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We thought Zuma would 'bring things back on track' after Mbeki - Ehrenreich

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We thought Zuma would 'bring things back on track' after Mbeki - Ehrenreich

Photo by Duane Daws

2nd May 2017

By: News24Wire

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Congress of South African Trade Union (Cosatu) provincial secretary general Tony Ehrenreich says the union once supported President Jacob Zuma because they believed he would centre Thabo Mbeki's conservative policies.

Ehrenreich told News24 this week that Zuma once represented a return to workers' issues ahead of the African National Congress's (ANC's) Polokwane conference in 2007, but what they got under Zuma was clearly not that.

"Cosatu committed to the ANC because the ANC's policy was the Freedom Charter," he said.

"Mbeki wasn't implementing that. He was the main driver of implementing the GEAR policy in 1996. There was a big push to privatise, to outsource a lot of the function of parastatals.

"It has had a devastating effect on poor people in South Africa."

He said the alliance with Zuma and the South African Communist Party (SACP) at the Polokwane conference was an alliance of the "disaffected".

They thought Zuma would "bring things back on track", that the alliance would be functional and the Freedom Charter would be implemented.

They also genuinely believed there was a political conspiracy against Zuma at the time, including accusations of corruption in the arms deal, and backed him 100%.

"He was one of the architects of bringing about peace in KwaZulu-Natal. People said then already that he had a history of being a thief, but we didn't know."

He said the union owes the country an apology for not having held the president and the government to account better.

Ehrenreich said Zuma has used his time as President to entrench himself in the party, in order to enrich himself, his friends and his family.

He said it will be interesting to see how much support Zuma has in the party's consultative and elective conferences, because that will indicate his sway in the party.

"They must withdraw someone who has not been acting in the interests of the people."

Ehrenreich however said the ANC has to be the party to fix its own problems, as it is still "a political necessity" that enjoys vast support.

"From my point of view, the ANC must be revived. The ANC still has the support of the majority of the people in South Africa, and a credible political party is what holds things together.

"The ANC has got to be a political player, because so many people are still tied to it, however naively some may feel it is."

He said the Democratic Alliance (DA) would not be able to perform that function as they do not enjoy the support of the majority of the country.

He said Zuma's faction should go, including his people, so that new leadership can begin a revival.

"The ANC's got to come back to its own policies. But it's going to have to do things to respond to the impatience of people."

He warned of simply playing a game of musical chairs, and said the party needs to implement measures to ensure one man or woman does not hold too much power.

"We're just switching individuals. I hope we talk now about restructuring government so someone like Cyril Ramaphosa can't do the same."

Going forward, the key for sustainable growth in the country is for parties to agree on a non-partisan basis on the issues that actually matter.

Workers' issues and the poor need to become front and centre of party politics again, he said.

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