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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Thabo cries 'plot' again

18 Jan 2002 00:00

Attempts to plaster over cracks in the ANC-led alliance faltered at the weekend as the president embarked on another diatribe against enemies, real and imagined, reports Jaspreet Kindra

President Thabo Mbeki accused Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) leaders at the weekend of working with "international left-wing forces" to topple him, say well-placed informants.

The long-awaited bilateral meeting between the African National Congress and Cosatu after months of acrimony was, it turned out, no simple "kiss and make up" exercise. Instead, union leaders were treated to an accusatory lecture by Mbeki.

Party sources say the entire bilateral meeting last Saturday was devoted to discussing Mbeki's conspiracy claims.

Mbeki also produced a 50-page document containing newspaper clippings which he said supported his view that the unions were trying to embarrass the government and drive him from office.

"The approach seems to be to win loyalty pledges from everyone," said an informant. "It started with [Deputy President] Jacob Zuma's public assurance that he had no ambitions on the presidency and the coup plot claims against [ANC businessman] Cyril Ramaphosa and others. Now it's the unions' turn."

The meeting follows the adoption of a "briefing document" by the ANC's national executive committee late last year, which accused elements in the Cosatu leadership of "counter-revolutionary" and "ultra-leftist" plans to launch a political party in opposition to the ANC.

The briefing document called for the ANC to engage and marginalise ultra-leftists in bilateral meetings with Cosatu and the South African Communist Party. This week's encounter with Cosatu was apparently consistent with that call.

The unionists are understood to have raised the briefing document at Saturday's meeting, emphasising that they had not reacted at the time in the same aggressive way as Minister of Public Enterprises Jeff Radebe, who had branded Cosatu leaders "liars".

Informants say the ANC was represented at the meeting by Mbeki; ANC office-bearers including deputy secretary general Thenjiwe Mtintso and head of the ANC's international desk Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini; Minister of Public Enterprises and ANC policy head Jeff Radebe, Minister of Public Service and Administration Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Minister of Local Government Sydney Mufamadi and Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

A unionist described the meeting as "very difficult". However, it is understood to have ended on a conciliatory note after the unionists assured Mbeki they had no plans to unseat him.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and president Willy Madisha, who spearheaded the Cosatu delegation, said the meeting was conciliatory and they were prepared to work with the ANC. They declined to comment on what passed between the two sides at the encounter.

It is understood that the Mail & Guardian, and its editor, Howard Barrell, came under particularly heavy fire at the meeting.

Barrell is specifically named in the document tabled by Mbeki, which also highlights a double-page interview with Madisha in the paper last year in which the Cosatu president stresses the need for labour's political independence.

The document includes perceived "ultra-leftist" speeches by Madisha, Vavi, National Union of Mineworkers general secretary Gwede Mantashe and Cosatu deputy secretary Bheki Ntjalintjali.

Informants said the document, apparently distributed to ANC members but only read out to the unionists, focuses on an alleged left-wing agenda to undermine government. It makes no prescriptions about what action should be taken.

However, the ANC proposed that the next bilateral, set for February 9 and 10, focus on the political basis for the existence of the alliance between labour and the ruling party.

Cosatu also wants to debate the role of the alliance, given that political conditions have changed since the 1994 election, with the ANC now the governing party.

The unionists also proposed that the next bilateral meeting debate economic restructuring, including privatisation.

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