One On One

Q & A – Cosatu

Cosatu has called on President Cyril Rapamaphosa to stop negotiating with ‘criminals’ and use the only language they will understand, which is prosecution and imprisonment. Speaking to the Free State Weekly’s Thapelo Molebatsi this week Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi said the ANC’s public condemnation regarding the state of corruption in the country was not enough, calling for tough action against perpetrators.

Corruption is the talk of the town not only in the ruling party but the alliance as a whole. What is Cosatu’s take on the matter?

We’ve made our stance clear on the matter. Corruption must be rooted out and this we say without fear of favour. The current state of corruption in the country is indeed a cause for concern and we cannot turn a blind eye or sweep it under the carpet.

What is your take on suggestions that Cosatu has turned a blind eye on the state of corruption in the country in national government and also provincial governments where the ruling party is in charge?

Well, this would not be a true reflection as we’ve called-out corruption where it raises its ugly head, be it government or the private sector. The fact of the matter is there many ways to speak on the issue and because we’ve adhered to the principle of using internal channels to communicate our take on the matter with ANC does not mean Cosatu has been mum. And this applies to provincial governments as well. Our leadership in the various provinces has been outspoken on corruption, although it might not have been on media platforms.

In your internal conversation with the ANC leadership, what concerns have you raised with them?

It’s a fact that corruption involves private sector companies and individuals, including civil servants more than any. Corruption is deeply rooted in the party and within government and this is our main issue. You cannot have a party that is meant to liberate our people from the shackles of poverty steal from the very same people which is the case as things stand. We cannot allow, justify, or defend that.

One would say Covid-19 which is a multi-billion programme has merely exposed what has been there for years. What is your take on that?

That changes nothing. As Cosatu, we’ve been vocal on the issue of rampant corruption even before the Covid-19 scandal. Therefore it would be superficial to suggest our voices are only being heard now with the current scandal.

You’ve recently accused ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa of being lenient when it comes to dealing with corruption. Was that a statement in haste or does Cosatu still stand by its word?

We’ve expressed our dissatisfaction with how President Ramaphosa has responded to the fight against corruption. We did not wake up one day and just pronounced our stance on the issue. We deliberated among ourselves and properly, hence our views and or statements on the matter.

You refer to the President as indulgent; doesn’t that suggest that he is in a way condoning what’s happening?

Well, the focus should not be on words and their meaning. The fact of the matter remains that President Cyril Ramaphosa will not win the fight against corruption if he continues to deal with it in the manner in which he is currently. He recently penned a letter to party members, strongly condemning the corruption within the organisation and government as well. Would you agree that this is the right step from him?  We mustn’t fool ourselves here. Writing an open letter to party members is not enough to turn the tide against corruption and ill-discipline. President Ramapahosa might act against those involved and and write letters.

As Cosatu what you rather have the President do to see that he is indeed serious about rooting out corruption in both the ANC and in government?

We have noted efforts from President Ramaphosa to fight corruption, but we can only judge the results and not the intentions. Aggressive prosecution is the only dependable vaccine to cure the virus of corruption – not speeches, letters, or public proclamations.

Meaning people should therefore be fired for the President to demonstrate his seriousness?

Indeed. No soft approach is going to win this war. As Cosatu, we’ve made it clear that President Ramaphosa will not win the fight against corruption if he continues in this manner. He needs to start swinging a big axe if he wants workers to trust and believe in him.

Cosatu seems to be putting pressure on President Ramaphosa to fight corruption more than it did with former president Jacob Zuma. Would it not be fair to afford him time and space to deal with the matter accordingly as opposed to exerting pressure on him?

Attempts by the media to suggest we are exerting a lot of pressure on President Ramaphosa to fight corruption than we did with former president Zuma will not work. All this is meant to change our focus. Cosatu is not speaking on corruption under the Ramaphosa administration only. This is not the case at all. We condemned corruption under the Zuma led administration and we are doing it now. The media must stop shifting posts and playing people against each other.

Taking into account everything that’s happening, would you say Cosatu has lost confidence in President Rapamaphosa’s administration?

Look, as workers, we remember President Ramaphosa’s bravery during his campaign, especially against rooting out corruption, and now that he is the President, those are the standards by which he is measured. At the moment, we feel the president who campaigned in action is governing in words and we are not impressed at all.

Coming out of their NEC meeting over the weekend, the ANC president and secretary general Ace Magashule reiterated the party’s commitment to fighting corruption. Do you think the organisation will adhere to its commitment as agreed during the meeting?

The reality on the ground is that people, not only workers, but ordinary South Africans who by the way voted the ANC into power – are fast losing confidence in the willingness and capacity of the ANC to honestly fight corruption. People are starting to view the organisation’s public statements as nothing but phony outrage for political propaganda purposes.

With ANC members facing corruption charges set to appear before the party’s integrity court, as announced in the press briefing by the President, surely this is a step in the right direction?

It does not help for the ANC to issue statements of condemnation regarding the state of corruption in the country while reinstating people implicated in the VBS looting scandal and also promoting a former mayor facing corruption allegations to a higher position. This is a walking contradiction, hence the loss of confidence. Cosatu simply wants to see the President suspending or firing those alleged to be corrupt. Is that how it is?  We do not mince our words, as was the case with our meeting with President Ramaphosa. The President must stop negotiating with criminals and use the only language they will understand, which is prosecution and imprisonment, period!