South African labor leader: Mandela’s house was bugged during tumultuous period for ANC

By Donna Bryson, AP
Thursday, August 26, 2010

South African labor leader: Mandela home bugged

JOHANNESBURG — Former South African President Nelson Mandela’s home was bugged during a tumultuous period for his African National Congress party, a prominent labor leader said Thursday.

Zwelinzima Vavi, general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, said Mandela told him that listening devices were placed in his Johannesburg home, where ANC leaders would come seeking his advice.

“Yes, a bug was found in his place,” Vavi said. “We know that as a matter of fact, because we had … discussions with him (Mandela).”

Mandela’s house was bugged in 2007 during the buildup to an ANC conference at which President Jacob Zuma ousted his predecessor as ANC head, Vavi said. Factions within the ANC were believed to have spied on each other during those tense times.

Mandela’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The anti-apartheid icon’s grandson, Mandla Mandela, who is a member of parliament, said he could not comment because he had no knowledge of the matter.

ANC spokesman Brian Sokutu also said he had no knowledge of the matter, but that the ANC would look with concern on such an invasion of anyone’s home, “particularly the house of a leader.”

Vavi called 2007 “a period of fear” within the ANC, and said he was bringing up the bugging now because of concerns shady tactics and vicious rivalries had not been abandoned. Vavi’s COSATU is a key supporter of the ANC, but also has been a frequent critic.

Thursday, Vavi presented the results of high-level COSATU deliberations that concluded, “We are headed in the direction of a full-blown predator state, in which a powerful, corrupt and demagogic elite of political hyenas increasingly controls the state …”

COSATU has targeted corruption. Vavi said that ANC politicians in upcoming local elections could not expect COSATU’s support if they were corrupt or unproductive. COSATU also has split with the ANC on economic matters, supporting a nationwide public service strike that entered its second week Thursday.

Civil servants are demanding an 8.6 percent pay hike and a 1,000 rand ($137) housing allowance. The government is offering a 7 percent wage increase plus 700 rand ($96) for housing, and says it cannot afford any more.

“We are working very hard behind the scenes to make sure that the government revises its offer,” Vavi said. “The strike must end in a positive way for the public sector workers.”

He called for talks with the ANC to address COSATU’s concerns. But he said despite the grim tone of his comments Thursday, COSATU still broadly supported the ANC.

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