Run, President Jacob Zuma and your ANC national executive committee members, run. Run, corruption, run. This was the stern warning issued by Zwelinzima Vavi at the May Day rally organised by labour federation Cosatu’s splinter unions.
Vavi, the former Cosatu general secretary, and leaders of other union federations in the country announced that plans to form a new federation to rival Cosatu were underway and that it would be launched before the end of this year.
Vavi said the new federation, which would be independent of any political party, would tackle the ANC government head-on on issues such as corruption, e-tolls, inflation targeting and labour brokers.
Irvin Jim, National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) general secretary, was scathing in his attack on Cosatu. He spoke of Cosatu, the ANC and employers exploiting workers.
The rally followed the workers summit held on Saturday where a calling went out for unions in Cosatu to abandon it and join the new labour federation.
Jim took a swipe at Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, saying he was a “clueless leader” who was misleading the workers and that he leads a “sweetheart federation” that was scared to confront government’s imperialist policies, which continue to exploit poor workers.
A visibly angry Jim spoke about how the ANC used to understand the struggle of the workers, but said under the current leadership, the ruling party has turned South Africa into the “darlings of the Davos and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)” with their macroeconomic policy.
“The governing party is in crisis and it’s shy to say that its policies have failed,” said Jim, to loud applause from the crowd.
The ANC has become the new National Party (NP), Jim said, because its mission was nothing but to protect the interests of white capital and spread corruption.
He said the new labour federation “would need its own political organ” that would be “preoccupied” with advancing the struggles of workers.
Jim called for an urgent debate in the proposed federation to find ways to save the country from destruction, saying workers must “protect the Constitution [and] be vigilant”.
He added that Numsa wants a government that would actively intervene in the economy, and “not be co-opted into the continued victimisation of workers by capitalism”,
“Who killed workers in Marikana?” he asked.
Vavi accused government, through the labour department, of under-handed tactics to exploit workers to try to save the crisis-hit Cosatu.
He called on all the unions not affiliated to Cosatu to join the new federation now, because the survival of the workers in the country depended on it.
He argued that a new federation is needed to tackle “mass unemployment, poverty, extreme inequality, racism and rampant corruption, which are the daily experiences of the majority of the working class”.
Most of the workers at the rally said they are hopeful that the new federation will bring workable solutions to problems faced in the workplace, especially workers’ rights and negotiations of decent pay.
No date has been set for the launch of the new federation. Vavi and Jim called for its first congress to be held before the end of the year. For now, they look to launch a “no to job losses campaign” across the country to fight against the retrenchment of workers across different sectors.