2. May 2009

Zuma speaks in worker's tongue

ANC leader and president-elect Jacob Zuma has donned a red Cosatu cap, quite literally, in his first public appearance since the ANC's resounding elections victory last week.
Speaking to a May Day crowd of about 20 000 in sunny Mdantsane outside East London on Friday, and peeking out from behind a shoulder-high podium, Zuma was, however, a mixture of moderation and activism as he promised a better dispensation for workers.
The national Workers' Day rally, which was organised by Cosatu, was considerably less glitzy than the manifesto rally, which was held in the area in January and which attracted about 80 000 people.
Zuma, speaking amidst the fluttering of moths plaguing the city, faithfully stuck to his written speech, rarely deviating from it and not speaking in the mixture of Zulu and Xhosa he normally does in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape.
But while Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini, who spoke before Zuma, called for a ban altogether on casualisation and labour brokering, Zuma merely promised to regulate contract work and sub-contracting.
"It is a serious matter that will constitute talks about the rights of (Cosatu) members who have worked for decades without security. We have to address that," he said.
Zuma outlined the advances the ANC government has made for workers in the past 15 years, and promised more improvement.
He said workers should work with government to minimise the impact of the global economic meltdown, which was already affecting the country.
"We also want to ask business that they should do everything to save jobs, and that they should use other means to cut costs in ways jobs are not affected," he said.
He also acknowledged Cosatu's role in the ANC's elections victory, saying the ANC should be "sensitive to the fact" that the party was in an alliance with Cosatu and the SACP and that workers should make their voice heard in government.
"This alliance is a unique force in the world. No other country in the world possesses such a unique force," he said, adding that the strength of the alliance was growing despite "prophets of doom" predicting otherwise.
Cosatu and the SACP were critical to Zuma's rise to power, and Dlamini promised that Cosatu would support Zuma, who is to be sworn in as president next Saturday, all the way.
Recently there were some tensions in the alliance about the appointment of provincial premiers, but, although the ANC told its alliance partners off about their wanting to interfere, the party did promise to consult them more vigorously on the appointment of provincial cabinets.
The ANC's premier candidate in the province, Noxolo Kiviet, attended the rally alongside serving premier Mbulelo Sogoni and failed premier candidate Mcebisi Jonas.
Zuma also asked the crowd to retain the "mood and vibrancy" of the elections campaign, and to build on that by mobilising street committees and volunteers to fight crime and to help the government on issues like health.
Going off-script, he sent out a warning to those criticising government plans to help the poor, saying a businessman told him at a pre-election breakfast meeting (at the Johannesburg Country Club) the government would not be able to afford a national health insurance scheme.
The ANC is planning to introduce such a scheme in conjunction with medical aid schemes to make healthcare affordable to the poor.
"I realised that this is a man who has everything. People who don't have everything need this. We are going to do it," he said.
SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande made a strong call for people to hold politicians to account even after the elections. (Carien Du Plessis, Pretoria News)

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