Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Retreat and unite: Zuma scolds alliance leaders

President Jacob Zuma is known to make biting political statements in a convoluted fashion. 

Not one to name and shame, he prefers to strike while beating about the bush.

On Sunday it was no different as the delicate topic of the unity of the ANC led tripartite alliance – particularly Cosatu – came into focus during the reburial of struggle stalwart JB Marks, where an emotive Zuma called out leaders who sow divisions.

“We can’t as leaders stand and say I don’t care what happens as long as I disagree with so and so it is the end of the story,” Zuma told the crowd gathered in Ventersdorp, North West. 

“Unconsciously you are dividing the very poor people,” he added.

The ‘you’ in his loaded statement may well be Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who addressed the crowd moments before Zuma and is rumoured to be soon resigning from Cosatu. 

It is no secret that Cosatu is at breaking point as the divisions between Vavi and Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini has created a tangible rapture within the movement. 

Last week Vavi reportedly told his supporters that he would announce whether he is set to leave the federation. “To me it looks like I have two choices only. The first choice is to submit and choose the bad over good, choose a lie over the truth and save myself, my salary and the future of my children. Or I can choose the truth – the struggle of the workers. What they represent. The truth and the good walk next to my shoes, ” he told the SA Democratic Teachers Union forum in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape. 

When addressing the funeral, Vavi called for unity. “We have allowed things to fall apart. We must avoid the catastrophe of allowing Costau to split,” he said. While Zuma did dwell on the reasons for the divisions, he took exception to the personal politics surrounding the Cosatu divisions.

“Leaders should not resist when they are called together to come and unite. And they resist it. Why? Because I have very, very strong views about so and so,” Zuma continued. 

Earlier in his address, Zuma animatedly described how difference of ideological opinion was not uncommon within the alliance, citing how former President Nelson Mandela differed with some communist leaders. 

But he evoked the memory of Marks and Moses Kotane – former SACP general secretary – who were able to prevent their disagreements from turning into disunity.

Zuma said Marks and Kotane did not shy away from the challenges facing the organisation but at the same time “did not gossip”.

“We can’t therefore in their name destabilise and disunite, no we can’t. I hope after the arrival of these two, all of us, in the ANC, Cosatu and the party we are going to turn a new page and unite the alliance,” Zuma said. 

First things first, the President wants a week-long retreat for leaders of the ANC, SACP and Cosatu in a bid to have a frank discussion on the divisions in the alliance. 

“We need a meeting of the central committee of the party, of Cosatu and the NEC of the ANC… to have a joint meeting of all three at the same time to discuss the unity of the alliance,” Zuma said. 

Zuma does not want any ordinary meeting of alliance leaders as he sternly placed emphasis on an open and frank discussion.

“We cannot continue (like this). You are not aware how much our enemies are mobilising to destroy us. If we are divided we are easy prey,” Zuma said.

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

Fears of violence persist a year after the murder of...

The court battle to stop coal mining in rural KwaZulu-Natal has heightened the sense of danger among environmental activists

Data shows EFF has lower negative sentiment online among voters...

The EFF has a stronger online presence than the ANC and Democratic Alliance

More top stories

Libyan town clings to memory of Gaddafi, 10 years on

Rebels killed Muammar Gaddafi in his hometown of Sirte on 20 October 2011, months into the Nato-backed rebellion that ended his four-decade rule

Fishing subsidies in the W. Cape: ‘Illegal fishing is our...

Fishers claim they are forced into illegal trawling because subsidies only benefit big vessels

Kenya’s beach boys fall into sex tourism, trafficking

In the face of their families’ poverty, young men, persuaded by the prospect of wealth or education, travel to Europe with their older female sponsors only to be trafficked for sex

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…