18/10/2017 17:31 SAST | Updated 18/10/2017 17:32 SAST

Vavi: Alliance May Fall Apart If NDZ Becomes President

Tensions are at an all-time high in the alliance but neither partner is opting to leave - yet.

Cosatu members cheer and dance as they march through the streets protesting against corruption on September 27, 2017 in Johannesburg.
Cosatu members cheer and dance as they march through the streets protesting against corruption on September 27, 2017 in Johannesburg.

Tensions have reached an all-time high between the ANC and its alliance partners. The SA Communist Party (SACP) has labelled President Jacob Zuma's axing of their boss, Blade Nzimande, as a declaration of war and trade union federation Cosatu has urged the governing party to reflect on its decision.

This while both alliance members have amplified their calls for the president to step down, but neither was provoked enough to step away from the mother body -- which is the ANC.

However, former Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi says the move to detach from the ANC may come after the party's national conference in December -- if Zuma's preferred candidate, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, is voted as the party's new president.

In his second Cabinet reshuffle for 2017, Zuma axed Nzimande (who is the leader of the SACP) from the helm of the ministry of higher education and training -- a move which the communists saw as a direct attack on the alliance.

At an urgent press conference in Johannesburg on Tuesday, SACP first deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said the party's various structures would meet to discuss the way forward and make a decision on whether its members serving on several ANC constituencies would remain there.

Cosatu trod lightly on the matter, neither condemning the reshuffle or supporting it.

In a statement, the trade union federation said it found the frequency of Cabinet reshuffles "unsettling".

"These recent Cabinet reshuffles have done very little to help take the National Democratic Revolution forward. We call on the ANC to reflect deeply about the state of the economy and the overall performance of its government," it said.

"As Cosatu, we will continue to work with and support the newly elected ministers and deputy ministers with the hope that they will prioritise a people-driven and people-centred development. We wish them well in their new positions."

In an interview with the HuffPost SA, Vavi said the alliance should be used as a springboard for building unity among South Africans, but it only works to benefit the ANC during the election period. He described the phenomenon as a "dog-and-hunter syndrome".

"When the hunter goes on a hunt, he uses the dog to catch and fetch his target. But after the animal is captured, and the hunter eats it with his family at the table, he throws the bones out the window for the dog who is outside," Vavi said.

"The alliance has become like a broken record to the ANC now."

He said the alliance was already at a state of collapse during Thabo Mbeki's presidency and "in their anger" it moved "from the frying pan and into the fire" in petitioning for Zuma as president.

"Zuma did well initially, he was willing to accommodate alliance members into ANC structures and accommodate their views on various issues. Regrettably, by the 2014 elections, the relationship had broken down," Vavi said.

"I have been warning South Africa about this since 2010... Zuma moved from our [the alliance's] circles and into the circles of the 'premier league' around 2011 or 2012. He lost interest in the alliance then."

Vavi said it is unlikely alliance members will make any considerable moves ahead of the ANC's national conference in December.

"They won't walk away now but they are more likely to do so if [Dlamini-Zuma] wins. I think they are waiting for a Ramaphosa victory," he said.

Labour expert Terry Bell said it would be interesting to see what the SACP and Cosatu do now.

"Zuma is obviously trying to split the party... There has always been tension in the alliance," Bell said.

"I think they [the alliance partners] thought they could control Zuma when they voted for him in 2007. They thought they could manipulate him. But he is masterful and he used them instead."