Ranjeni Munusamy: The 'Rooi Gevaar'
You can almost see the thread of Jessie Duarte's thought pattern. The African National Congress (ANC) deputy general secretary said this week that the Economic Freedom Fighters(EFF) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union(Amcu) were working together to "destabilise" the ANC government and the country. It's the "you are either with us or against us" George W Bush line of political logic. But Duarte might not be completely off the mark. A new Left coalition might in fact result, though this would hardly be a conspiracy. Or unexpected.
The National Union of Mineworkers(NUM) was holding a central committee meeting this week, and issues such as its declining membership, the strike in the platinum mining sector and the troubles in Cosatu were big talking points. The common feature in the speeches made at the meeting, including that of Jessie Duarte, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande and Cosatu second deputy president Zingiswa Losi, was that there are forces agitating to cause trouble.
Duarte was most direct. "Amcu and the formation of EFF show similar characteristics. The platinum belt has become counter-revolutionary. They are working together to destabilise the ANC government and the country," she said.
Duarte also accused Amcu of promoting anti-ANC sentiment. "When you take workers out of their workplace for five months, you deplete the health reserves, you ensure that by the time they go to work they are too weak and too ill to go underground, and they might be dismissed, you ensure that there is abject poverty and hunger in those areas, and then you say Gift of the Givers must give hand-outs.
"Then you argue when the government tries to intervene, you say you don't want the government, you want NGOs. What is it that you are fomenting, it is an anti-ANC perspective," Duarte said.
She also drew a parallel between the NUM's declining membership due to workers joining Amcu and metalworkers' union Numsa, and the ANC's fall in support in the 7 May elections due to the penetration of the EFF in township areas. The rise of Amcu and the EFF was a threat to the tripartite alliance, Duarte said.
Regarding Numsa, Duarte said the ANC was still waiting to meet the union as part of its intervention to prevent a rupture in Cosatu. Numsa is viewed as the agent provocateur responsible for the turbulence in the trade union federation. However, the ANC's mediation has staved off a mission by other Cosatu unions, including the NUM, to have Numsa booted out of the federation.
Through her speech, Duarte was hinting at a belief in the ANC that there is some form of sinister collusion between Numsa, Amcu and the EFF to discredit and subvert the ANC government. The ANC is also of the belief that the media has colluded against it, which Nzimande was happy to elucidate on in his speech to the NUM.
Speaking about the ANC's victory in the elections, Nzimande said: "This popular mandate was achieved under extremely difficult and challenging conditions that included the impact on our country of the current global capitalist crisis and the unremitting anti-ANC alliance hostility from most of the commercial print and electronic media, with some few exceptions. The electoral campaign also coincided with serious challenges to the unity of Cosatu, and the emergence of a right-wing, populist demagogic movement, the EFF, posing as left wing."
Nzimande went on to say: "We must also bear in mind the fact that it has always been the intention of imperialism, monopoly capital, and the apartheid regime, to work towards driving a wedge between the national liberation movement and the progressive sections of the organised working class like Cosatu. Also, it has been the intention of these very same enemy forces to particularly drive a wedge between Cosatu and the SACP."
The ANC and SACP leaders seem to believe that Numsa could genuinely disagree with ANC policies and is entitled to go its own way, that the platinum mineworkers are genuinely fed up with their living conditions and that a rebellion was bound to happen, and that the EFF's strong showing in the election was due to genuine disappointment with the ANC. It would appear that if you find a way to knit up your critics into a neat conspiracy, it then happily excuses you from self-analysis of your role in creating a multiple backlash.
The thing is, however, is that Numsa has openly declared its intention to have a consultative conference with all working class and left-leaning organisations as part of its mission to launch a United Front and Movement for Socialism. The Numsa leadership has also indicated on the record that the EFF would be invited to attend.
EFF leader Julius Malema has now confirmed his willingness to work with both Amcu and Numsa. Speaking at a media conference on Thursday, Malema denied reports that his organisation was working on forming a trade union. "We are not forming a trade union… We are working with Amcu. We are encouraging our members to join Amcu."
He said the focus was on building and strengthening the EFF, ahead of its first anniversary. "We have an organisation to focus on, we can't be all over the place."
Malema also said his party had tried without success to meet with Numsa to discuss cooperating. "Numsa has a problem working with us… We have tried making advances to Numsa, but we cannot impose ourselves," Malema was quoted as saying by Sapa.
It is understandable why the prospect of the three organisations cooperating would cause concern in the ANC. All three are extremely militant and are mobilising around discontent with the status quo. Government and the ANC have no control over these three organisations if they sow mayhem.
Through the five-month platinum strike, Amcu showed that it could push the economy to the brink by holding out in negotiations. Numsa now wants to demonstrate its strength through the strike in the metal and engineering sector. With only a few days in, this strike is already breeding fear with incidents of violence and intimidation.
The EFF has shown that after only eight months of existence, it was able to get over 1.1 million votes. It now wants to make its presence felt in Parliament and the nine provincial legislatures. In Gauteng, the ANC has already given the EFF a gap to mobilise over a non-issue. EFF members were removed from the provincial legislature for wearing red overalls bearing the party's slogan "Asijiki".
Malema has now vowed to make Gauteng ungovernable if the ANC continues to hound its members. "Continuation to remove [the] EFF from legislature through unruly methods will lead to instability in this province," he said, according to Sapa. "We will fight. We have the capability to mobilise our people and fight physically."
The one thing that the EFF, Amcu and Numsa have in common is that they know how to yank the ANC's chains. The ANC almost always falls into the trap because instead of acting like the party in power, its default position is to behave as if it under attack and a victim of a conspiracy.
It is quite clear that the ground is shifting in the country. There are new players in the mix created by the conditions at grassroots. The only way to defuse them would be to deal with issues they are using to foster rebellion. If the ANC is able to deliver on its mandate and narrow the disconnect with its constituency, there will be no need to fear what they perceive to be an "axis of evil".
This column appeared on Daily Maverick.