/ 2 December 2013

Cosatu E Cape rebukes Dlamini for special congress delay

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini.

The Cosatu provincial executive committee (PEC) in the Eastern Cape has lambasted its president Sdumo Dlamini for delaying to convene the special congress as requested by nine of the 19 affiliates almost two months ago.

The provincial executive committee also took a swipe at Higher Education Minister and South African Communist Party (SACP) boss Blade Nzimande for singling out leaders of Cosatu's largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), by claiming that they were benefiting financially from the union's investment arm. Cosatu Eastern Cape is the first provincial executive committee to publicly attack Dlamini.

In a statement signed by five affiliate leaders on Monday, it said: "We are greatly dismayed by the Cosatu president's insistence in not holding a special congress until after the next CEC [central executive committee] of Cosatu. We view this as a time-wasting tactic in an attempt to add further obstacles in the way of the membership being able to decide who they want to lead Cosatu.

"The CEC is unable to resolve this crisis, and it is time for the workers' parliament, as the sovereign body, to decide. The constitution states that 14 days' notice is required for a special congress, and it must therefore be called. There is no confusion among the affiliates calling for a special congress about its purpose. To delay is to leave Cosatu in a state of paralysis and to risk deeper divisions than what exist already. This can only benefit those who want a Cosatu that is nothing more than a labour desk."

The provincial executives warned alliance partners, the ANC and the SACP, not to interfere in Cosatu's internal matters. It follows ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe's appeal for Cosatu leaders to find a political solution regarding the internal disciplinary process against the union federation's suspended general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, and Nzimande's attack on Numsa leaders.

"If our alliance partners want the 2014 elections to be a success, they must allow Cosatu to manage its own affairs and not interfere without being invited … Cosatu as an independent organisation is more than capable of making its own decisions without the involvement of those who have shown that they have their own vested interests. In fact, a divided Cosatu has more far-reaching consequences to its allies than itself … at this time for the ANC, though some seem to be happy about the situation," said the PEC.

The Cosatu provincial leaders said they believe Vavi was being victimised for being outspoken on the federation's policies on poverty, corruption, inequality, and the accumulation of wealth by some leaders.

"Comrade Vavi is the most popular leader in our movement, because he speaks for those who are still oppressed, and who are mostly ignored, except at election time. In our view, the charges against him have been dealt with and it is now time to move to a special congress.

"This PEC calls on all Cosatu PECs to follow the path we are taking and show the current leadership of our federation that we are not prepared to be sidelined or ignored … We are calling our national structures to refuse to be misdirected and focus on implementing the congress resolutions, in particular the socioeconomic resolutions which seem to be a bone of contention in the federation."

The provincial Cosatu leaders said they were disappointed by the SACP for seemingly picking sides.

On Sunday, speaking after the SACP central committee meeting, Nzimande described Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim and his deputy Karl Cloete as "business unionists", saying they must submit themselves to independent lifestyle audits. Numsa has been at the forefront of pushing for the Cosatu special congress. But the Cosatu provincial executive defended the two leaders on Tuesday.

"It has once again been the view of the party [SACP] that generally investment companies are a source of conflict in those unions having them. The question now is why the general secretary of the party [SACP] is singling [out] Numsa, if it is not the further perpetuation of speaking against those they do not support. The SACP, in our view, cannot be neutral in the class struggle as they purport to want Cosatu to resolve its business." 

Dlamini would not comment on the PEC statement. However, last week the Cosatu president warned that action would be taken against Cosatu leaders who continued to attack national leaders in public. Numsa said it would respond to Nzimande's accusations on Wednesday.