Yesterday president Jacob Zuma made it abundantly clear that the days of the Tripartite Alliance were over when in a less comprehensive cabinet reshuffle, he fired the General Secretary of the South African Communist Party, Blade Nzimande, as Minister of Higher Education.
While the reshuffle was really about Nzimande and telling the communists to go to hell, Zuma also shuffled a few ministers around to create an impression that it was not only about Nzimande.
Eight years ago, when newly-minted president Jacob Zuma assembled his first cabinet in 2009, Nzimande was one of the top confidantes of the president and was consulted on the shape of the cabinet and how many communists to include in the post-Mbeki dispensation. At the time Nzimande was a central cog in the Zuma tsunami that swept Thabo Mbeki off his throne. Jacob Zuma of the ANC, Blade Nzimande of the SACP and Zwelinzima Vavi of Cosatu were a formidable force leading the Alliance out of the Thabo Mbeki’s neoliberal dispensation for South Africa. Today Vavi is not even in Cosatu anymore having been expelled from the great worker federation by Zuma allies. The Tripartite Alliance is dead and all that Zuma did yesterday was to conduct rfuneral rites of this once mighty force.
When a year ago former ANC Secretary General Kgalema Motlanthe declared the Alliance “dead” he was criticised for being melodramatic about an alliance that was experiencing ordinary problems like any relationship. The leadership of the Alliance was in denial. Who will forget the scenes on May Day in Bloemfontein when Cosatu workers chased the ANC president out the stadium where Workers Day was celebrated? This was the most dramatic humiliation of Zuma as no ANC leader had experienced. Subsequently, both Cosatu and the SACP announced that Zuma would not be welcome in their events. This must have hurt the old man deeply as he so much loved being feted by the Alliance partners. He felt humiliated and his axing of Nzimande is nothing short vengeance. This, unfortunately, at the expense of the Alliance.
It must be remembered that one thing that has angered Jacob Zuma is the fact that Cosatu has taken a resolution to support deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa in the current fierce factional battles for the soul of the ANC in which Zuma has shamelessly expressed his support for his former wife, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. She is the only insurance Zuma has against possible prosecution for corruption, money laundering and racketeering.
Cosatu has developed a programme of action to implement its decision to have Ramaphosa in Luthuli House and ultimately in the Union Buildings. Provincial Cosatu leaders are working very closely with CR17 campaign managers in meetings, rallies and memorial lectures to popularize the candidacy Of Ramaphosa. The SACP, without having explicitly endorsed Ramaphosa, is doing everything to boost his campaign and is also collaborating with Cosatu and CR17 campaigners. The huge rally hosted by the YCL at Curries Fountain rally in Durban last Sunday is a case in point. Ramaphosa was treated like a king in the backyard of Jacob Zuma and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the impostors who want to create a dynasty in the ANC.
So what is left of the Alliance? Nothing. The ANC itself is imploding with Luthuli House a cold and deserted place where factional battles have changed the character of the organisation. While Gwede Mantashe still calls the shots at the headquarters, his controversial decision to openly support the Ramaphosa camp sign has alienated him and is currently under fire. Cosatu, once the most powerful organized force in the country, is a pale shadow of itself after the expulsion of Numsa and Vavi. The birth of SAFTU is challenging the hegemony of the federation. The SACP, frustrated by the ANC, is unsure of its way forward to either register as an electoral party or hope for the re-birth of a dynamic Alliance. The three Alliance partners, all of them with their peculiar internal challenges, have never been so weak. With the axing of Nzimande by Zuma, the situation is precarious indeed.
At this juncture, it is as clear as the sky that the relationship between the President of the ANC and the General Secretary of the SACP has irretrievably broken down. Logically, the relationship between the leadership of the ANC and the SACP is damaged beyond repair. It is indeed the irony of history that a man who did so much for Jacob Zuma would be humiliated the way Nzimande has been humiliated. Clips of Nzimande defending the fatally flawed Zuma in the past are trending on social media. There is one that particularly poignant: it shows Nzimande haranguing the media and threatening that a jaw would be passed to prosecuted all those who insulted the president!
The full response to the Zuma strike has not been felt yet. Already, the Secretary General of the ANC, Gwede Mantashe has poured cold water over Zuma’s reshuffle and the axing of Nzimande. Tension is mounting to unprecedented levels in the leadership of the ANC in response to Zuma’s actions. The SACP is running and about this matter and has promised to respond fully in due course. Cosatu has condemned Zuma for firing capable ministers while keeping dead wood in the cabinet. The battle lines are drawn and the Tripartite Alliance exists only in name.