Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2003-09-17 Reporter: Nontyatyambo Petros

Mbeki Pledges Commitment to Alliance



Business Day, Comment

Date 2003-09-17


Nontyatyambo Petros

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President Thabo Mbeki scoffed yesterday at reports of frosty relations within the tripartite alliance and that he had snubbed the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) by not attending the opening of the federation's eighth national congress on Monday.

Mbeki was received warmly by the delegates, contrary to widespread expectations of a cool reception and the sort of public mudslinging that peaked between alliance partners last year.

The trading of verbal blows has been characterised by labels such as "ultra-leftists" being pinned on Cosatu leaders while the workers hit back at African National Congress (ANC) leaders with derogatory songs.

Cosatu, in its secretariat report to be tabled at the congress, noted that relations between alliance partners improved every five years ahead of the elections only to be sidelined once the votes had been delivered.

Mbeki said the Cosatu leadership knew he would be in Burundi on Monday after weekend consultations with Cosatu's first vicepresident Joe Nkosi and general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

The decision to go to Burundi was based on the ANC's concern that "no other African dies", which Cosatu shared.

"The ANC will do whatever it takes to address the challenges facing Cosatu and to strengthen the affiliates," he said to thunderous applause from the crowd.

Mbeki also stressed the need to strengthen the tripartite alliance. Mbeki said in forthright tones that he sometimes thought of calling the three general secretaries Vavi, Blade Nzimande (South African Communist Party) and the ANC's Kgalema Motlanthe to ask them what they were doing to strengthen the alliance.

Pronouncing Mbeki as leader of the alliance, Cosatu president Willie Madisha described the alliance as the "lifeblood of our revolution. It liberated us and we want the ANC to lead."

In his speech Nzimande called on workers to build the alliance and ensure an overwhelming electoral victory for the ANC.

Meanwhile, delegates broke into song in support of Deputy President Jacob Zuma, who is locked in a legal battle with the Scorpions over allegations that he attempted to solicit a bribe from a French company involved in the controversial multibillion-rand arms-procurement package.

When he entered the hall they sang: "Wen' ulawula amaScorpions s'tshele ukuthi uZuma wethu wenzeni Ngcuka, Ngcuka phendula uZuma wenzeni." Loosely translated, the song calls on national prosecutions head Bulelani Ngcuka to spell out Zuma's crime or leave him alone.

Members of the Concerned Zimbabweans Abroad lobby group staged a demonstration outside Gallagher Estate, the congress venue, yesterday and expressed their thanks to Cosatu for supporting peace and democracy in Zimbabwe.

With acknowledgements to Nontyatyambo Petros and the Business Day.