Cosatu pushes for overhaul of planning commission

The Congress of SA Trade Unions will push for a complete overhaul of the content and alignment of the national planning commission (NPC), its 10th national congress resolved in Midrand on Wednesday.

The issue of Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel’s Green Paper arose again at the union federation’s policy-making gathering and culminated in a robust and at times, heated debate.

The congress resolved to “vigorously engage the [tripartite] alliance on the Green Paper”.

It would call for the “complete overhaul” of its content and for its alignment with the perspective on the NPC developed at the ANC’s 52nd national conference in Polokwane last year and the alliance’s economic cummit in October 2008.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said the Green Paper represented “a massive turf battle in Cabinet”.

He said this had sidelined certain ministers and, referring to Manuel, had positioned others at the centre of processes.

Cosatu felt the Green Paper usurped the powers of former trade unionist, now Economic Development Minister, Ebrahim Patel.

The NPC was the result of engagement between the ANC, Cosatu, the South African Communist Party (SACP) and the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco), Cosatu said.

However, it complained that these bodies were not consulted on the Green Paper before it was released for public scrutiny.

The Green Paper, published by Manuel on September 6, proposed the creation of an NPC consisting of members of the South African public.

It also proposed that the minister for planning “be the link between government and the commission”.

Cosatu would participate in the consultative forums on the Green Paper, including the National Economic Development and Labour Council and public hearings in Parliament.

Amid criticism of Manuel, some delegates cautioned against personalising reservations about the NPC.

South African Democratic Teachers’ Union president Thobile Ntola urged against attacking an individual.

“We want to de-personalise the resolution,” he said.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe warned against focusing criticism on Manuel. “To resolve on an individual is always a dangerous act for an organisation,” he said.

Cosatu was firmly against public representatives with business interests.

“We continue to insist that public representatives must choose between being public representatives and live within their salaries, or must choose business. You can’t be both,” Vavi said.

“A public representative cannot be a business person at the same time,” he said.

In the ensuing debate, the Cosatu-affiliated South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) called for corruption to be “declared a crime against humanity”.

Citing as an example the North West, where many public servants have recently been suspended, Samwu said corruption perpetuated poverty, irrespective if whether it took place in the public or private sector.

It was therefore necessary to deal harshly with those found guilty of corruption.

The third day of the conference began with a presentation by Sanco deputy president Lemias Mashile.

“It is disturbing to find the phrase ‘tripartite alliance’ ...
its meaning is often the SACP and the ANC,” said Mashile.

“We as Sanco do not accept a junior partner status,” he said.

“We have been too tolerant of government not engaging or engaging very little.”

As the debates continued on Wednesday, groups of delegates were pulled out of the congress to vote for Cosatu’s office bearers.

The election was largely uncontested, with the top tier likely to remain the same with Sidumo Dlamini as president and Vavi as general secretary.

South African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union national treasurer Freda Oosthuysen was nominated unopposed for the position of treasurer.

The position of second deputy president would be filled by either Zingiswa Losi, of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) or Boitumelo Louise Thipe, of the South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers’ Union.

This position was left open after the death of Violet Seboni in a car accident in April. - Sapa

Natasha Marrian

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