Cosatu’s leadership has called out President Cyril Ramaphosa for being “confrontation averse” in the fight against corruption.
The trade union federation held a media briefing on Wednesday to outline its central executive committee meeting.
A general strike on 7 October to force the government to act against corruption had been planned, Cosatu added.
Its general-secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali, said while it welcomed Ramaphosa’s push back against corruption, it could only judge the results and not the intentions.
He added aggressive prosecution was the only dependable vaccine to cure the virus of corruption, not speeches, letters, or public proclamations.
“President Ramaphosa will not win the fight against corruption if he continues to be confrontation averse, he needs to start swinging a big axe if he wants workers to trust and believe in him.
“Half the purpose of the criminal justice system is deterrence, so law enforcement agencies need to target corrupt CEOs, senior managers, and politicians and send them to prison.
“Ramaphosa needs to know that workers remember his brave new frontier talk during his campaign for the presidency and those are the standards by which he is measured.
“Workers feel that the president who campaigned in poetry is governing in prose and they are not impressed. The president must stop negotiating with criminals and use the only language they will understand which is prosecution and imprisonment,” Ntshalintshali said.
This is the first time Cosatu has shown signs of a lack of confidence in Ramaphosa since he was elected as ANC president.
The trade union federation was his strongest ally in his campaign for party president leading up to the watershed Nasrec conference.
On Sunday, Ramaphosa wrote a letter to ANC members, calling the ruling party accused number one in corruption.
He urged those within the party implicated of wrongdoing to subject themselves to the integrity committee.
The move received strong support from the ANC’s national working committee which is expected to recommend that those implicated of wrongdoing step aside from their official positions in the government at this weekend’s national executive committee (NEC).
Speaking to the SABC on Tuesday, ANC deputy general-secretary Jesse Duarte said the NEC would be dominated by issues of corruption.
Secretary-general Ace Magashule is expected to table a report from all provinces on those within the party implicated in corruption.
Ramaphosa’s war on corruption campaign was dealt a heavy blow when the husband of his spokesperson Khusela Diko was accused of irregularities in a Covid-19 tender award.
Diko has since taken a special leave from her duties.
Speaking at the media briefing, Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi said Ramaphosa’s campaign was poetic and “all of a sudden now there are tedious processes that you must tick the Ts and dot the Is and people are getting impatient”.
“Nothing stops the president from dealing with issues of corruption in the state and in the ANC because there is a Nasrec resolution that says anyone who is implicated, you must step aside.
“Why are we not using the two to ensure we have [an] effective process?”
Losi referenced former eThekwini mayor and now member of the legislature Zandile Gumede who is facing a case of fraud.
Ntshalintshali said workers were fast losing confidence in the willingness and capacity of the ANC to honestly fight corruption.
He added workers were starting to view the organisation’s public statements as nothing but phony outrage for political propaganda purposes.
“It does not help for the ANC to issue statements of condemnation regarding the state of corruption in the country while reinstating people implicated in the VBS looting scandal and also promoting a former mayor facing corruption allegations to a higher position.
“We call on the ANC NEC to reverse these inward-looking and politically reckless decisions.”
Cosatu also disagreed with the ANC’s proposal to postpone the local government elections, calling it unacceptable.
Ntshalintshali said poor service delivery, corruption, and the frightening audit report by Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu, which showed only 20 municipalities received clean audits out of 257, made this an impossibility.
“Postponing [the] local government elections is tantamount to us being complicit to corruption. Voters have a right to express themselves and rate the performance of their councillors on the ballot,” he added.