President Jacob Zuma hurled insults at the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) as a signal to delegates that they should boo the alliance partners during their messages of support, the federation’s general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali has charged.
Zuma yesterday launched a scathing attack on the alliance partners during his opening address to the national conference at Nasrec south of Johannesburg, saying they embarrassed him on May Day and banned him from addressing their gatherings.
“Cosatu’s decided that the president must not address their meetings, including booing on May Day… I think the situation cannot be left as it is. If there are issues, let’s discuss them properly. Alliance as an entity cannot be guided by individual attitudes. It can’t be. It has to be guided by the principle of the organisation. We can’t promote our disagreement to personalities, that’s absolutely out of order,” Zuma said.
Ntshalintshali said he wasn’t sure why Zuma laid into the alliance partners, and said the president may have tried to exact revenge.
“It seemed to be a revenge statement, to say to the delegates ‘these alliance partners of yours embarrassed me, personally, not allowing me to [address them]. We’re not sure if he was sending a message, to say ‘don’t allow them to speak as well, or boo them’. So we are looking forward to the message of support, to check if delegates will react in a particular way,” Ntshalintshali told the Mail & Guardian.
Cosatu, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the South African National Civic Organization (Sanco) were supposed to deliver their messages of support during an open session at conference on Saturday, but this was postponed to allow them to address delegates without the media present.
In a speech that took aim at the media, courts, business and the civil society sector, Zuma claimed the ANC is under attack, and delegates should decide how to respond.
The president claims the media are active participants in the country’s politics, and not impartial observers. He also said the courts should not be allowed to interfere in the ANC’s processes and its direction and the ANC should not allow business interests to dictate its leadership choices.
But ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said Zuma’s remarks did not represent official ANC views.
“There are always contradictions between ourselves and the media and we support that the media must play its oversight role. We don’t want a media that is a mouthpiece of the ANC. And it does not mean when they speak against the ANC, they are enemies of the ANC,” Kodwa said.
“This conspiracy that everybody that disagrees with us, there’s somewhere they are carrying a different agenda that is opposing the ANC, I don’t think that is a view of the ANC, including on the judiciary. We don’t attack the judiciary because they rule against us,” Kodwa added.
Cosatu and the SACP have publicly called on Zuma to resign as ANC president and head of state, saying he has been captured by the Gupta family, and is not able to unite and lad the ANC or the country.
The two alliance partners have also publicly endorsed ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to take over from Zuma. The outgoing president, however, has endorsed former African Union commission chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Relations between the SACP, Coast and the ANC are at their lowest point since the formation of the tripartite alliance, according to outgoing secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
Ntshalintshali said he didn’t understand why Zuma chose the national conference to lambast Cosatu, as the alliance had met on several occasions and could not reach an agreement.
“All the things he was complaining about was mentioned in the policy conference and during our meetings with the ANC. But when we wanted to set up the alliance political council we couldn’t agree on an agenda and other things, so I don’t know when it’s going to happen.”
Meanwhile ANC Western Cape chairperson Khaya Magaxa said Zuma’s remarks didn’t fully consider the ANC’s responsibility towards the SACP.
“The president must always understand that he is a leader of the ANC and the alliance. Therefore he has to play that leadership role, he must not complain about the alliance, he must exercise his responsibility and obligation to lead the alliance,” Magaxa said.
Kodwa agreed, saying the ANC is the leader of the alliance, and shouldn’t be pointing fingers at the other partners.
“The alliance is at an all time low. The ANC must shoulder certain responsibility and acknowledge the weakness and I don’t think necessarily we must point fingers at the alliance partners. They have a responsibility too, but we are the leader of the alliance. So we are not on par, we have a bigger responsibility to unite and build it.