Fire and pro-Zuma songs at Cosatu conference

About 100 delegates from the National Union of Mineworkers set alight a pile of documents outside the Cosatu conference venue on Thursday morning, and sang pro-Zuma songs. (See the video below)

Earlier three men with a red suitcase had been handing out pamphlets on the spot in support of the Marikana miners, and among the burnt papers was the red suitcase and a poster condemning the charging of the miners. There was also a number of historical archived media coverage of South African politics from decades back.

One of the men present told the Mail & Guardian the papers were seeking to divide the alliance, before launching into another pro-Zuma song. The crowd then surged into the conference venue.

Despite general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi's adamant position that the Congress of South African Trade Unions would not endorse any ANC candidate as leader ahead of Mangaung, the delegates had their own ideas and stormed into the last day of the trade federation's conference singing and dancing.

ANC president Jacob Zuma is fighting for a second term as ANC and South African president, while his critics want to have him replaced by his deputy Kgalema Motlanthe. The ANC and other parts of the alliance have tried to contain the lobbying for either individual before nominations officially open on October 1, but with little success.

Vavi himself has tried to rise above the divisive factional battles, despite Cosatu's president S'dumo Dlamini coming out in support of Zuma just before the conference.

"Just to emphasise! Cosatu congress has not endorsed any individual leader for Mangaung! We remain in support of the whole collective," Vavi tweeted on Thursday morning. "The framework we articulated before remain binding policy with the emphasis that Cosatu won't allow tenderpreneurs to hijack the ANC. So please don't try to get me to move out of the framework by endorsing on Twitter your favourite candidate – I won't."

But a few hours later the singing delegates rushed in from outside, singing: "Sihamba noMsholoza, Sihamba noPresident," which means: "We are going with Zuma." (See the video below)

Delegates from the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union, the South African Medical Association, the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the Food and Allied Workers Union and others joined in, disrupting proceedings.

But Vavi reacted calmly, telling delegates they were well within their rights to sing songs supporting any leader of the alliance according to the rules of the congress, "but you may not sing any songs against any leader and you may not do any signs". Delegates were using the popular hand signals denoting their preferred ANC leader: two fingers mean a second term for Zuma, and the football substitution sign for Motlanthe.

Vavi then started them off on singing the song again, before the members settled down for the rest of the congress, which is on its final day.

Delegates set fire to documents outside the venue


Delegates storm into the venue singing pro-Zuma songs:

Cosatu is holding its 11th conference, which saw its top six leaders re-elected unopposed. One of the challenges facing the historically respected trade federation is an increasing social distance between its leaders and ordinary workers.

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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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