We respect Motlanthe but...: Tripartite alliance responds to attack

Cosatu strongly disagrees with him, the SACP will engage with him and the ANC has embraced his forthrightness.

These were the responses to former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe’s scathing critique of the tripartite alliance on Monday.

Under the headline “Tripartite alliance is dead, says Motlanthe”, the former ANC deputy president and secretary-general is quoted in Business Day as saying: “My reading is that there is no alliance, there is one organisation existing inside the integuments of erstwhile independent organisations.”

Warning Cosatu that its decision to expel the National Union of Metalworkers of South African could cost the ANC in next year’s local elections, Motlanthe said: “You have a situation when the office bearers actively go and divide the union … it is unheard of.”

While all three alliance partners said they respected Motlanthe, Cosatu was the most outspoken. The trade union federation accused him of ignoring all the facts and opting for an easy option “by sounding the death knell for the alliance”.

“It is disquieting therefore that he has experienced this Damascus moment after vacating his leadership position in the ANC,” Cosatu’s Sizwe Pamla said in a statement.

“Ours is a strategic alliance, not an artificial alliance. We have our fair share of difficulties and we will always have those healthy tensions because that is the nature of interclass alliances.”

The ANC’s Zizi Kodwa described Motlanthe as a “voice of reason who has always been on the forefront of raising pertinent and thought-provoking questions within the structures of the ANC”.

“He remains a critical opinion maker on how we as the ANC should confront internal challenges on matters that if unattended could materialise as future problems. The ANC embraces his forthrightness and willingness to provide leadership beyond formal structures of the organisation,” said Kodwa in a short statement.

SACP spokesperson Alex Mashilo said the party would not issue a statement, but would contact Motlanthe to try and understand where he was coming from.

“We will not comment about what he is saying. We don’t want to encourage debate with him by media. We respect his views.”

The SACP was inspired by alliance leaders such as Moses Kotane and JB Marks who, in the 1930s when the alliance was experiencing severe problems, had shown great leadership.

“They did not go to the media and say the alliance was bad. They provided leadership to turn around the ANC and strengthen the alliance. How Mr Motlanthe handles this one represents a tangent from that exemplary leadership,” said Mashilo.

Motlanthe’s criticism follows frank comments by other ANC stalwarts including Frank Chikane, who warned against members being too “gripped by fear” to voice their concerns, and a risk of ANC support falling below 50% in the next national elections.