Zuma-ites grab union

Supporters of ANC president Jacob Zuma have seized control of Cosatu’s chemical affiliate, Ceppwawu, winning all top six positions at the union’s national congress in Cape Town last week.

Ceppwawu’s previous top six, led by former general secretary Welile Nolingo, was dominated by supporters of President Thabo Mbeki.

Nolingo lost his powerful position to Zuma hardliner Simon Mofokeng, who enjoys the support of Cosatu boss Zwelinzima Vavi.

Other leaders elected to the top positions were Thabane Mdlalose as deputy general secretary, Jacob Mabena as president, Peter Rapoo and Sizakele Nqala as first and second deputy presidents respectively, and Marry Nxumalo as treasurer.

The clean sweep by the Zuma supporters is seen as an important milestone by his camp in their campaign to clear the federation of unreliable elements ahead of next year’s general elections.

Nolingo and former Ceppwawu president Pasco Dyani fell out of favour in Cosatu after they lobbied for the retention of Mbeki as ANC president before the Polokwane conference last year. The federation had formally opted for a Zuma presidency.

Nolingo this week said he was not disappointed by the union elections.

“It has always been our view that we [should] support all leaders of the ANC. I am not sure if people misunderstood that to be for or against a particular ANC leader.”

Another Mbeki-aligned Cosatu leader, National Union of Metalworkers general secretary Silumko Nondwangu, is facing disciplinary action for agreeing to be on Mbeki’s ANC national executive committee list in defiance of the Cosatu position.

The first move against Nondwangu will be at the union’s national congress in October, where he will fight Eastern Cape secretary and vocal Zuma supporter Irvin Jim for the position of general secretary.

Even if he wins, he could still be forced out in a disciplinary process. No date has yet been announced for the hearing. “Cosatu’s leaders are determined to get him out so that they can access Numsa’s resources,” a Numsa leader sympathetic to Nondwangu alleged.

Key challenges facing Mofokeng as Ceppwawu’s new general secretary will be healing the divisions and reversing the union’s decline in membership. The Cosatu website shows that its membership has declined from 73 720 in 2000 to 62 000 this year.

Addressing delegates at the Ceppwawu congress last week, Vavi warned that the union faced the danger of coming apart. “The signs [for this] include the fact that the union is losing membership constantly and is being outflanked by Solidarity, United People’s Union of South Africa and other unions, especially at Sasol,” said Vavi.

“In addition, there is no evidence that the union has ideas about how to turn around the industry and support job creation.

“While job losses provide an explanation for the decline in membership, we must interrogate the other organisational reasons why Ceppwawu is losing its foothold in some of its stronghold regions and companies,” said Vavi.

The union’s congress dealt exclusively with the ANC’s election campaign and how it would support Zuma.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004.
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