Cosatu has urged the ANC to be consistent in fighting graft and to “save the image of the organisation when leaders are accused of serious crimes and corruption”.
The labour federation has advised its ally to consider the electoral costs of such corruption scandals.
In its critique of its ally’s discussion paper on organisational renewal, Cosatu said the ANC document “does not equip us with the tools to approach situations when the movement leadership is accused or implicated in criminal and corrupt cases”.
“How does the movement address the challenges such as the one where virtually all ANC members in the legislature come out in full support, parading ANC symbols and sacrificing their day’s work, to witness and show support to a comrade who has corruption charges to answer to,” Cosatu said, in a veiled reference to John Block, who was re-elected Northern Cape party chairman amid serious accusations of graft.
“What about instances where factions brandishing the sacred symbols of the movement come out in full support outside courtrooms in defence of a comrade accused of murdering another comrade, without any regard for the message that this type of behaviour communicates to our people,” said Cosatu, urging ANC leaders to resign when facing serious criminal accusations including corruption, murder and rape.
Ironically, it was Cosatu’s central committee that accompanied President Jacob Zuma to court for his appearances linked to accusations of corruption and the labour federation once resolved that charges against Zuma should be withdrawn.
But six years later, Cosatu asked if it was not time “that the movement considers the cost of the election of tainted individuals into positions of responsibility and leadership in the movement?”
“The danger in allowing the status quo to prevail is that it gives rise to a dangerous situation in which the movement stands opposed to the majority of our people, who are the most affected by corruption,” Cosatu said. The critical test facing the ANC was its ability to address its problems and weakness; failure to do so meant it would continue to “devour” itself.
“As we will show, the ANC, its allies and the rest of the democratic forces have for many years been pointing out the current weaknesses and have taken bold resolutions on what is to be done.
“Yet our track record in doing anything about the identified weaknesses leaves much to be desired. This has not been a problem of leadership alone but a problem of both those who lead and those who are led,” Cosatu said.
In its documents – to be discussed at the policy conference next week – the ANC admitted that if it were to survive, it would require “a major shift from the current pre-occupation with palace politics and internal power struggles, to a return to transformative politics”.
Cosatu argues that as much as the current paper “is inspirational and bold, our challenge… is not yet another set of beautiful words, but the political will to implement our own resolutions”.
It added: “In order to embrace a need for a mindset change, we must admit that we are a sick movement that fast resembles only a shadow of what it used to be.
“Many will find this truth very annoying and may in response deny that we are a sick organisation. But the starting point for a patient, if the treatment is to work, must be to admit that all is not well.
“The paper on many occasions eloquently points out our crisis.”
The main reason the ANC’s leadership had been weakened, Cosatu said, was because most ruling party leaders were a product of divisive camps and factional nomination processes called slates.
“In some cases leadership that emerged from a divided congress finds it very difficult to outgrow the factional past and dissolve factions they led and/or belonged to before the last congress.
“This is why we must reject the circulating of slates, which can lead to talented individuals who do not belong in a ‘correct slate’ or the ‘progressive camp’ being sidelined and their talents not utilised for the common good of the organisation and country. Instead, members of the winning camp, in a real ‘winner-takes-all’ mentality, deploy themselves in both government and the organisation so that they can defend their slate in the next congress.
“This vicious cycle is what all accept as a breeding ground for mediocrity, tolerance or even defence of the indefensible by loyal factions, which then results in our movement losing the respect built by the generation before ours,” warned Cosatu, which released a slate that supported the Zuma leadership during its central committee meeting in 2005.
In its document, the ANC admitted to emergence of “new tendencies” such as manipulation of the membership system and use of money to influence the outcome of conferences.