Johannesburg - In one of the most scathing attacks on the ANC and its government since 1994, Zwelinzima Vavi on Wednesday night accused the party of abandoning the interests of the workers and citizens alike in the pursuit of wealth and self-enrichment.
The suspended Cosatu boss said workers had not benefited since the dawn of democracy because of “rampant” corruption among ANC leaders, including President Jacob Zuma.
He said the waves of community protests over service delivery in the townships was a sign that the ticking bomb of disgruntlement over unemployment and poverty had begun to explode.
“Our sweat, tears and death have benefited the other side… You are sitting on a crisis and a ticking point waiting to explode. That ticking point is already exploding as the police already tell us that every day there are violent protests in the townships,” Vavi said.
He was delivering the Mtutuzeli Tom memorial lecture at Numsa’s special congress in Boksburg on Wednesday night.
Tom was a Numsa leader who died of cancer in 2010.
Vavi said the disgruntlement with the government was in part demonstrated by the booing of Zuma at last week’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela.
“Of course, comrades, we condemn this booing as completely defeating of our icon Madiba. But we must ask ourselves: are our masses beginning to sulk and lose interest?” Vavi asked.
“What is the value of our democracy to the working class? Has democracy failed the workers and the poor?
“Have we reached that point when the post-apartheid state acts on behalf of the affluent?”
While he acknowledged “strides and victories” by the ANC in improving the lives of people, he said democracy benefited only a few, entrenched white monopoly and perpetuated black poverty.
He said Cosatu was unable to fight this as it was “paralysed by the (ANC) leadership”.
To rapturous applause, he said the post-Polokwane administration - Zuma’s government - had failed to provide decent work opportunities.
“There is rampant growth in corruption that has made all our programmes even worse.
“Corruption has become endemic. It has become a matter of life and death, literally and metaphorically. People are not only being intimated, they are getting killed,” said Vavi.
“The flood of corruption and scandal is threatening to unravel all the progress.”
Vavi referred to recent reports by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela and her upcoming report on Nkandla, and criticised the “me first” mentality.
“While we are not yet aware of her recommendations, there is no dispute over the fact that well over R200 million was spent on upgrading the security features of the president’s private residential home.
“Last year, we learnt that some R65m was spent on security upgrades of ministers’ homes in Cape Town,” he said.
“How could anyone keep quiet when these grotesque amounts of money are spent on individuals while so many continue to live in poverty?
“The alliance is at the crossroads. The status quo in the alliance is not politically sustainable,” Vavi said.
Tom would have been turning in his grave because of the way Cosatu had allowed itself to be compromised.