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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.

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