ANC pulls out all stops

THE ANC leadership, including President Jacob Zuma and general secretary Gwede Mantashe, is pulling out all the stops to ensure the unions do not embarrass the Zuma administration as the recession deepens.

THE ANC leadership, including President Jacob Zuma and general secretary Gwede Mantashe, is pulling out all the stops to ensure the unions do not embarrass the Zuma administration as the recession deepens.

On Saturday Zuma told National Union of Mineworkers his government would continue to implement its goals set out in the ANC manifesto but warned that service delivery to the poor would not "move with the speed we would prefer".

"We are required to do more in a climate unfavourable to us. A difficult economic climate, not of our own choosing."

He said the NUM and other unions with the ruling tripartite alliance should play a role assisting the government navigate South Africa's first economic recession in 17 years.

Yesterday Mantashe said his party was not against union plans to strike over job losses or wage increases and would even join the picket line - "if the unions follow the correct procedures".

"If we are staying in the same room but we fight all the time that relationship will not be strong, it will only be weak," Mantashe said.

Mantashe also warned that "howling at the ANC" left the party with only two choices: "Succumb to the howling or close its ears and make the unions' work more difficult."

Both Mantashe and Zuma's appeals to the unions come in the face of the confrontational tone set by Cosatu secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who told the unions not to "soften" their wage demands in the light of the economic recession.

"No trade union movement worth its salt would just fold its arms at a time when its members and workers in general are paying the price through losing their jobs and livelihoods for a crisis they did not create," Vavi told NUM delegates at Gallagher Estate last week.

Speaking at the same gathering Mantashe lambasted members of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) for marching to the Reserve Bank protesting against high interests rates.

He said ANC allies should stop "projecting [President Jacob] Zuma, leadership as weak and indebted to embedded constituencies".

Mantashe's comments and an ANC national working committee document, which allegedly says Cosatu and the SACP should be reined in before their behaviour explodes into the open, will be debated at the Cosatu central executive committee meeting today, union leaders told Sowetan.

Meanwhile Numsa says it will announce more protests against the Reserve Bank this morning.

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