/ 9 February 2009

Top lefties snub ANC jobs

Key Cosatu and SACP leaders have surprisingly declined ANC nominations for seats in the National Assembly after this year’s general election.

Among them are Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, Nehawu general secretary Fikile ”Slovo” Majola and the president and the general secretary of the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM) Senzeni Zokwana and Frans Baleni. They all confirmed to the Mail & Guardian last week that they would not be available for Cabinet and parliamentary positions. The four leaders are also members of the SACP’s central committee.

Their decision, which is likely to weaken the left’s influence in Parliament and government, comes a week after Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi’s announcement that he would not be available for public office.

It also contradicts Cosatu’s initial position that it wanted more of its leaders to be included on the ANC list to influence policy direction.

Initially Cosatu, which played a major role in bringing ANC president Jacob Zuma to power, had 12 of its leaders on the ANC list, but now this has been reduced to four.

The only remaining leaders of the union federation on the ANC list are Nehawu president Noluthando Sibiya, NUM deputy president Crosby Moni, general secretary of Cosatu’s teachers’ union (Sadtu) Thulas Nxesi and Cosatu treasurer Alina Rantsoalase.

Speaking to the M&G last week Vavi acknowledged that Cosatu’s decision to pull its leaders from the ANC list could weaken the labour federation’s influence in government. But he said the decision would strengthen Cosatu.

”We want to maintain a strong trade union, which is independent and able to hold out under very difficult political circumstances.

”We have people who are very close to us within the ANC. Managing that relationship from within will be difficult. We want to protect them [ANC leaders] and the ANC. But this should not happen at the expense of the independence of the union. Cosatu should remain the voice of the voiceless. For that we need experienced leaders to remain in the federation,” said Vavi.

Majola said the deployment of Cosatu’s cadres should not lead to the weakening of the trade union movement.

”The idea is to balance things so that while others would be pursuing our agenda in Parliament some would remain to ensure that Cosatu remains strong,” said Majola.

Majola said another reason he declined the ANC nomination was that Nehawu could not afford to lose both its general secretary and is president.

Baleni said it would not be a wise move for him to leave NUM in his first term of office as general secretary. ”It would be premature to leave NUM at this stage. We still want to pursue the struggle for workers,” he said.

Meanwhile, former public enterprise minister Alec Erwin has joined a number of ANC leaders who have declined nominations.

ANC spokesperson Brian Sokutu told the M&G this week that all ANC leaders who held full-time positions have been taken off the party list.

They include former Limpopo premier and the ANC’s head of elections Ngoako Ramatlhodi, ANC presidency head Joe Phaahla, head of communications Jessie Duarte and organisational head Fikile Mbalula.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe and his deputy, Thandi Modise, ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa and ANC executive committee member and businessman Cyril Ramaphosa also withdrew.

Erwin, who resigned after former president Thabo Mbeki’s dismissal, confirmed through his spokesperson, Ayanda Shezi, last week that he had declined the nomination.

”He [Erwin] has indicated that no one within the ANC approached him about the nomination and he is not available to go Parliament,” said Shezi.

Other senior ANC figures expected to decline nomination are former provincial and local government minister Sydney Mufamadi, former intelligence minister Ronnie Kasrils and former public works minister Thoko Didiza.