Veiled politics obscures issues

So is Cosatu backing Jacob Zuma for president or not?

To avoid confusion among Cosatu members and simple, ordinary folk like us, we should be told.

On Saturday, as Zuma cut his R15000 cake to celebrate his 65th birthday at the celebrations in Durban, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was in full flight about his federation's commitment to Zuma and his cause.

He said the media was to blame for failing to communicate properly what Cosatu's stance with regard to Zuma was. He concluded by saying there were numerous resolutions by Cosatu and its allies supporting Zuma.

Well, yesterday morning came the declaration by the Sunday Times that Cosatu, at a fiery meeting of its top leaders in late February, had made it clear that Cosatu had taken no resolution to back Zuma for ANC president.

It would be easy to lambast Cosatu for this confusion. The truth is that no one really knows how to handle the ANC succession battle - and no one knows how it is going to pan out.

In fact, the one thing that we really know is that the ANC needs do to find a new way of electing leaders. A way devoid of secrecy, back-stabbing and the sheer mistrust that grips the organisation.

Look at the way the Democrats in the US are going about choosing their next presidential candidate.

We know now that Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and the increasingly punted Barack Obama are in the running.

Democrats across the country are coming out and putting their names down for whomever they support. There are no secrets or conspiracies, just fierce competition. Obama and Clinton have already managed to put together war chests of about $25million each from supporters for their campaigns. These campaign supporters are well known.

Here at home there are stories of rich people bank-rolling this or that candidate. There are conflicting reports of people running or not running for the job.

Eight months before the ANC chooses a new leader, even ordinary ANC members do not know what choices they have.

So what should be done? In the run-up to the party's policy conference in June one hopes that the party will begin to debate seriously the leadership challenge it faces. One hopes that it will realise that the communist traditions that it has adopted are useless in this century. One hopes that it will opt to overhaul some of its electoral practices.

Otherwise it will face death from within.