Cosatu: Vavi and Dlamini go unopposed

Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

Cosatu secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

This means both secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi and president S'dumo Dlamini will retain their positions unopposed, despite much speculation as to their would-be rivals, and last minute haggling over nominations. 

Only the position of first deputy president received a second nomination, from Nomvula Hadi. But she was disqualified by the Independent Electoral Commission for failing to get the endorsement of her union's president and general secretary.

This means that, while the union federation has managed to present a united front, the proxy leadership battle ahead of Mangaung and the ANC's elective conference continues.

Delegates are likely to use upcoming policy issues as a means of pushing for a second term for ANC president Jacob Zuma or arguing for change.

Zuma took the stage next, congratulating the incumbents for retaining their positions. "I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate this newly elected leadership, fresh from the box," he joked.

Vavi's popularity with delegates was evident when a highlights video package of the previous conference in 2009 was shown during the official opening of the congress at Gallagher Estate in Midrand on Monday morning. Delegates burst into pro-Vavi song every time he appeared on the screen. 

In contrast, Dlamini, a close ally of Zuma, only managed a lukewarm response.

A Cosatu delegate, who is in the anti-Vavi camp admitted that Vavi was popular and confirmed that most delegates rejected proposals by some leaders to have him removed.
"Workers just find it very difficult to have Cosatu without him [Vavi]. But I don't think this is the right thing. He has been there for long. They see him as [the] moral voice and conscience of the poor. For now it looks right. But the danger with this is the cult of personality and he might want to even anoint his successor when he leaves," said the Cosatu delegate.

Cosatu has adopted strict house rules for the national congress, including that cellphones be switched off during congress proceedings after receiving information that there were elements who wanted to disrupt the congress.

Other house rules included the prohibition of any signs that seeks to prematurely open the debate on leadership of the ANC. The federation also stopped delegates from any songs against any alliance leader and the display of any posters, wearing of T-shirts, or circulation of material in support of any candidate in the Cosatu election.

Lukewarm reception 
A National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) leader stood up to complain that delegates should refrain from taking sides when cheering their favourite or preferred leaders.

"Dealing with leadership on a personal basis is wrong and divisive. Certain leaders, when they rise, there is noise and when others stand there no noise," said the NUM leader, in an apparent reference to Vavi supporters.

Earlier, Zuma received a lukewarm reception from delegates, in sharp contrast to the last conference where he was feted as a hero. Cosatu unequivocally supported Zuma for the position of president of the ruling party in the run up to Polokwane, but the federation is now divided, between those who support his re-election and those want change.

Some leaders in Cosatu have criticised Zuma for failing to implement Polokwane resolutions, which were aimed at creating decent employment, reducing inequality and eradicating poverty.

South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande and the party's chairperson Senzeni Zokwana also received a mild response from congress delegates.

Relations between Cosatu and SACP are at their lowest point after Cosatu leaders made a call for Nzimande to resign his Cabinet position as minister of higher education and return to the party's head office on a full-time basis.

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay

Verashni Pillay is the former editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian, and inaugural editor-in chief of Huffington Post South Africa. She has worked at various periods as senior reporter covering politics and general news, specialises in mediamanagement and relishes the task of putting together the right team to create compelling and principled journalism across multiple platforms. 
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    Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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