Mail and Guardian

Attempts to distance Cosatu from the ANC have failed and the gloves are off ahead of its national congress.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and the union’s president, Sdumo Dlamini. Both the men are being challenged for their positions. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)


The Congress of South African Trade Unions’s national congress next week is set to become a mini-Mangaung with one of its most vexing matters being whether or not to support Jacob Zuma’s campaign for re-election as ANC president.

Concurrently and directly related, warring factions in the trade union federation are planning to field candidates to contest the positions of both its president, Sdumo Dlamini, and general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Although Cosatu’s central committee resolved several months ago that the federation should not pronounce on the issue of succession at the ANC’s elective conference in Manguang in December, some affiliates, including metalworkers’ union Numsa, transport union Satawu, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), teachers’ union Sadtu and civil servants’ union Nehawu, are all expected to lobby for a resolution to support Zuma’s re-election.

The Mail & Guardian was told this week by union members that Numsa, which has been critical of the Zuma administration, took a resolution to support him – provided he is surrounded by left-leaning leaders in the ANC’s national executive committee.

Numsa president Cedric Gina is close to Zuma, although its general secretary, Irvin Jim, believes the ANC president has failed to implement the Polokwane resolutions aimed at reducing unemployment and widening inequality.

Close relationship
But unlike Vavi and Dlamini, Gina and Jim have maintained a close relationship despite their differences and have led a united organisation.

In a recent interview with the M&G, Vavi said that although Cosatu supported the leadership elected at Polokwane, it had decided not to impose names on the ANC.

“We are saying to our members that branches are going to start nominations in October and allow the ANC to discuss the leadership and assess it and nominate whoever they want to nominate,” Vavi said. “We can’t prejudge that process.

“The ANC national executive committee has said that from October that process will be officially opened. That’s how democracy works internally,” he said.

“I will not say that all of us are not under pressure to make pronouncements now to say we are anti or pro this and that. But we believe that Cosatu must not impose names and its preference to the ANC conference outside the ANC processes and that it can only do so if things are rolling back to pre-2007, or there is a danger of tenderpreneurs or the 1996 class project hijacking the ANC and driving it against the workers’ interests.”

Vavi’s supporters in the federation are lobbying Gina and teacher union Sadtu president Thobile Ntola to challenge Dlamini for president.

This follows plans by Vavi’s opponents to oust him from his position. Vavi has been general secretary since 1999. But Dlamini’s supporters want him to be replaced by Cosatu’s provincial secretary in KwaZulu-Natal, Zet Luzipho. Lobbying is likely to intensify this weekend, with opposing factions hoping to do last-minute horse-trading for their preferred candidates. Nominations for candidates close on Sunday.

Policy differences
Relations between Dlamini and Vavi have deteriorated in the past few months over policy differences and the ANC’s succession battle.

Those wanting Vavi removed include leaders from Nehawu, the NUM, police union Popcru, the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union and Satawu. Vavi is backed by, among others, Numsa, the Food and Allied Workers’ Union and parts of Sadtu and the South African Municipal Workers’ Union.

Vavi has come under pressure from some of his comrades in the alliance for publicly criticising the ANC and the government. A Cosatu leader said Vavi had been acting as if Cosatu was not part of the alliance. “We are a Marxist-Leninist party. We don’t want a moral conscience in Cosatu. We want a Marxist-Leninist leader. Opposition like the DA [Democratic Alliance] agrees with him and that is dangerous.

“He normally takes liberal positions. His reports are embarrassing to the ANC. Why embarrass the ANC if we are in an alliance? He is out of touch with Cosatu. He has become a politician who is no longer grounded. Read more…