Cosatu admits they could be wrong about Zuma

Published Aug 24, 2005


By Moshoeshoe Monare

Cosatu leaders are to acknowledge to the African National Congress that they have lost control and given in to members' "emotions, beliefs, mood, anger and perception" in demanding that Jacob Zuma be reinstated as deputy president and charges against him withdrawn.

The ANC-led tripartite alliance is meeting on Wednesday to discuss Cosatu's qualms.

The federation's secretary-general, Zwelinzima Vavi, and his deputy, Bheki Ntshalintshali, conceded on Tuesday that they had pandered to the pressure of their members and could be wrong.

"It is possible that we may be wrong," Vavi said.

"It is possible there may be an element of correctness on both sides, that there may have been corruption, that those acts of corruption or wrongdoing may have just fed into a political plot.

"If one day it is proven beyond any reasonable doubt that indeed there was some wrongdoing, I guess Cosatu will be kind enough to say, 'No, no, no, we were wrong'."

Zuma is facing corruption charges and his homes were raided by the Scorpions last week.

Vavi said Cosatu's members believe the charges were trumped up.

"We are not being emotional and reckless in raising this issue," he said. "We are reading the mood. We were there when the news came that (Zuma's) house was raided.. you would have seen the demonstration of that anger and emotions.

"The overwhelming majority of Cosatu activists and leaders believe there is a conspiracy to deal with (Zuma).

"There is absolutely nothing we can do to change those beliefs," Vavi added, suggesting Cosatu's leaders were caught between an emotional rock and a political hard place.

Ntshalintshali said Cosatu was more concerned about the way the National Prosecuting Authority had dealt with Zuma and the conspiracy "beliefs" this had created in the minds of union members.

At Wednesday's alliance meeting Vavi is to use Cosatu members' anger to underline his fear, expressed on Tuesday, that "if this matter is not properly handled, it risks plunging our country into a turmoil".

"If we don't find a proper way of handling it, it will continue to divide our movement and plunge it into unbelievable and unprecedented levels (of friction)," Vavi said.

"(Today) is a meeting of leaders who have a responsibility to find a solution to unite the alliance."

As it is there has been talk among members of Cosatu's strong affiliates, the SA Democratic Teachers Union and the National, Health Education an Allied Workers Union, and provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo of boycotting the municipal elections or refusing to campaign for the ANC.

The ANC, cautious not to lose this election machinery, is likely to use the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) as a scapegoat.

ANC secretary-general Kgalema Motlanthe at one time chastised then-NPA chief Bulelani Ngcuka for effecting "Hollywood-style" arrests.

Motlanthe and other senior leaders are known to be pushing for the Directorate of Special Operations to be included in the SA Police Service, thereby separating its prosecutors and investigators.

This is the only bargaining chip the ANC would use to prevent Cosatu from issuing further threats before the elections and quieten demands for the withdrawal of charges against Zuma.

Ntshalintshali has said there is there to be agreement that "Zuma's rights were infringed and prejudiced" and on "the NPA's Hollywood-style raids and the future of the NPA".

If the ANC commits itself, as it is expected to do, to "deal" with the NPA, Cosatu's representatives would try to convince the labour federation's central executive committee, which is to meet next Wednesday, that the fears of a political plot have been dealt with.

Vavi has come to the defence of Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka since she was booed by Zuma supporters and members of SA Students Congres walked out while she was speaking.

"It is unfortunate that members of the democratic movement are seeing (Mlambo-Ngcuka) as a (target for) their displeasure at how (Zuma) was treated.

"Unfortunately they are taking their frustration to the wrong door. (Mlambo-Ngcuka) did not appoint her forming the conspiracy," Vavi said.

He said Cosatu believed Mlambo-Ngcuka was a "wonderful" person and should be "respected as a leader of our people".

Since Mlambo-Ngcuka has taken over the reigns of the deputy presidency, there have been a number of walkouts and protests at gatherings she has addressed, over unhappiness about the firing of Zuma.

Meanwhile, Cosatu and the SA Communist Party are planning a "million signature campaign" to convince Mbeki to drop corruption charges against Zuma, Sapa reported on Tuesday.

"We're confident we can get that million signatures in KwaZulu-Natal alone," Cosatu's provincial secretary, Zet Luzipho, said on Tuesday.

He said they were also working on the formation of a "Jacob Zuma Solidarity Front" which would demand that he receive a fair trial.

Luzipho said they would hold an all night vigil outside the court on October 10, the night before Zuma's next appearance, and also wanted to declare October 11 "a national day of solidarity".

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