10 December 2006

COSATU responds to President's Letter

COSATU Media Release

COSATU response to the President’s Letter published in ANC Today on 8th December, 2006

COSATU regrets that once again we are obliged to contradict our country’s President, Comrade Thabo Mbeki, who has written about us and our allies in the SACP in his capacity as President of our ally the ANC, in ANC Today on 8 December 2006.

COSATU is angered but not in anyway intimidated by the use of the race card against a mainly black workers’ organisation whose members are the very victims on a daily basis of the racism that the President is theorising about. We find it particularly offensive that President Mbeki has seen fit to play the race card in a manner that suggests that the people with business interests - whom he is defending - are somehow blacker than the working class components of the alliance.

Moreover the President’s style of engagement leaves much to be desired. He never debates on the strength of his arguments or correctness of the points he is raising. He always seeks to misrepresent people’s genuine concerns in order to ridicule those he disagrees with and question their integrity. He throws the race card even against organisations whose membership is constituted mainly by the very ANC members he is leading. In the process of doing so he has antagonised countless organisations and left the ANC and the Alliance fractious and deeply divided.

COSATU takes exception that it is lumped together with the Democratic Alliance. This is extremely offensive! As part of the style of misrepresenting opponents’ arguments the President sought to lump all the arguments we made with those made by the DA and newspapers in an unprincipled attempt to show us as one. Regrettably this has been the hallmark of his leadership style. COSATU and many others have been the victims of this in the past.

For the record we must state that there is absolutely nothing in common between COSATU and the DA. Instead there is more in common between the DA and President, at least in terms of economic policies.

COSATU does not withdraw even one word of what it has said in the matter of Gautrain and the involvement of some Ministers. We reiterate that it is wrong for political leaders who have been tasked to lead transformation to get involved in business deals that compromise their roles as government administrators. We believe it is immoral for anyone to seek to be both a people’s representative and be a businessman or women at the same time. This is more so for the ANC which has a stated bias towards the working class. COSATU is extremely concerned that a growing number of ANC and government leaders have all manner of business interests, directly or through their spouses. This is no racism; it is a moral question and it does not matter whether it is blacks or whites involved - it remains COSATU’s concern.

In his letter the President does not deny that government ministers and other prominent leaders are shareholders in companies that are profiting from government contracts, and specifically from the Gautrain Bombela contract. On the contrary, the President seeks to justify this situation and to portray it as normal and even admirable.

Yet the same President Mbeki, on other occasions, has made a point of denouncing the crass materialism that is so evident in the country under his leadership. If it suits the President, he is happy to steal COSATU’s clothes for the occasion (as he did in his
Nelson Mandela Lecture of July 29 this year) and to condemn the pursuit of riches. We do not mind at all if he does that, so long as he means what he says, and acts accordingly.

COSATU represents straightforward people who do not make the spurious distinction that the President now appears to make between good greed and bad greed. Many of our members work for companies and they are aware that all companies pursue profit. They are not impressed when they are told by the President that Minister Pandor’s interest in a particular company is too small to be of any consequence.

So long as a minister has her hands muddied with business, the line has been crossed. She cannot be a little bit capitalist, any more than a schoolgirl in one of our schools can be a little bit pregnant, as she knows. The President’s letter is special pleading of an obvious kind, made more odious by the reference to “a month's supply of brown bread”, a dividend which would be very welcome to the majority of South Africans who are classified as poor.

National Spokesperson:

Patrick Craven
Congress of South African Trade Unions
1-5 Leyds Cnr Biccard Streets
Braamfontein, 2017

P.O. Box 1019
Johannesburg, 2000

Tel: +27 11 339-4911/24
Fax: +27 11 339-5080/6940/ 086 603 9667
Cell: 0828217456

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