The ANC Youth League in the Free State says labour federation Cosatu’s May Day rally will expose the political immaturity of alliance leaders who are calling for President Jacob Zuma to step down.

The league in the province is mobilising its members to attend the rally in their numbers to “show support for Zuma”, said newly re-elected chairperson Makalo Mohale.

The Worker’s Day commemorations are expected to be attended by both Zuma’s friends and foes, with divisions within the tripartite alliance expected to play out. It will be the first time he shares a public stage with both SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, after both organisations called on him to go.

Speaking to News24 just hours before the international holiday, Mohale said those calling for Zuma not to deliver the keynote address at Loch Logan stadium in Bloemfontein were misleading the public.

“Much as we have heard there are others who did not want the president to speak at the event, we the ANC Youth League deem that as disingenuous,” said Mohale.

He also believes the rally will show that workers do not support decisions by their leaders in Cosatu.
The federation’s highest decision making body called for Zuma to go last month, after he changed his executive without consulting them and the SACP.

‘Workers love Jacob Zuma’
“We still believe that workers love Jacob Zuma, even though their leaders have different views. That will be demonstrated,” he said.

Mohale added that it will become clear to everyone that workers in South Africa appreciate Zuma’s leadership.

Tensions within Cosatu heightened after the largest affiliate Nehawu wrote to the mother body, demanding that Zuma be replaced as main speaker at the event by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. They were backed by two other affiliates, CWU and Sadtu, who also believed that allowing Zuma to speak at the main rally would send a “confusing message” after they called for him to go. Some provincial Cosatu structures, including Gauteng, backed the call.

Cosatu has however defended its decision, saying it sent an invitation to the 105-year-old liberation movement and cannot dictate who it decides to deploy to the May Day rally. The ANC deployed Zuma to Bloemfontein, while Ramaphosa will be in Mpumalanga province.

Cosatu provincial secretary in the Free State, Manyatso Mahlatsi, told News24 he believed conflicting rumours that Zuma would not be attending the march stemmed from those who did not want the president there, but that it made no sense as his security detail had met with Cosatu to discuss details ahead of the event.

“I had a meeting with protocol until 6pm this [Sunday] evening and don’t understand why they would go to such trouble if he was not coming,” he said.

‘Political maturity’ needed
Mohale said the ANCYL was “not happy” with the way the matter was being handled, and that the SACP and Cosatu leadership needed “political maturity”, and to debate their viewpoints at the table and not in the public domain.

“We see it as hatred towards the president of the ANC and want to make it very clear that we support the president of ANC and of the country,” said Mohale.

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He said there were no plans from the youth to boo either Dlamini or Nzimande, who are expected to speak alongside Zuma. The ANC in Free State has supported Zuma.

Mohale also refuted claims from some that the ANC provincial chairperson in the Free State, Ace Magashule, was mobilising people to go and counter those who wanted to boo Zuma.

Boos expected
Although he gave such assurances, a regional ANC leader, who wanted to remain anonymous, told News24: “Expect a war of boos” at the stadium.

He said some in the province had been discussing ways to express their unhappiness with Zuma.

“We don’t want to hear anything from that man,” said the leader.

He added that he would be among those attempting to disrupt Zuma during his speech.

Mahlatsi had also heard plans for the president to be booed and said such behaviour would not be tolerated.

“If anyone boos any of the leaders we will call them out from the podium,” said Mahlatsi.

We will not tolerate anyone doing such from either side. It’s a no no, he added.

Mahlatsi said there were some concerns over transport issues, telling News24 that some of Cosatu’s affiliates had not acquired enough buses to transport their members to the event.

“We wish we had more transport to bring people here but that depends on the respective budgets of our affiliates. They didn’t allocate enough money in our view but we are working within the constraints of our affiliates and what they can afford,” Mahlatsi said. – News24