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This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, 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 It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

ANC NWC Meeting November 17

Minutes of NWC Meeting 17 November 1986

Present : OR; D. Tloome; SG; Stuart; Ruth Mompati; Mac Maharaj; Dlamini; Cassius; Joe Nhlanhla; Jele; Mongalo; Joe Slovo; Simon Makana; Thabo Mbeki; Pallo Jordan.

Agenda :

     (i)     SACTU request for joint NECs meeting.

     (ii)     Invitation to meet CUSA/AZACTU.

     (iii)     Report of ANC delegation to USSR.\

     (iv)     Any other business.

As the meeting was taking place at SACTU premises it was decided that SACTU be advised. It was reported that SACTU was not ready to go into meeting but would be available by 14.30 hours. Discussion then ensued as to the advisability of entering meeting with SACTU while there were differing views within the NWC. It was consequently decided that NWC should thrash out the issue before calling in SACTU

Cde Pallo recapped the highlights of the previous meeting for the benefit of those comrades who had not been present. Three telexes received from CTUC and CUSA/AZACTU were read.

Cde Thabo moved that we address two separate questions, do we participate in the planned workshop and meet CUSA/AZACTU leadership, or do we boycott the workshop and only meet CUSA/AZACTU leadership.

Cde Mac made amendment to the effect that we stay away from the workshop and also influence COSATU not to attend in view of PAC's participation.

Cde President enquired as to the role ZCTU (Zimbabwe TUC) has in the workshop and whether we could afford to antagonize them. It was explained that ZCTU has role as trade union centre of host country, otherwise the workshop was being arranged by CTUC. Consensus emerged that in view of non-arrival of a formal invitation we could with equanimity stay away from the CUSA/AZACTU workshop but should seek full participation in COSATU workshop so as to marginalize PAC completely and expose them as a hollow, bogus organisation.

The entire question of our meeting CUSA/AZACTU was then re-opened.

JS : CUSA/AZACTU are seeking respectability and will acquire it through a meeting with the ANC, because this would be apparent recognition. In the past I had approached the matter differently and was appalled by the stand taken by COSATU about destroying CUSA from within. But we are discussing the matter now in the context of the meeting we had with COSATU and I suspect that COSATU will feel we went back on our word if we met these people (CUSA/AZACTU) now. I would appeal that we at least give COSATU warning that we are going to see CUSA/AZACTU. CUSA/AZACTU is being publicly linked to PAC and we are aware that there are all sorts of forces who want to throw us together with the PAC. This new federation is the creature of ICFTU as part of its third force strategy. CUSA/AZACTU is still new. Is there any urgency that we must meet them now? Will there not be the danger that we give the impression that we are part of the CUSA/AZACTU-PAC line-up?

Nkokeli : Earlier we raised the fact that we want to reach the workers and we can't abandon them to the mercies of misleaders. This should govern our attitude. There is also the matter of the abuse of SG's message to CUSA – have we raised the matter with the CUSA leadership?

Pallo : To answer first the question regarding the telex SG sent – we have not even had the opportunity to raise the matter because we have not met the CUSA leadership.

Is there not the danger that we will allow CUSA/AZACTU to become the prey of PAC by an attitude of aloofness? It is not a matter of the new federation being associated with PAC, but rather of the PAC claiming this new federation as their own. They are already done so in the UN. When asked about this the CUSA people here dissociated themselves from the PAC. We are aware that PAC desperately needs a political base and it will move heaven and earth to get CUSA/AZACTU under their wing. We might play into the hands of PAC, ICFTU and all those other forces if we leave the field clear to them.

Why there is urgency is that up to now the new federation is only about six weeks old. We are more likely to persuade CUSA to abandon it now rather than later. In a few months time they will have become more committed to it, there will be stakes of position and status attached to it, under such circumstances they will be less likely to be convinced.

We seem also to be changing our terms as we go along. A few weeks back in this very room, when we were discussing COSATU, one comrade actually used the words "those are not our people", with reference to COSATU leadership. Today we hear them being described as 'our allies'. Perhaps such terms are premature. There are forces in COSATU who are opposed to us; just as there are in CUSA.

Mac : The issues around which the respective federations were formed were crystallized as non-racism vs anti-racism. AZACTU has openly credited PAC internationally and is linked to AZACTU. Besides whatever the differences with individual COSATU leaders, the principles on which COSATU was founded we support as correct. The principles on which CUSA/AZACTU are founded we oppose as incorrect.

There is a long history of talks with CUSA leaders. Mndaweni has made certain undertakings to us in previous meetings, but he has gone back on them. Sometimes meeting is a tactic to influence people, at other times not meeting them is equally valid as a means of exerting influence. Right now we could go into a meeting with them to confront them on the reneging on undertakings that they would go into COSATU; to confront them on the telex, and a host of other undertakings they've made in the past. We have not done so. We must not approach the question of reaching the workers purely through the meetings we have with leaders. We took a conscious decision that in many instances we would have to speak to the workers over the heads of Camay. We should through our organs have been addressing our people about the trickery of Camay regarding the telex. We should have been exposing the fact that went into this new federation despite pleas and appeals not to break ranks.

I therefore say the NWC decision was correct. At this stage we say no to a meeting. We consult with UDF, COSATU, NECC and others on the matter. The question we have to address is how do we win the workers under the banner of CUSA/AZACTU. The aim of CUSA/AZACTU at this point is to win respectability. We know from other sources that the membership of CUSA unions responds to calls from NECC, and other democratic forces. So we know there is a potential base there. But I say we don't meet them now as a signal that we are fed up with their double-dealing. But we must at the same time get our message across to the membership of these unions to take the correct stand on all issues of trade union unity. We are agreed that CUSA/AZACTU is not a positive development.

In all our dealings with the CUSA leadership they have been double-dealing with us and not delivering on agreements reached. I'm opposed to meeting them now. We don't go to these workshops and we should influence COSATU to stay away too. We refuse to see them because they have been dishonourable in the past, but we need to canvass their constituency.

Adjournment for tea

CR : We might be in trouble. Because of the role of Zimbabwe as represented by ZCTU. I've listened to the arguments. On balance – there is a growing problem which we have to confront and address. There is a massive offensive against the ANC by the imperialists, coordinated with Pretoria. Its objective is to isolate the ANC and crush the democratic movement inside the country while promoting its own forces. One of which is the PAC. PAC is now being aroused out of decades of slumber and is being taught to run. One of the biggest boosts they have recently received was this CUSA/AZACTU launch. I agree with Mac, there was a fanfare for PAC there. Nothing like it has happened before.

PAC is being promoted even amongst the FLS. For the first time in July they attended FLS summit. We were offered offices in Ghana, they moved first, they are there now. In Uganda the same thing happened. In Zimbabwe they have a tremendous advantage, which is why I say we have a problem. The Zimbabweans claim that they take the view of non-interference in South African affairs. Nevertheless they do a great deal to promote PAC. During the NAM Conference, they gave PAC a field day. PAC was sold to the Non-Aligned Movement. That continued until the ANC delegation arrived. Then PAC had to shut up. Even the press that had been pushing them lost interest.

There are situations where we just can't leave the field to PAC. There are those in Zimbabwe who would rejoice if the ANC abstained. Then everyone will be speaking of the PAC, and we wont be there to block the PAC. We have to accept, that if ZANU had their way, PAC would be the movement recognized in Zimbabwe.

The US, the British, etc. all have their own agenda here. We may decide to abstain, unaware that that is precisely what they want.

We should not take part in the CUSA/AZACTU workshop. We have a sound excuse for non-attendance, the late invitation. Presumably we will be invited to the COSATU one. We then can explain why our non-attendance of one, while we are attending the other. I'm not happy about the suggestion that we advise COSATU to stay away from the seminar because PAC will be there. I'd prefer that we go and demonstrate to CTUC, ZCTU and everyone who are the real leaders of the movement in South Africa. We go and make it a success by also exposing the PAC. We can do this by the weight of COSATU and our movement. Protest by abstention has its uses, but it also has its limitations. Sometimes we need to go into the fight and defeat the opposition in the field. There will be instances when we can't avoid being with PAC.

The opposition will not abandon its objectives. But we can force them to recognize our power, that they have to deal with us.

ANC has to generate with its allies, activities in this region to counter ICFTU. We should ask ourselves why our allies are absent from the region. Therefore we wont attend this week's workshop, but we'll attend next weeks. We will not advise COSATU to stay away, but we must plan together with them how to deal with it.

On meeting CUSA/AZACTU - I don't think it really matters if we don't meet them this time. If we have any meeting at all it will be with members of CUSA as CUSA. Because of the way we were treated at the formation of this federation , we have something to say to CUSA. But it is necessary that we reach agreement with our own people on this. We don't want to underrate the support for ANC in CUSA unions. I suspect that the CUSA leadership is being pressed to meet the ANC by the rank and file. It will be most unfortunate if we create a situation in which that leadership can go back and tell the rank and file, "we tried by the ANC is not interested in meeting us". That can create confusion. I don't think we can go to Zimbabwe and avoid meeting the workshop. We can tell CUSA/AZACTU that we are not ready to meet them, and explain that to the workers at home. When we meet COSATU we can explain that to them also. Where it is appropriate we should meet the CUSA leadership and challenge them on how they expect us to deal with them in the future if they behave in this way.

Nhlanhla : I wish to recap on two points about our meeting with COSATU. Our planned meeting with CUSA was the last point on the agenda, when the chairman, by the way, asked them to make some input. COSATU said they are ready to meet CUSA anytime they feel CUSA is serious about unity. COSATU therefore has not closed its doors. We said that we need to discuss a whole range of issues. We were correct not to meet CUSA in October because we were in disarray. But we said the door is open, and not merely open for no one to walk in. This raises some fundamental questions about our strategy and tactics. Tactics can sometimes be used as an excuse for inaction. I thought our approach was clear, but now we seem to be getting into trenches, such that we can't meet our people. There is no question, I support COSATU as the one federation for South Africa. But that does not mean I support it at the expense of ignoring everything else. It is necessary, of course, that we consult COSATU. But consultation must not be an escape route. COSATU have themselves said that they are ready to meet CUSA.

On the PAC fanfare – CUSA/AZACTU were asked unambiguously, but UNO officials and our people when they were here – Are you a PAC federation and they answered as unambiguously, no. They explained that at their launch AZANYU came with PAC banners and made that fanfare, and then PAC claimed it. We will end up leaving them to PAC. On the question of the message, Masondo raised it with them, and they apologized. To answer Mac, DIP did issue a statement which reached our people. They wanted to meet us as the leaders of the NLM. We met Gatsha in '79 because we felt we had not done enough to prevent him sliding into the ranks of the enemy. I want us to meet CUSA for the same reason. There are pro-ANC forces inside CUSA. We wriggled out of the first meeting, are we going to wriggle out of the second one too? Let us remember that they too have a right to close the door. Other forces will tell them "Look, you've tried to meet the ANC, they ducked out of it, they obviously don't want to meet you". We are in receipt of a letter from London indicating that COSATU feels they should meet CUSA because this division is playing into the hands of UWUSA.

Our strategy is correct. But how do we respond to the enemy's strategy. We know that the enemy wishes to weaken our overall leadership position at home. They also want to resurrect the PAC. We must fight this attempt, and meet all those who have not yet taken fixed positions.

The fact that Camay took us for a ride on the message can't be grounds for not meeting. When we meet CUSA we publish the content of the talks – that we indicated to them, CUSA was part of the unity talks, why did they pull out at the last minute? Tell them that we stand for one federation, COSATU, that we consider this new federation a divisive move; tell them that we demand that they join CUSA without qualifications. We should be careful that we do not undermine our own strategy. Time means people assume entrenched positions, they acquire a vested interest in CUSA/AZACTU. If we go to Harare, meet COSATU but do not meet CUSA, it will mean we have slammed the door in CUSA's face, everyone will read it as such.

We have to carry SACTU with us. We have to convince them that this is the way. At the same time we must fight for SACTU in the international forums, to be accepted as SACTU. It is in fact in the best interests of COSATU that ANC meets CUSA and pressurizes them to join COSATU. That we spread the message of COSATU amongst our people.

(Interjection from O.R. : Is the invitation from CUSA or CUSA/AZACTU?)

(Cde Thabo explained the telexes.)

S.G. : A few years ago ANC had serious problems with elements organized around the BCM. There was a venomously anti-ANC crown who crystallized in places such as Botswana. Nonetheless we said it was necessary to draw them into the broad democratic movement. People like Dan Cindi and Andrew Mkhize were part of this crowd. Today both these comrades are doing very sensitive ANC work.

There was also the group from the Unity Movement who came here to Lusaka at one point in the early 1970s. We held long meetings with them about their military strategy and proposals for a united front. We patiently explained to them that their military strategy was wrong. Later that same decade we held other meetings with a delegation from BCM, amongst whom was Barney Pityana. Today Barney is working for the ANC. Today we are faced with CUSA/azactu. We've had several meetings with CUSA. In our meetings with COSATU some of them felt the ANC should have nothing to do with CUSA. The COSATU leadership feel they can erode CUSA from within. Have we frankly raised with COSATU the problems with such an approach. The attitude of the COSATU leadership is a stumbling block. Have we seriously worked to remove that stumbling block? I don't think there would be any problem with our meeting CUSA then explaining to COSATU afterwards exactly why we felt we should meet them.

(Question once again raised whether it is CUSA or CUSA/AZACTU we are meeting.)

Thabo : We can't unscramble CUSA from AZACTU. If we insist that we can't meet CUSA/AZACTU we are in effect saying there should be no meeting. If they agree to our meeting CUSA apart from AZACTU okay, but we can't dogmatically insist.

Slovo : CUSA/AZACTU are now amalgamated.

Ruth : The original decision was to meet CUSA. That does not mean a new decision can't be made.

Mac : When we met SACC in Harare, the W.C.C. told PAC. We drafted a communiqué. While we were in a meeting to discuss the communiqué, we received word that PAC wants a tripartite communiqué, ANC, PAC and SACC. We said if SACC insists we would rather no communiqué. I anticipate that the ANC-CUSA/AZACTU meeting will be confronted with a similar request. In which case of course PAC will agree and we will refuse. If we issue a joint communiqué it will cause confusion at home, because the question will arise – why don't they work together? And PAC will reply, we want this, but the ANC refuses.

Stuart : At our meeting in October I agreed with the view that we not meet CUSA, because I thought the moment was tactically wrong. The timing would have given them the credibility they were after. At the second meeting on this question (11/11/86) I felt we had made our point and should meet them, to reach the workers in this delegation, most of them will be workers. We are unfortunately not in a position to meet them at the factory gates. I think we would even be in a position to dictate terms to CUSA. What is there for us to fear in such a meeting?

O.R. : This would normally be my attitude. The problem is that COSATU has a position on this question. Do we want to add to COSATU's problems. The meeting with Gatsha has been mentioned. If we had known at the time that Gatsha was going to use that meeting in the manner that he did, we would not have proceeded with it.

There will be time to meet the workers. I think we should go to COSATU before and not after the meeting. In any case, if we don't meet CUSA they are to blame for the problems that have arisen. They postponed the first meeting, and now the next time we want to see them, they come in the company of AZACTU. Our original arrangement was a meeting with CUSA. I think we have a right to such a meeting. The problem is, can we meet CUSA exclusively? Can we go and stay away from their workshop? We must be careful that in moving forward we don't destroy our base. We must carry COSATU with us.

Pallo : We need not fear the question of the workshop. I had in my talk with CUSA indicated that we wont easily go into the workshop until we have resolved certain questions of principle with them first. So we can stay away without fear. Mac's fears are not unreasonable. But we can state clearly when we start the meeting with them that there will be no communiqué. That does not exclude the ANC's right to issue its own communiqué, as we did with the businessmen, stating what we sought through these talks and our views on trade union unity, an unequivocal support of COSATU.

Nkokeli : Apparently the open door is open. We must revert to the original arrangement and it must be clear we are meeting CUSA. We can have this preparatory meeting to identify the problem areas, but it must be clear we are meeting CUSA not CUSA/AZACTU. Our telex must make clear that we are meeting CUSA, not CUSA/AZACTU as per original arrangement. Next week we can then meet COSATU.

(Formal motion made - 'At this stage no agreement has been reached to meet CUSA/AZACTU but we are prepared to send a delegation to meet CUSA as per longstanding arrangements with them'.)

O.R. : I would prefer that the delegation going there explains this to CUSA in no uncertain terms, that they have come to meet CUSA.

Jele : If there was a way to address the workers in this delegation it would be good. We have kept up talks with Camay for example, not because we had any illusions about him. We know him for what he is. We maintained the relationship so as to reach the workers. In the case of FOSATU, we kept up dialogue with the leadership in spite of their hostility towards us. Then in Holland we got the opportunity to meet 16 workers who were part of a FOSATU delegation. They were all shop stewards. Through them we reached the ordinary membership. Hence there was all that pressure, which almost caused a split in the FOSATU leadership, with workers demanding that they speak to the ANC. In the case of this CUSA group we might not have the opportunity to speak with the workers.

Slovo : On balance I still feel that this is not the moment to meet the CUSA group, even in a preparatory meeting. I say this in view of all that has gone before.

DECISION : That ANC sends a delegation explicitly to meet CUSA for a preparatory meeting in anticipation of a fuller meeting to take place as soon as possible. The composition of the delegation shall be:

               Comrade Josiah Jele

               Comrade Thabo Mbeki

               Comrade Simon Makana

Delegation to meet and attend COSATU workshop (26 – 29 November, to be decided later.)

Next item on Agenda – Report on ANC Mission to USSR

Matter to be deferred to next meeting so that delegation makes better preparations for reporting. Next meeting Friday 21st November.

Any Other Business :

i.     Thabo reported on postponed meeting planned for November 14th. UDF felt they had not done enough work. Proposed that 9th January 1987 be date for next meeting.

ii.     Thabo reported on the arrest and subsequent release of Cde Thomas Msibi. The lawyers that his mother retained will call on him to get a complete statement.

iii.     ZANU (PF) – the NEC had proposed that we meet ZANU (PF) before the merger with ZAPU. We have contacted High Commissioner to indicate our desire for such a meeting. 13th January 1987 proposed as possible date. Delegation to Harare should seek appointment with ZANU to make appropriate arrangements.

iv.     Lindiwe Sisulu is being brazenly and openly surveilled by enemy. She used to work with Thomas. Something must be done to help her out of the problem.

v.     Preparations for December 16th – Secretariat asked to draw up plans and propose distribution.

vi.     ANC should issue a statement on the murders of Sizishi and Makele by death squads in Lesotho.

vii.     Cde Stuart reported on ECC decisions on manning of the D.I.A. and the redeployment of Comrade Andrew Masondo.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.