It would be difficult to overstate the significance of President Jacob Zuma having to cancel his speech at Cosatu’s May Day rally in Bloemfontein this week, amid heckling from workers at Loch Logan Park. Eight years ago, it would have been unthinkable: Zuma was the workers’ saviour who spoke for the people — a welcome contrast to the icy and aloof Thabo Mbeki. Cosatu’s support was fundamental to his elevation.
Now, Zuma is persona non grata with the rank and file of Cosatu. Yet at the same time that Zuma’s 12-car motorcade was being drummed out of the Free State, his deputy Cyril Ramaphosa was being cheered at Cosatu’s Hectorspruit rally.
It is instructive that Ramaphosa the billionaire is more palatable to Cosatu than Zuma the populist. For many within the labour movement the penny has dropped: Zuma is all hat and no rabbit, and his notion of radical economic transformation is nothing more than a threadbare patchwork of gobbledygook rhetoric.
Make no mistake, the only reason Zuma signed the amended Financial Intelligence Centre bill this weekend wasn’t because he saw the utility of the anti-money laundering legislation — it’s because his political capital is so weak, he’s having to cut deals all over the place. Business has had enough, and this was Zuma’s compromise. Labour has also now drawn its line in the sand.