Kgalema Motlanthe. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA
Kgalema Motlanthe. Picture: FREDDY MAVUNDA

THE TRIPARTITE alliance is dead and whoever believes otherwise is delusional, former president Kgalema Motlanthe said this weekend.

In an exclusive interview, Mr Motlanthe told Business Day that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), formerly independent ideological partners of the African National Congress (ANC) had lost their way and the alliance only existed in name.

Mr Motlanthe lashed out at the ruling party, saying it was presently made up mostly of members and leaders devoid of the kind of political ability and consciousness required to maintain a united and nonracial society — a key ideal articulated during the liberation struggle.

He said internal democracy in the ANC was impaired.

"The point I am making is that the policies are in place, the constitution is in place, but if those in power can pick and choose when to adhere, when not to adhere then we have a very difficult situation."

His comments come at a time when former leaders of the ANC are increasingly speaking out.

Mr Motlanthe, a former Robben Island prisoner, has served in many positions in the alliance and rose to the level of ANC deputy president.

He was the country’s president for a short period after the ANC booted Thabo Mbeki out of office in 2008.

He was scathing in his criticism of Cosatu, which expelled its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, and its biggest union, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), this year.

"You have a situation when the office bearers actively go and divide the unions. I can’t think of anyone who claims to be a trade unionist who can, with clear conscience expel 350,000 workers. It is unheard of," he said.

He warned that the decision to expel Numsa could cost the ANC in next year’s local government elections.

"My reading is that there is no alliance, there is one organisation existing inside the integuments of erstwhile independent organisations, but today to talk about Cosatu as an independent organisation from the ANC or the SACP I think is a delusion."

He explained why he stood against President Jacob Zuma at the party’s elections in Mangaung in 2012, knowing full-well he would lose. At that conference, Mr Motlanthe turned down nomination to stand for deputy president under Mr Zuma — a role he held at the time.

He also declined another chance to sit on the ANC national executive committee. "Well you know I was clear that if I continued serving in that leadership it would be a constant battle just to get them to operate on the basis of the constitution."

Mr Motlanthe reiterated his sentiment about the expulsion in 2012 of youth leader Julius Malema from the ANC, which he said was part of a rise of unethical, factional decision making.

He said young people were being pushed away from the ANC and the Youth League.

Due to the dearth of internal democracy, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) looked more appealing to young activists.

"What the EFF is saying resonates with their own feelings."

Mr Motlanthe also warned that bullying tactics adopted by the ANC in the National Assembly alienated people from minority race groups. The Afrikaners for example, were "drawing back into their laager".

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said Mr Motlanthe was no longer in touch with developments at the federation, while ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said: "I don’t want to argue with my predecessor."

SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila said Mr Motlanthe was going off on a "tangent".