President Jacob Zuma believes Cosatu still has a critical role to play in the ANC.
Dismissing claims by some members of the alliance that the trade union federation must be nonpolitical and concentrate strictly on factory issues.
Zuma, who was delivering an opening address at the 12th national congress of the South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union (Sactwu) in Durban, also took an indirect swipe at the suspended Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, and his supporters for behaving as if Cosatu was in opposition to the ANC.
Zuma skipped the inauguration of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Thursday, apparently in an attempt to appease the trade union movement.
Cosatu has been plagued by infighting, divisions and political mudslinging following Vavi’s suspension last week.
During his address, Zuma, who is close to a faction led by Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, played a balancing act and was careful not to take sides. Sactwu is known to be a vocal supporter of the embattled Vavi and is expected to take a resolution to reject his suspension.
Other Cosatu affiliates that have rejected Vavi’s suspension as unconstitutional include the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) and the Food and Allied Workers’ Union. Numsa and Vavi have vowed to challenge his suspension in court.
Cosatu’s Eastern Cape executive committee, at a meeting this weekend, will denounce the special central executive committee’s decision to suspend Vavi, according to internal sources.
This is likely to expose deep divisions among the federation’s affiliates. At the national level, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union and the National Union of Mineworkers are known to be sworn enemies of Vavi.
Numsa threatening to withdraw
The deepening divisions in Cosatu are of major concern to the ANC because of next year’s general elections.
Already, Numsa has threatened to withdraw its monthly R800 000 subscription fee to the federation and it previously warned it would find it difficult to campaign for the ANC if the ruling party did not abandon its National Development Plan.
This week, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe warned against making threats to leave the federation and not to support the ANC during elections. Those making the threats were gambling with the revolution, he said.
On Thursday, Zuma emphasised how Cosatu had played a critical role alongside the ANC in fighting apartheid and said it still had a role to play in a democratic dispensation.
“If you are not organised and united, you are exposed to employers,” Zuma said.