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Cosatu: ‘There is no planning minister’

The Congress of SA Trade Unions is opposed to a planning minister, as outlined in the green paper released by the Minister in the Presidency earlier this month, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday.

”The green paper seeks to impose a planning minister. We must continue to engage on this matter. There is no planning minister,” he said at Cosatu’s 10th national congress in Midrand.

Vavi said the idea was for the planning commission to be coordinated by the minister in the presidency, and this minister was not the minister of planning.

”In a confrontation small words matter, comrades. The mandate given by the president to the economic development ministry — having given it responsibility for development of economic policy — when he announced the Cabinet on 10 May, was to address economic development planning.

”The green paper suggests that this ministry, like all others will be subordinate to the ‘planning ministry’,” Vavi said, referring to his political report presented on Monday.

”There are numerous references in the green paper to the role of the ‘planning minister’ in economic policy and economic planning. There is no coherent reason advanced as to why the planning minister should be coordinating policy matters,” the report said.

It adds that the green paper has been presented as a ”technocratic planning intervention” but was ”in reality a wide-ranging political manoeuvre”.

According to the green paper, the minister for national planning, Trevor Manuel, ”will be the link between government and the [national planning] commission”.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe, addressing the congress on Tuesday, said that those who accused Manuel of having too much influence in the government should remember that the tripartite alliance — made up of the African National Congress, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party — agreed to the idea of the commission.

On Monday, President Jacob Zuma reminded Cosatu delegates that the body agreed at an alliance summit in October 2008 that there was a need for a high-level planning and monitoring capacity in government.

He said it was line with this that he set up a planning
commission in the presidency that would have ”the power to align the work of all government departments and organs of state to government’s developmental agenda”.

Vavi, however, said what was proposed in the green paper had to be ”tested” against what was agreed to between the alliance partners.

”The green paper has to be tested against the extent to which it advances the matter as I have outlined,” he said after detailing the proposals which emerged in Polokwane and at the alliance
summit.

These proposals included setting up a two tier Cabinet, reconfiguring government ministries to make them more effective, setting up a planning commission headed by the presidency and prioritising the transformation of bureaucracy.

The national planning commission was not the only controversy at the conference.

Divisions within the congress were revealed during debate over the general secretary’s report on the ”trashing” that occurred by striking members of the South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu).

”Members’ trashing of the streets, which took place throughout the country, whilst we can understand their anger and frustration, cannot justify actions, which alienate the very people whom the unions need on their side — other workers, small business people and the middle class,” read the

The report also singled out the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union’s two-week strike in Soweto.

”So disruptive was the strike, the working class in Soweto organised a march against the union to protest the fact that their children’s future was in jeopardy.”

Samwu president Petrus Mashishi defended his union’s strike and denied it had used violence.

”Ours was trashing but not violence, so our strike was not violent.”

Many of the delegates also criticised the tabling of the report in public and argued that it should rather be brought to the Cosatu Central Executive Committee (CEC).

Vavi defended his report, saying that a draft of the report had been sent to affiliate unions for comment but none were offered.

However, the congress ultimately agreed to refer the matter to the CEC for debate. – Sapa

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Natasha Marrian
Natasha Marrian
Marrian has built a reputation as an astute political journalist, investigative reporter and commentator. Until recently she led the political team at Business Day where she also produced a widely read column that provided insight into the political spectacle of the week.
Kenichi Serino
Kenichi Serino works from Saint Kitts and Nevis. I edit a newspaper in the Caribbean. South Africa-US, before. Words: @ajam, @ReutersAfrica, @theAtlantic, etc. Mentor: @AspenNewVoices. Migrant Worker Kenichi Serino has over 1383 followers on Twitter.

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