There is no crisis in the tripartite alliance, only a problem with personalities, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Thursday.
”Booing is not the correct strategy at all … it is wrong … and the ANC was not booed, personalities were booed,” he said at a year-end media conference at the union’s Johannesburg offices.
”Frankly, if this is not nipped in the bud, it will create an environment of the untouchables and demagogy.”
He said it was not the union’s intention to attack personalities but to ensure unity among all members.
However, union president Sidumo Dlamini stressed that Cosatu was ”very disturbed” by the clash of personalities and noted that ”where necessary action needed to be taken, [it] should be taken”.
Said Vavi: ”No matter how angry comrades can be against one another, there are limits. Cosatu encourages and thrives on honest, robust public policy debates, but we condemn the use of insults and questioning of each other’s bona fides.
”Downright insults actually close down the public space for rational debates and … trading of insults is reactionary and undemocratic.”
Although Vavi did not mention any specific names, last week African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) leader Julius Malema was heckled at the South African Communist Party (SACP) conference in Polokwane.
Vavi and Dlamini said the trade union federation regretted personalised spats between members of the ANCYL, the Young Communist League and the SACP.
”We are also opposed to all forms of narrow chauvinism, even in the context of African culture. It is wrong to be disrespectful to elders and disdainful to leadership,” said Vavi.
”This attack on personalities is not a new tendency, it’s an old one, it’s an old game. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, so they go back to the old tricks.”
Dlamini added that the use of the word ”dog” was an idiom. ”It does not mean we are calling anyone a dog.”
Vavi said it did not matter what people thought because the alliance was strong.
”All I know is they will not succeed. We are here in the alliance to stay … no one will succeed to crush the working class.”
Dlamini said if people continued to heckle at others at future events, it meant that they had not learnt.
Cosatu was due to call for a meeting to discuss the matter further.
Vavi also dismissed as ”scandal-mongering” allegations that the SACP is planning to seize control of the ANC at its 2012 conference.
”They are using rooi gevaar and anti-Cosatu and anti-Communist rhetoric, and allegations of an imminent takeover of the ANC,” he said.
”They have problematically opened a leadership debate three years ahead of the conference. They do not care what this will cause in terms of the unity and cohesion of the ANC and the [tripartite] alliance.”
He said those spreading such rumours would stop at nothing, including using the race card and tribalism.
Are we not comrades anymore, are we fellows?
On Sunday, City Press reported that Malema had sent a threatening SMS to SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin following the former’s embarrassing appearance at the SACP conference.
”If you thought you have taught me a lesson, wait until you see what is coming your direction,” Malema SMSed Cronin after he was booed at the SACP conference.
Last month, Cronin and Malema exchanged combative words. In the SACP newsletter, Cronin said that those who called for nationalisation of mines, such as Malema, did not understand the economics of the issue.
Malema fired back, accusing Cronin of being a ”white messiah”.
At a press conference on Tuesday, Malema admitted that he sent a text message to Cronin last week telling him to ”wait until he sees what is coming to him”.
”Is that threatening?” Malema said innocently when approached about the text message.
If the booing by the SACP delegates is a declaration of war, Malema said he is up for the challenge.
”We are encouraging our structures to go and fight,” he told reporters.
He was careful not to make his own declaration of war, having been in hot water previously about his ”kill for Zuma” comments.
Malema also implied that Vavi took sides in the spat between the SACP and the youth league.
”He talked about the booing of that fellow. Are we not comrades anymore, are we fellows?”