12/10/2017 03:57 SAST | Updated 12/10/2017 11:49 SAST

"Cosatu, Help Fix The ANC!"

The workers should throw their support behind Mathews Phosa, says impassioned Western Cape ANC PEC member.

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President Jacob Zuma (R) and Cosatu General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Cosatu, a member of the tripartite alliance, is a home to many workers who suffer the most at the hands of private and indeed public sector, a federation of workers who have pinned their hopes on the ANC-led government since the dawn of our democracy. This explains the interest Cosatu has and must have when it comes to the leadership of the ANC.

It was the federation of the workers who, towards the Polokwane conference, campaigned vigorously for the current President of the ANC and the country, comrade Jacob Zuma, to succeed comrade Thabo Mbeki. This campaign continued even towards the 53rd conference of the ANC in Mangaung, when again the federation supported Cde Zuma to his second term.

Today we see the federation raising its voice high in support of another leader of the ANC to take over from Cde Zuma, again this is their right. However when we look at the extreme nature of Cosatu's campaign we get a little worried. The workers were among those who were ready to kill for Zuma prior to Polokwane, and today they have banned him from addressing their rallies. Their one-time darling is today their number one enemy.

When the workers again loosely rush to support a particular candidate when their previously supported candidate does not yield any tangible results in terms of pursuing challenges faced by the workers of this country, we ask the question: is Cosatu's obsession with the ANC leadership race based on what the desires of the workers are -- in relation to labour policies that the ANC must pursue? Or is it just a factional battle that is rooted in personality cults rather than a thorough assessment of the position and direction that the national democratic revolution should be taking?

The workers' primary interest in the ANC race would be based on the policies the ANC pursues when it comes to labour and the economy.

Our people, the working class, are living in abject poverty; they are exploited daily in their workplaces, and threatened from time to time with retrenchments. The workers need leaders who will put their interests above personal ambitions. I want to put forward two arguments.

One is that there is a widespread accusation that union leaders invest workers' pension funds in the same industry that exploits these workers. A mining union cannot invest in the very mining sector that underpays the miners. This is like sleeping in the same bed with the enemy.

Secondly, the workers in their sober mind will never support Cyril Ramaphosa to take over the leadership of the ANC. This is the same Cyril who wrote a controversial email on the eve of the Marikana massacre, which saw 34 workers lose their lives and their families losing breadwinners, calling workers criminals.

The workers' primary interest in the ANC race would be based on the policies the ANC pursues when it comes to labour and the economy. The last two conferences, in which Cosatu preferred President Zuma, they promised workers that he will do away with labour brokers, a promise that is not fulfilled to this day. The same workers have accused Zuma of the very accusation which they levelled against Mbeki -- that he is an aloof president.

The workers must not allow their union leaders to rob them of an opportunity to assess the leadership of the ANC, the policies and the direction the current leadership has taken. The workers must ensure that they are able to support a leader who has a proven track record and will take challenges that are faced by the workers on a daily basis head-on. At the core of all this, workers must insist on worker-friendly policies and economic growth.

I fail to understand how a billionaire such as Ramaphosa -- who has gained his wealth through the hard sweat of the workers -- will influence the policies of the ANC to favour the workers. No one must emotionally blackmail the poor, exploited and neglected workers of the federation.

Siphiwe Sibeko/ Reuters
Protesters attend a demonstration organised by The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

We invite you, members of the great federation, to look beyond here and now, look beyond factional lines and help fix the ANC. We present to you a tried and tested cadre of the movement -- Dr Mathews Phosa. All we need is to improve the living conditions of our people through a corruption-free ANC.

An economic revolution cannot be achieved through emotions and sensationalism. If we are to achieve our goals and dreams, we will have to put the ANC and the country before our narrow personal ambitions and elect a leadership that is beyond reproach.

Andile Lili writes in his capacity as the leader of Mathews Phosa presidential campaign.