BLOEMFONTEIN – THE divisions haunting the ruling South African tripartite alliance, and the waning fortunes of President Jacob Zuma, have deepened with the cancellation of the main May Day event organised by the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Bloemfontein on Monday.
The event was cancelled after Zuma, who was scheduled to deliver the keynote at this city which is the African National Congress’ birthplace, was booed.
Zuma left without addressing the crowd.
Earlier, scuffles broke out as rival factions of the ruling party squared up.
The May Day celebrations came amid tensions between Cosatu and the executive arm of government after the labour body joined calls for Zuma to step down following a controversial cabinet reshuffle that had Africa’s most advanced economy downgraded.
On Monday, other leaders of the ANC were heckled at May Day events in Durban and Polokwane.
“ANC are very stubborn. They are stubborn indeed,” said a National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) official.
“We told them in advance that we would not want to be addressed by Zuma but because of the ANC arrogance and that of Zuma, this meeting collapsed,” the official said in Bloemfontein.
A representative of the South African Communist Party (SACP), which alongside Cosatu and ANC represent the ruling tripartite, also expressed displeasure at Zuma’s presence.
“Cosatu declared Zuma unfit to lead the country yet the ANC smuggles Zuma through back door to come here to address us. We cannot allow that to happen,” said a SA Communist Party representative in Bloemfontein.
Hordes of Cosatu, SACP, Nehawu and trade union members jeered and interrupted Zuma demanding that he resigns.
There were no acts of violence recorded as police kept a close eye on the rival Zuma factions.
Meanwhile, the newly-formed South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) held a maiden Workers’ Day commemoration at the Durban City Hall in KwaZulu-Natal.
In a hard hitting speech, former Cosatu General Secretary, and now leader of SAFTU, Zwelinzima Vavi, bemoaned the divisions afflicting Zuma and SACP General Secretary, Blade Nzimande.
Nzimande, the Higher Education Minister, survived the chop during the reshuffle.
“They (Zuma and Nzimande) are not fighting for the interest of our people but fighting for personal agendas on political factions for tenders. Rest in peace ANC, SACP and all the pretenders! Finally, our people are seeing who you are,” said Vavi to the applause of the crowd.
He painted a gloomy picture about the state of affairs after 23 years of freedom, pointing out 9 million were now jobless while the prime land remained in the hands of the minority white.
“As we celebrate 23 years of majority rule, our land taken from us remains in the hands of minority. Fourteen million of our people go bed without food,” Vavi said.
South Africa celebrated independence on April 27.
Vavi called for a nationalization of all mineral resources in the country for the benefit of the poor while arguing education should be free up to tertiary level.
He also rejected the minimum wage of R3 500 (US$261offered by government.
“We don’t need R3 500, we want R12 500,” declared Vavi.
He had no kind words for Atul Gupta, a key figure of the controversial family that is close to Zuma.
The family is accused of influencing cabinet appointments.
“He (Atul Gupta) is now the 12th richest South African through wealth acquired from corruption,” charged Vavi.
National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Irvin Jim, also chided Zuma’s links with the Guptas. He also criticized Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who has emerged as one of the frontrunners to succeed Zuma as the ANC president.
“Zuma is aligned with the Guptas while Ramaphosa with white monopoly capitalists. Enough is enough! The time to organise as workers has come,” said Jim.
Numsa is commemorating 30 years.
In Cape Town, Democratic Alliance leader, Mmusi Maimane, said the country did not have much to celebrate, citing rising levels of unemployment.
“Twenty-three years later, it’s time to take back our power from a government that no longer works for us. Because today it doesn’t feel like there is much to celebrate. We are free to work, but nine million of our sisters and brothers, fathers and mothers, sons and daughters have no jobs,” said Maimane.
– CAJ News