Political parties need to enforce their leadership for their ideas and ideologies to work, Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi has said.
“Sometimes you can have the most brilliant ideas from any political party, but the difference will always be whether the party has the leadership that can enforce discipline to ensure that there is more efficient driving of the ideas and the ideology,” he said.
“So, sometimes if you don’t have leadership to ensure efficiency and it tolerates mediocrity – then the good ideas that are seen mean absolutely nothing, because those ideas are not being enforced and nobody is beating anybody to ensure that we can implement good ideas.”
Vavi was addressing a panel discussion hosted by the Young Professionals Forum at the Gordon Institute of Business Science in Johannesburg yesterday.
The forum was started in 2008 and serves as a platform for young people and professionals to discuss the issues of the country.
He said the biggest danger in South Africa was the “content of our change”. Black people could not reconcile by themselves.
Vavi said when he looked at some of the wealthy neighbourhoods in Johannesburg he was reminded of how “deep corruption was in the public works” department.
“The Nkandla issue – that house can never go anywhere close to R200 [million], it can only be around R27 or 30 million,” he said, speaking about President Jacob Zuma’s lavish house in KwaZulu Natal.
“Those officials just went for a massive inflation of prices to eat.”
Vavi was addressing various issues and took questions from those present.
He said poverty, inequality and unemployment were still major problems in South Africa and since the start of democracy poverty in South Africa had declined too slowly.
“Forty-four percent of the South African workers are working for a loaf of bread a day. That’s all they can afford,” Vavi said.
“Poverty has come down, no doubt since 1994… The reality is that poverty has declined but too slowly than we would have wished.”
With the current levels of unemployment, South Africa was back where it was in 2008 when the global recession hit, he said.
“Before the world crisis hit us in 2008, we were already in a serious crisis because of the history we have and because of the country we inherited,” he said.
Vavi said the workers’ strike at Lonmin’s Marikana mine, in the North West in August last year, was an indication that the working class was losing patience.
Inequality was the measure of the gap between the haves and have-nots in society, said Vavi. It was evident in the share workers had of the national income.
“That share of workers in the national income has been declining unfortunately way before democracy… Unfortunately… we are not having the redistribution that we envisioned from the Freedom Charter.”
There had not been redistribution from the rich to the poor and this demonstrated that the country was actually redistributing wealth from the poor to the rich.
“In a democracy, the people who have much more reason to celebrate and to be happy about where things are economically, happen to be the very same people who had everything under control before 1994.”
Vavi said the crisis of deepening inequalities was the biggest crisis in South Africa. However, he warned the problems of the country should not be exaggerated.
There were many “gains” made with education, houses, distribution of ARVs and access to water.
“There is lots of things to celebrate… There is always a danger of exaggeration in particular when you are not getting sufficient evidence of leadership that can stand strongly around lots of issues, including moral issues, to lead a country, to give confidence that we are going somewhere.
“We must be careful that we do not over-exaggerate the crisis in the country. No one is in denial of the current crisis.”
Vavi said he would never join the Democratic Alliance or Agang SA, when asked if he would join a different political party because of a difference in ideology.
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