(This is a response to ANCYL President Fikile Mbalula’s article that appeared on ANC Today, the Weekly Online Newsletter of the ANC, on the 12 November 04)

I always heard of stories that people sometimes creates illusions of being with others in the same place at the same time, but never believed this until I read ANCYL President Fikile Mbalula’s article on ANC Today, 12 November 2004 (COSATU and Zimbabwe: Signalling left, Turning Right). Mbalula, in the true style of other authors in ANC Today threw in a series of quotations from various sources, sought to create multiple impressions from this article. Firstly, that COSATU is involved in some sinister agenda with the right-wing, although it regards itself as the left. Secondly, that COSATU has no business in interfering in the situation in Zimbabwe. Thirdly, that COSATU is falsifying the situation in Zimbabwe and that the truth, which COSATU and its sinister rightwing fellows are trying to hide through propaganda, shall come out. And lastly, that COSATU condemns ZANU-PF and the Zimbabwean government for implementing economic policies that led Zimbabwe to its downfall, and alternatively argues that the same policies should also be implemented here in the country. And then Mbalula concludes that therefore, COSATU is always signalling left and turning right. The only statement missing from Mbalula’s article is that COSATU supports the rightwing, neo-liberal and reactionary MDC, that is only visible in the conclusion he makes.

On all the four counts that COSATU is accused of, the author of the article commits an errors that have been made in the past. In the past, both the SACP and COSATU leadership have been accused of proclaiming themselves ‘left’ and acting ‘right’. This was evident when both the SACP and COSATU exposed and bemoaned the level of unemployment and poverty, and provided facts that the current economic path that the country is taking does not create jobs. A thin line was drawn between the SACP and COSATU with, for instance, the Democratic Alliance. The same line was drawn on the issue relating to the provision of Anti-retroviral drugs, of which COSATU insisted that these should be provided, arguing together with other NGO’s. The other point that has been made with regard to COSATU being closer to the rightwing forces in the country was that of the Basic Income Grant. On similar lines, COSATU has initiated the debates, and, the fact that the DA and other rightwing forces join opportunistically in the chorus does not make COSATU and the SACP rightwing. To further accuse alliance partners of being rightwing, itself, is contrary to the understanding within the alliance that name-calling and labelling does not build the spirit of building a strong alliance. COSATU, like all other political forces in the country has the right to act in solidarity to their counterparts elsewhere in the world. The freedom that we enjoy as South Africans was itself as a result of solidarity, pressure and international sanctions to the abusive and exclusionist Apartheid policy. The fact that white people participated freely in electing an Apartheid government did not make the system a ‘dictatorship’ of a special type. And no, nobody accused the SACP and the ANC of being liberal and rightwing when the DP (the now rightwing DA) supported the struggle against Apartheid. Part of the principles of COSATU is international working class solidarity and therefore, supporting struggles of other workers elsewhere with the full knowledge that they are building an International Working class movement is central to COSATU’ s support of the workers of Zimbabwe.

When George W. Bush invaded Iraq, the law that the Texan President laid was that countries were either with the US or with the Iraqi and Afghan ‘dictatorship’, there was no middle road, and similarly, today as we speak, there is no fence in Zimbabwe. The ANC deplored both this invasions, and, in the usual troop-like manner, so did the ANCYL. This did not in anyway imply that both the ANC and its Youth League supported the dictatorial regimes that the people of Afghanistan and Iraq lived under. We cannot therefore, now, when it comes to Zimbabwe, conclude that any confrontational engagement towards President Robert Mugabe implies support for the MDC. This suggestion is flawed, and it runs heedlessly and heedlessly, that is, helter-skelter, in the arguments made by Mbalula.

Is COSATU and the ‘rightwing’ forces whose sentiments coincides with those of COSATU falsifying information about the closure of the ‘Daily News’, the dictatorial nature of President Robert Mugabe, and the overall situation in Zimbabwe. There are close to 3 million South Africans who fled Zimbabwe for South Africa, mainly for economic reasons, but also for fear of arrest and torture. The SA government had to tighten security in bordering lines with Zimbabwe. It further introduced a Z$2 million (about a R1000) for a Visa for anyone crossing into SA. Further than that, there are people dying of hunger and starvation. There are daily reports of abuse from the youth militias. There are several MP’ s of the opposition who do not make their way back to parliament because the police either beat them up, or, if they survived their wrath, members of the Youth Militia who are card-carrying members of ZANU-PF got them. It is even worse when people come to the defence of ZANU-PF, when the very same members of ZANU-PF are also at the receiving end of the already deteriorated economic situation in that country. I will not answer whether COSATU and its so-called right-wing bedfellows lied, this, I leave to whatever is left (remaining, in this regard) of the conscience of Mbalula and many others who share his views.

COSATU and the SACP have always argued against Gear, and, to my own recollection still do. Part of the issues that both organisations raised against Gear was that there should not be a wholesale of parastatals, and that there should be more social spending on education, health and other basic needs. Only the Freedom Charter, the RDP and the ANC Elections do not contain the underlying effects and principles of Gear. Mbalula arrogantly says that the ANC will not be forced into abandoning policies that it believes serves the ordinary South Africans, this is said with reference to Gear. The DA here at home proclaims similarly, and consistently urges the ANC government not to heed the calls made by their left-wing partners. Who dared to call the ANC rightwing? Cabinet has since suspended the sale of its stake in Telkom, Eskom and Transnet, with President Mbeki arguing that the state has an important role to play in the development of the South African society. Mbalula, and others who supports Gear, are surely ignorant of this facts. But further than that, they are also ignorant of the fact that the privatisation of state’s parastatals led to massive job-losses and price hiking. This lead to the majority of SA without these services. The major mistake that the Zimbabwean government made was to follow the Structural Adjustment Programme, and this is the mistake that Gear commits, a mistake that the World Bank’s Report on Development 2003 equally acknowledge. Mbalula will not state this points because, under the circumstances, they do not support his argument against COSATU pledging solidarity and acting in like manner with the peoples of Zimbabwe.

Mbalula flanks through the question of Land and Agrarian Reform in Zimbabwe, and unequivocally mentions his condemnation of COSATU’ s criticism of it. He implies that the Zimbabwean government was right in engaging into such. But will Mbalula, and many others who support that programme, have the balls to support a similar programme in South Africa? No! They were unequivocal with their ‘silence’ during the SACP action earlier in the month. Pure hypocrisy. Mbalula relies further on a Report of the South African Observer Mission which deemed the elections ‘legitimate’ when members of the SAOM themselves have become remorseful for having said that (the General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches has since admitted to having authored parts of the report and regretted having done so). He further forgets that the SAOM have made recommendations on the conditions for free elections in Zimbabwe, which the Zimbabwean government have failed to uphold.

It has become clear that keeping quite about Zimbabwe will not help the situation at all. South Africans can do the situation better in that country by assisting the parties involved to come to the negotiations table. The MDC have indicated to President Thabo Mbeki that they are willing to negotiate, but the same is not forthcoming from ZANU-PF. We should realise that a revolutionary outlook and character is not inborn in individuals and organisations. If, as Mao says, you were a revolutionary yesterday, and today you are counter revolutionary, we cannot afford to call you a revolutionary at all (The Little Red Book). Similarly, the same applies with ZANU-PF, it can happen with COSATU, the SACP, or even the ANC. As he walks around the ‘right’ territory, Mbalula must not confuse figures that pretend to be walking left and being in the right to COSATU!