Cosatu warns Cope over new union

The Congress of South African Trade Unions warned on Thursday of the potential for violence and disruption amid attempts by the Congress of the People breakaway party to form a new union federation.

“They [central executive committee] agreed that they will never succeed in breaking up our unity and creating an alternative federation, that we should be concerned [about] the potential for violence and disruption in the long term,” its president Sdumo Dlamini said in a media briefing in Johannesburg.

His deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said many people were grumpy “one way or another and are trying to settle scores”.

Their comments come amid debate over the right of workers to choose their own political affiliation.

Cosatu is traditionally affiliated to the African National Congress as a partner in an alliance with the South African Communist Party (SACP), as opposed to Solidarity, which is not politically aligned.

Dlamini said the union felt betrayed and embarrassed by its former president Willie Madisha, who began working with Cope after a succession of sackings stripped him of top posts in Cosatu, the SACP and the SA Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu).

He fell out of favour when he expressed support for former president Thabo Mbeki over Jacob Zuma for the presidency of the ANC, which was out of step with a Cosatu resolution.

“Madisha wants to form a labour federation forgetting you need many unions,” Dlamini said.

“He does not have one, because definitely he is not going to take Sadtu into that thing,” he added.

He said workers had lost money and jobs defending people like Madisha, former SACP treasurer Phillip Dexter and civic organisation leader Moses Mayekiso when they were doing good things for workers, but they would not support them now.

“Those comrades have actually embarrassed us. Workers trusted those comrades.”

Workers would have died for former Gauteng premier Mbhazima Shilowa, also a former Cosatu president, who resigned as premier and an ANC member after Mbeki was recalled by the ANC.

“I would die for that man,” said Ntshalintshali.
But, he felt that Shilowa had changed his lifestyle after being appointed premier of Gauteng.

The union body believed Cope was trying to undermine the “national democratic revolution” and is producing a booklet which will “unpack the class agenda and the class forces” behind what it regards are efforts to weaken the ANC.

It also accused the media of being biased towards Cope, saying it had dedicated a day’s coverage to their convention in October and then rushed off to cover every announcement of new members. - Sapa

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