Long knives out for Cosatu leader from Zuma supporters

We indeed live in interesting times. It is a life of smoke and mirrors where organs of state are perceived to be used as traditional weapons to clobber political opponents; and where some leaders in the tripartite alliance use prepaid cellphones because they believe there are spooks on their trail.

We indeed live in interesting times. It is a life of smoke and mirrors where organs of state are perceived to be used as traditional weapons to clobber political opponents; and where some leaders in the tripartite alliance use prepaid cellphones because they believe there are spooks on their trail.

Speaking at the Cosatu central committee meeting this week, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande said the biggest challenge that the South African revolution was facing since 1994 was the creeping in of "palace politics".

This, Nzimande explained, was the politics of back-stabbing, pursuit of individual wealth, use of state organs to settle factional scores, use of media leaks to destroy each other and patronage as a means to consolidate political power.

Nzimande's contention is that palace politics are a result of certain leaders within the alliance wanting to cling to power to satisfy both their own and class interests.

In so doing they use their access to power and resources to politically demolish anyone who stands in their way.

In his Tuesday address, Nzimande insinuated that ANC deputy president Jacob Zuma and himself were victims of such political machinations.

He said that he uses three cellphones, two of them on prepaid packages "because my main cellphone is definitely tapped by some of the very state organs one helped to bring about".

Nzimande believes the accusation that he stole R500000 from the SACP was part of the machinations by those who regard him as a political foe.

The "concocted corruption charges" against Zuma were also part of these machinations.

Nzimande also warned that those bent on destroying him and the "leadership of the working class" , including Zuma, were not only within the ANC but also in organisations of the workers such as the SACP and Cosatu.

Such individuals, as far as Nzimande was concerned, included Mbeki and Cosatu leader Willie Madisha.

Without mentioning him by name, Nzimande referred to Madisha as a traitor.

"Every revolution produces its own heroes, but at the same time every revolution produces its own traitors," he said.

What sin has Madisha committed that he is to be regarded as having betrayed the revolution?

It all started when he investigated Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi for allegedly abusing a credit card. Though Vavi eventually agreed to repay the money, Madisha became a marked man.

The Cosatu 2006 congress was seen as a platform where Madisha's political demise would be launched. Against all expectations he came out victorious and was re-elected Cosatu president.

Then Madisha committed what Zuma supporters regarded as the ultimate crime.

He met with Mbeki at a time when pro-Zuma factions within Cosatu and the SACP had their guns aimed at the president, accusing him of centralising power in his office, undermining the alliance and using state organs to fight his battle against the ANC deputy president.

Madisha was seen as Mbeki's man who had to be marginalised.

As one alliance insider explained: "Madisha's downfall was that he failed to fight against the campaign labelling him a Mbeki man. He remained in that corner."

What compounded Madisha's political woes was his claim that he gave Nzimande the missing R500000 donation from controversial businessman Charles Modise.

An SACP task team established to investigate the disappearance of the R500000 said the donation was a figment of Madisha's fertile imagination.

In turn the SACP politburo has recommended that Madisha be hauled before the party's disciplinary committee for the manner in which he handled the matter.

Of concern, according to the politburo, was the manner in which Madisha handled the matter - that is making public the allegations without discussing these within party structures.

He, the politburo said, was also not frank about his relationship with Modise.

Cosatu, on the other hand, has caught on to the issue, also accusing Madisha of having brought the federation into disrepute. Insiders claim that Madisha has a deeper relationship with Modise than he has admitted.

Madisha allegedly tried to facilitate a deal between Modise and one of the federation's affiliates.

On Monday there was an attempt to oust Madisha. He survived the onslaught because the delegates were divided on the matter.

The meeting then decided that a special central executive committee meeting be convened to deal with Madisha's case.

Vavi said the purpose of the special central executive committee investigation was to take corrective action on the matter.

However, there are those within the federation who believe that there was a possibility of punitive action being taken. This could include having Madisha walk the plank.

The unfortunate turn in this saga is that structures like the Young Communist League have labelled Madisha a thief and an instigator who is trying to sow division within the SACP.

The YCL, though, is not an untainted party in the whole saga because of its known support for Nzimande.

For his part Madisha has argued that he did not institute an investigation into the missing R500000. He was called by the police to make a statement after Modise had laid a charge.

Responding to pressure about what he has said to the police, he disclosed that he had received the money and passed it on "to the correct recipient".

Following more pressure from within the SACP, he said he gave the money to Nzimande in black plastic bags.

The unfortunate reality is that the saga centring on Madisha comes at a time when there are tensions within the alliance over the ANC succession battle.

Given the support Nzimande and some alliance leaders have shown for Zuma against Mbeki, Nzimande's analysis of the current situation within the alliance is seen through the prism of an interested party in the succession debate.