Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

Zuma is nobody’s puppet

When the opposition parties took to the election trail during 2008 and 2009 one of the focal points of their campaign was the fact that Jacob Zuma, now president, was beholden to the left wing of the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP, among others, for rescuing his political career. In simple terms they believed that he would be nothing more than a puppet with debts being collected on a daily basis by those who had ensured his presidency.

Those fears may well have been exacerbated by the waves of strikes that occurred shortly after his inauguration which Zuma manfully road out and attributed to the fact that it was that time of year when labour and employers finalised wage negotiations.

Then the media and the country began to be aware of the fact that the president and the ANC were sticking to their economic guns in the face of enormous pressure from Cosatu and the SACP to give ground on the Reserve Bank and inflation targeting.

This manifested itself slowly at first before reaching a climax at the SACP conference in Polokwane.

Rather than being the puppet that he was described as, Zuma and the ANC NEC let it be known that they were not going to be dictated to and that they would not stand by and accept open defiance. This while graciously going to great lengths to reassure the alliance that they remain valued partners.

ANCYL President Julius Malema and Zuma also reaffirmed that the ANC is the centre of power and that is the way the alliance operates.

The same is happening in the area of local government.

At the 98th anniversary celebrations in Kimberley, the president once again referred to the question of service delivery and confirmed that “we are of the view that municipal employees should not hold leadership positions in political parties”, which was tantamount to political blasphemy as far as the trade unions and left wing are concerned.

Moreover Zuma promised to “tighten our deployment procedures to ensure that we deploy comrades with political integrity and professional competence”.

In essence the deployment of cadres will not owe allegiance to the unions but rather the ANC.

Of course the fact of the matter is that public servants should not owe allegiance to anyone other than their jobs and shouldn’t be deployed at all, that, however, is for another day.

What it shows is that in terms of service delivery the president and ANC are now looking to clean house in so far as the public service is concerned and if this does not fit in with the left then the needs of the many must trump those of the few.

Once again the description of Zuma as a puppet is proving to be totally inappropriate.

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union believe that this is a disaster which needs be taken up with the leadership of the ANC which is ironic because without first being mandated by the NEC, Zuma would never have suggested it.

It will of course become a sticking point shortly with the unions dead set on flexing their political muscle in the face of the threat to their standing within municipalities. However if the last round was anything to go by they will achieve far more by approaching the ANC and ironing out their differences in private than by open defiance.