On the very day that South African police opened fire and killed dozens of striking mine workers, the country’s national trade union centre, COSATU, issued two statements (here and here) condemning … Israel.
Irish trade unionist Tom Carew wrote to COSATU saying:
“I was a committed member of the Anti-Apartheid Movement and all my life I was a very active trade unionist, and I cannot recall anything like that Marikana Massacre since the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. I also cannot recall either 36 Arab (or Jewish) workers ever being slaughtered like that by any Israeli police … But the whole world knows that the Assad Syrian regime has slaughtered over 20,000 of their own citizens. Can you kindly send me any COSATU statement denouncing the ongoing Assad massacres? Has COSATU demanded the immediate suspension from duty, arrest and prosecution of the police commanders and killers involved in the Marikana Massacre?”
Incredibly, COSATU’s International Relations Secretary, Bongani Masuku, who has been convicted of hate speech by the South African Human Rights Commission, responded with vitriol to Carew’s email.
Here is Masuku’s response in full:
“Stop colonialism and apartheid and stealing of Palestinian land and stop diverting attention from that. In one month, you massacred 1 400 Gazans to colonise and enforce your apartheid. You are lying that you were in the anti-apartheid movement, with you garbage ideas, you obviously supported apartheid, you liar.”
Leaving aside the tone (“you liar”) and the question of whether Carew really was an anti-apartheid activist, what’s incredible about Masuku’s argument is that he believes that discussion of the massacre of the miners by South African police “diverts attention” from a discussion of what really matters — Israel’s stealing of Palestinian land.
As for Carew’s own credentials, he was active in the anti-apartheid struggle first as a student leader, as International Vice President of the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). He was later national president of the Public Service Executive Union, representing managers in the civil service and public sector, and for 24 years served on the National Executive. He was also a full-time union official, as Secretary-Treasurer of the Post Office Trade Union Group, which grouped all unions in that state-owned business.
Why COSATU continues to allow Bongani Masuku to speak in its name is difficult to comprehend — and totally unacceptable.