THE so-called “Lula moment” has become a proxy battle for Mangaung, with pro- and anti-President Jacob Zuma senior Cosatu leaders publicly contradicting each other on the form and shape it must take.
The Lula moment is a reference to former Brazilian president Lula da Silva, who failed to please workers during his first term (2002-6) but turned the country around during his second term (2006-10) – dramatically improving the economy and creating millions of jobs.
National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) general secretary Fikile Majola seems to be contradicting Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi’s suggestion that the Lula moment required a policy shift, and a change in party and government leadership.
Majola is among Cosatu leaders who want Zuma to be retained as ANC president at the ruling party’s national elective conference in December.
Vavi and others are believed to prefer Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe.
Speaking to The Star on the sidelines of Cosatu’s 11th conference in Midrand yesterday, Majola said the urgently needed Lula moment required anything but a policy shift, and a change in party and government leadership.
Instead it needed a developmental state and united alliance leadership that could act as a strategic centre of power.
In addition, it required a highly skilled, professional and non-factional bureaucracy, Majola insisted.
“I am convinced that the political leadership is trying its best, but there are serious structural deficiencies that will make it impossible for the political leadership to succeed. I think the leadership does have the will to make the bureaucracy work, but for it to succeed, the organisation of the state has to change.
“Our position is clear, and the GS [Vavi] summarised it, that the position of Cosatu is to defend the current leadership [Zuma] in Mangaung. That is not just a Nehawu position.”
Majola, who had been tipped as the pro-Zuma unionists’ candidate to challenge Vavi in the run-up to the Cosatu congress, is close to Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini.
Dlamini’s Lula-moment sentiment, announced during his opening address to the congress, was almost the same as that of Majola.
But in his secretariat political report, Vavi noted that Lula’s first term was marred by a “serious problem of corruption”, and conservative fiscal and monetary policies.
Those policies prevented the improvement of Brazil’s social services.
As a result, wages and jobs stagnated, Vavi said, leading to speculation that Lula might be impeached or voted out of power at the next election.
But Lula turned the situation around by changing his top team, making new strategic appointments, pushing up the minimum wage and embarking on a programme of growth acceleration.
The programme focused on investments in infrastructure, transport, energy and education.
Vavi further noted that Lula and his allies in the Workers Party had acted decisively, “moving to address these problems in policy and leadership, both in government and in the party”.
“Government and party leadership was changed, and important policy shifts were engineered, regaining the support of worker and peasant organisations,” Vavi added.
But Zuma’s supporters in the alliance interpreted Vavi’s understanding of the Lula moment as a vote of no confidence in the ANC leader and an attempt to rally workers against him.
Majola’s statement came days after anti-Vavi unionists told The Star after the Cosatu general secretary’s re-election that they expected divisions along the Zuma and Motlanthe lines to play themselves out within the federation’s central executive committee.
This committee is Cosatu’s major decision-making body between conferences.