BLOEMFONTEIN – The ANC has said it has no regrets about President Jacob Zuma attending Cosatu’s disrupted Workers’ Day rally in Bloemfontein.
“It was not about President Jacob Zuma,” said ANC Spokesperson, Zizi Kodwa.
“He was there on behalf of the ANC, to deliver a message from the ANC. What was more dangerous was if he did not attend. Politically it’s important that he attended.”
President Zuma suffered the unprecedented embarrassment of being prevented from delivering his speech at the main workers day event on Monday.
Bloemfontein is the cradle of the ANC, though one wouldn’t have thought so, based on the hostile reception Zuma was given.
Sections of the crowd affiliated to Cosatu unions booed and heckled the President, facing off with groups that had come to show him support.
Zuma’s planned address at the event had been preceded by calls by some Cosatu affiliate unions for him not to be given the platform. They argued this would be in conflict with the labour federation’s previous calls for Zuma to step down.
Anti-Zuma sentiment dominated the day, but it reached fever pitch just as the President was arriving. Not even the band of supporters were any help to him.
After clashes between various groups, Cosatu Free State Secretary declared the gathering over due to crowd disobedience, telling the crowds, “you are free to go.”
With his speech cancelled, the President then left unceremoniously from a province deemed his stronghold in ANC politics.
While Cosatu was a potent force in President Zuma’s rise to power 10 years ago, it’s now done a U-turn and wants him gone.
Monday’s event, which was meant to put the spotlight on the plight of workers and make sure their various concerns were aired, shifted focus to political in-fighting, a clear indication of the ongoing political wrestling for control of the ANC.
This left many, who had come to hear about working conditions in the country, disappointed and unsatisfied.
“This whole workers day May Day was diluted to political, factional battles of the African National Congress,” said one worker.
“I feel like I have missed out on what the unions wanted to discuss. Maybe because – prior this event, factions in the ANC planned to disrupt it,” said another.
‘Today we failed the workers,” said a third.
Although a memorandum of grievances was delivered at the event, ructions over President Zuma’s leadership clearly overshadowed the main purpose: the workers’ struggles.