[DEBATE] : Pro-poor is real COSATU candidate, Z Vavi
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Sun Sep 24 19:00:55 BST 2006
Sunday Times, Johannesburg, 24 September 2006
Pro-poor is Cosatus real candidate
And Trevor Manuels not our man for finance minister, Zwelinzima Vavi tells
Chris Barron in a one-on-one
What makes you so sure that if Jacob Zuma becomes president he will be the
pro-poor champion youre looking for?
We have not said that Jacob Zuma must be the president. We have never taken
a resolution to that effect. There is no such policy. Support for him and
the issue of leadership in the ANC are two separate things.
Do you see him as pro-worker and champion of the poor?
In the context of the ANC broad church, yes, there is a general view in the
federation that he is sympathetic to the workers and the issues we have been
What kind of economic policy would you expect to see from whoever you end up
supporting for president?
Policies that are pro-poor and pro-working class and that address the
problems we have identified. The principal problem is that the first decade
of democracy benefited capital more than workers and the poor. We would
expect policies that reverse that. We want policies that address the growing
disparity of income between workers and managers. We want to address the
growing social gap ... we want an active developmental state.
Are you satisfied that Zuma would be the leader to implement these policies?
In September next year we will come closer to that.
Do you know where he stands on the policies youve mentioned?
He has been saying interesting things in many union meetings.
Has he made any promises?
Has he said enough to persuade you that hed be the man to back?
In my opinion he still has to say more about his thinking. If I advise
workers that this is the way they should go, I must be absolutely certain
that I am not going to live to regret that.
He has said that he wants to see a stronger rand.
When I heard that I was quite concerned because that is such a contradiction
to what we stand for. Cosatu clearly doesnt share his view on that matter.
He has also said that if he became president hed want Trevor Manuel to
continue as finance minister.
Obviously I dont share his view on that matter.
He has been very much part of the governments economic policy process. Does
that concern you?
Its a concern to me that the working class seems to have lost the strategic
initiative outside the constitutional structures of the ANC. Youve got ANC
policy conferences in my view that are quite progressive. But we are unable
to sustain that strategic level outside ANC structures.
If Zuma became president would it be payback time?
If I am still the general secretary I will say there is no free lunch. He
would have to remember that if it was not for Cosatu he would certainly not
be in the position he is in today.
What is your response to Sydney Mufamadis statement that there should be
more debate about economic policy in the tripartite alliance?
Im encouraged. Gear was introduced as non-negotiable in 1996. We were told
there was no space for debate whatsoever. I think the response to Cosatus
jobs and poverty campaign has forced the government to rethink. Today I hear
only the minister of finance championing Gear. But even he would be the
first to concede privately that they have shifted the goalposts. They have
relaxed the monetary policy. Social expenditure has increased.
Why were there so many resolutions about nationalisation at the conference?
I suspect they were inspired by growing levels of anger and desperation, and
the fact that the key problems of the working class have not been resolved
12 years down the line.
If your candidate became president what would you expect him to nationalise?
Exactly what the Freedom Charter said. The mining industry, the banks, the
we have not drawn up an exhaustive list. We want the
state to play a much bigger role in the economy than it does now. Thats the
What of the repercussions on investment, on our international credit rating?
Weve got to get the international community to understand that investments
are important to any economy.
So you believe that foreign investment is important?
Are foreigners likely to invest in a context of sweeping nationalisation?
Possibly, yes. If it is done in an orderly way. Im not talking about the
Zimbabwe style of nationalisation. Use profits to fix our education system,
to fix our health system. That would be a huge statement to any company.
Do you foresee increasing militancy in the labour movement?
Yes. The tragic misconception of 1994 in the minds of the workers was that
democracy would solve their problems. Now theres a growing realisation that
democracy can coexist with poverty and growing inequality.
What is casualisation of labour doing to the union movement?
It is fragmenting the working class.
Will it emasculate labour as a force?
How will this affect the increasing militancy youre talking about?
Yes, youre right, youre right. Its something that could completely
sideline us as a political force.
So by the time a new president is elected you and your policy might be
If we dont do organisational development and renewal processes in each and
every union, that moment will come maybe sooner than two years. If we dont
get better co-ordination and solidarity between permanent workers and casual
workers and the unemployed, we are doomed. Because very soon you will have
internecine wars between them.
So unless you improve your act very quickly
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