Afrikaans is wonderfully guttural allowing one to give expression to one’s loves and hates with equal gravity. No word describes the disillusionment many of us feel about our struggling democracy better than the epithet – gatvol! We are gatvol with Julius Malema; we are gatvol with the ANC; we are gatvol with the SACP and COSATU. Most of all, we taxpayers are gatvol that our money buys luxury motor cars, fat cat salaries, lavish hotel accommodation, and expensive houses. Yet only 7 out of 237 municipalities received clear audits!
The Auditor-General reports that “of 289 audits of the supply chain management processes, [he] raised concerns with regard to 214. Some of the issues included contracts going to municipal employees or their family members. ... Some R138-million in contracts were awarded to ‘persons in the service of the state’. Of those 19 were councillors, one was a mayor, one a municipal manager and two senior managers.” 33% of Gauteng’s Municipal expenditure was unauthorised, the amount increasing from R522 million to R1.7 billion in the last financial year.
With billions of rand down the drain, under-spent or in the pockets of some incompetent deployed cadre, most of the poor that faithfully votes for the ANC, live in squalor and poverty. Months before the local government elections Zwelinzima Vavi mouthed off against the excesses of the ruling elite, the ongoing corruption, procurement irregularities, and so on. Equally Julius Malema boomed across the nation taking side-swipes against President Zuma, suddenly heralding the disgraced Mbeki as the greatest, while cursing the Democratic Alliance with racist and sexist slurs.
Then just prior to the elections, Vavi and Malema proclaimed the ANC as the next best thing to strawberries and cream. Protesting for months on end prior to the April election against service delivery failure, the masses voted yet again in their thousands for the ANC. If the ANC’s alliance partners are really as gatvol as they pretend to be with the ANC, then they should do the honourable thing and break away and form autonomous party with reference to the SACP, for instance. In the case of COSATU, it should remain true to its members as a labour union and stop competing with President Zuma for attention.
But the SACP knows that should they go it alone, they would become as extinct as the NNP and the ID. As for COSATU, they are fully aware that not all their members are ANC supporters and need to play it carefully. Despite Business Day’s editorial (1 July) that advised big business to be grateful for Vavi’s voice, I believe that COSATU, more than ever, should be non-partisan, if it wants the public to take it seriously. If it claims, as per its website, that its main strategic objectives are to improve the material conditions of its members and of the working people as a whole; to organise the unorganised; to ensure worker participation in the struggle for peace and democracy, then it should mobilise around these issues more realistically. Like Solidarity, that refuses to nail its colours to any political mast, it is free to criticise all political parties and government, and to represent all workers regardless of race, class, gender or party affiliation.
With its strong ANC alignment, COSATU is betraying its own principles and strategic objectives. It has failed spectacularly to organise the unorganised and focus more particularly on the massive army of unemployed people in this country. If it took unemployment seriously, it would argue for labour flexibility and be the strongest advocate for legislation to make small medium and micro-enterprises a reality in SA. Instead, it thrives as a labour aristocracy because its business interests dovetail with those of the ruling party in very much the same way as those of the SACP.
“... [The] movement has been hijacked by petit bourgeois interests, manifest in some new capitalists and a bureaucratic class in the state – ANC, SACP and Cosatu cadres alike – who are now all focused on preserving the status quo. They do this on behalf of the former ruling class who still reap all the profits, at even higher levels than under apartheid.”