Mantashe takes tough line on left

Mantashe takes tough line on left

Matuma Letsoalo spoke to the ANC secretary general about what came out of the tripartite alliance summit last weekend

What will be the focus of the alliance task team on macroeconomic policy in reviewing the mandate of the Reserve Bank?
We said it must broaden the mandate of the Reserve Bank. Broadening refers to applying monetary tools so that they talk to the developmental needs of the country and respond to the challenges of the day. For example, an intervention that is made by the Reserve Bank must always talk to the fact that employment creation is central to what we do.
[The review] may mean a number of things, [such as] the impact of the exchange rate on the economy in general.

Would you consider weakening the rand?
We don’t want to just stick to the ideological rhetoric, because if you talk about weakening the rand, what tools are there to weaken the rand? One [is that] you should have sufficient reserves of dollars. If you don’t have those reserves it may be theoretical. So it may mean talking the rand down from particular levels. We must be practical about what needs to be done.

Was the decision to review the mandate of the Reserve Bank influenced by Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP)?
Read our manifesto. There is nothing wrong with Cosatu campaigning. But the reality of the matter is that when we get to the alliance we engage. That agreement is not just succumbing to a campaign - it is a decision taken in view of the global financial crisis that is beginning to have a serious impact on our own people.

Cosatu and the SACP leaders have always argued against the ­inflation-targeting policy, so are we likely to see changes there?
I don’t know whether it is a preoccupation with the term or the concept, but I have not come across any leader of Cosatu or the Communist Party who wants runaway inflation. Even if you ask a specific question—“Do you want our inflation to be double-digit?”—nobody accepts that. That’s why you talk about monetary policy—the mandate of the Reserve Bank. It is because we are avoiding a situation where we fight until we burn our feet. We still believe that high inflation impacts more on the poorest of society.

The left lost its battle to remove Trevor Manuel as chairperson of the planning commission. How is the ANC planning to accommodate Cosatu and the SACP within the commission?
We should demystify this thing of winners and losers. We don’t think the commission should be a representative body. That’s why we call it a body of experts. If allies recommend experts who will bring a particular dimension to the commission, we will welcome that. This is what we should be looking at now. This thing of saying 60-40 or 50-50 can’t work. We should bring people who will add value to the ­commission.

During the Cosatu congress ­earlier this year you agreed with delegates that the alliance, not the ANC, should be the centre of power. Do you still hold strong views regarding this?
More important to me is not whether the alliance is the political centre but a debate that we must still engage in: what does it mean in real terms?

The past years have given us different experiences. In some provinces some structures interpreted that to mean the ANC cannot meet and take decisions — it must wait for the allies to take any decision. We think that is an extreme interpretation. In some provinces allies would meet, caucus and come with a bloc to meet the ANC. We think that is a distorted view again. It is an alliance of these independent parties. What do we mean when we talk of [the alliance] as a political centre and at the same time acknowledge the leadership role of the ANC?

What is your reaction to claims that you are trying to change the ANC’s identity and have the alliance running the show?
I don’t know who those people are. I never like to respond to people who are faceless because you can chase ghosts and spooks all over. The reality of the matter here is I am not a confused human being who doesn’t know what the mandate of the ANC is or what the mandate of the Communist Party is. I was a leading trade unionist; I was not confused at that point.

Why do you think people are raising these concerns now?
That feeling will always be there, where you have people who feel uncomfortable with communists. Some of them will be Muslims and they want us to be comfortable with Muslims, some will be Christians and they want us to feel comfortable with Christians, but they are uncomfortable with communists.

Was the summit able to address concerns that the left wanted to turn the ANC into a socialist organisation?
That was not a major issue. By the way, the ANC is a disciplined force of the left ... The only difference between the ANC and its partners is that the Communist Party can be the revolutionary party of the left ... A trade union is a trade union of working people - it’s limited. The ANC is a multi-class organisation.

Read Matuma Letsoalo’s interview with Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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