken a resolution marking a departure from Cosatu’s historical position of avoiding intervention in internal ANC leadership questions.

”We have since developed criteria and principles to interpret the resolution, and to clarify why workers should take an interest in this matter. The broad aim of this is to ensure that the ANC and its NEC [national executive committee] are not only representative of its constituencies but also lead us down the path of a radical change that is so necessary in our society. Thus the criteria that we have developed include:

  • Commitment to the radical national democratic revolution and thorough-going transformation,

  • Proven commitment to the tripartite alliance,

  • Commitment to the unity of the ANC and the democratic movement,

  • Commitment to make this decade truly a decade of workers and the poor,

  • Internationalism based on historic position of the ANC that is anti imperialist, and

  • Working-class leadership.”

He said the criteria was used to identify the top six and most senior positions of the ANC.

”We shall maintain a militant and independent Cosatu and working class irrespective of who is the president of the ANC. We are not doing all this so that our leaders can get the possibility that they may have not received in the past to become Cabinet ministers”.

He said that the federation wanted an ANC whose leadership, just like its membership, would have sympathy with workers and the poor.

”Accordingly the people we have identified are not the messiahs. Cosatu does not believe that this or that individual or collective alone is capable of changing society”.

He said even if their preferred candidates were not elected, Cosatu remained committed to the alliance and would work constructively with the new leadership.

”We need policies to accelerate transformation and ensure large-scale empowerment of our people through jobs, redistribution of assets, income and other poverty eradication strategies.

”We want change not of leadership alone but more importantly of political direction and policies.”

He said that the draft resolutions of the ANC June policy conference represented a shift to the left. If implemented they would go a long way to eradicate the economic and social legacy of apartheid.

”The challenge as we proceed to Limpopo is not just to be preoccupied by leadership contests but to ensure whatever leadership collective is elected implements the progressive resolutions adopted in the June policy conference.”

On education, Vavi said massive inequalities persisted, with only 12% of Africans who took matric getting a university exemption, compared to half of white learners.

”This racial divide reflects deeper class problems. Black learners who can afford a Model C school pass matric, those who can only afford historically black schools are fighting an uphill battle”.

He said factors leading to these inequalities were historical, relating to decades of apartheid and colonialism.

”School fees maintain deep class differences between schools in the suburbs and those in the townships and in rural areas. Working class children can simply not afford the school fees charged at the former whites-only schools, most of which are now Model C”.

The deputy vice-chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Adam Habib, told the conference that transformation in education had not benefited the poor over the past 13 years.

”Only the middle and upper class have benefited, township schools still experience inadequate facilities as compared to their counterparts in towns,” he said. – Sapa