Parliamentary payoff for pro-Zuma Cosatu officials

Top Nehawu officials Fikile Slovo Majola (left) and Joe Mpisi are touted to represent the ANC in the National Assembly. (Skyler Reid, M&G)

Top Nehawu officials Fikile Slovo Majola (left) and Joe Mpisi are touted to represent the ANC in the National Assembly. (Skyler Reid, M&G)

A large number of leaders from Cosatu will fill some of the ANC’s seats in Parliament in what critics see as a reward for their loyal support of the ruling party, and in the process weaken the trade union federation.

The country’s largest health workers’ union is set to lose four of its top six leaders, who are expected to be sworn in as new MPs next week. National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) leaders heading to Parliament include the union’s general secretary, Fikile Slovo Majola, first deputy president Joe Mpisi, second deputy president Thozama Mantashe and treasurer Pulani Mogotsi.

Nehawu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla confirmed to the Mail & Guardian this week that the four top officials have accepted nomination to become ANC MPs.

Pamla said the union will convene a special national congress next month to fill the vacant positions left by the officials’ departure.

Majola, who is also a member of the ANC’s national executive committee, is expected to be replaced by his deputy and the South African Communist Party (SACP) provincial secretary in the Free State, Bareng Soke.

Nehawu is not the only Cosatu affiliate to lose senior leaders to Parliament. National Union of Mineworkers president Senzeni Zokwana and South African Democratic Teachers’ Union vice-president Fezeka Loliwe are also on the ANC’s list of MPs.

Almost the entire top SACP leadership was absorbed into the government, sparking criticism and a massive falling-out between party leader Blade Nzimande and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Other Cosatu leaders headed for provincial legislatures on the ANC ticket include Free State provincial secretary Sam Mashishi, KwaZulu-Natal provincial secretary Zet Luzipo, Limpopo provincial secretary Dan Sebabi, Gauteng chairperson Phutas Tseki and Eastern Cape provincial chair Mpumelelo Saziwa.

Labour analyst Sakhela Buhlungu said such a practice “is used as patronage”.

“Those [Cosatu leaders] who are left behind will continue to make noise in defence of the ANC, knowing that their time [too] will come,” he said.

“All those who are nominated have been vocal supporters of the Cosatu president and ANC president Jacob Zuma.
It makes it clear that people are being rewarded.”

No working class
Buhlungu said that, although Cosatu claims it is swelling the ranks of the ANC to influence policy direction, the reality is that most leaders forget about the interests of the working class as soon as they are in power.

“Once they cross the floor, they are the first to turn their back on unions. Look at Cyril Ramaphosa, who used to be the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers – he called for tough action against the workers at Marikana,” said Buhlungu.

A senior Cosatu leader, who preferred to remain anonymous, said the high turnover of leaders in Cosatu is crippling the federation.

“We are losing experienced people who know the history of Cosatu,” said the Cosatu source.

“Every election weakens the federation. The sad thing is that those who join Parliament on an ANC ticket end up defending the ANC instead of pushing the interests of the working class.”

“Once they cross the floor, they are the first to turn their back on trade unions. Look at Cyril Ramaphosa …”



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. Read more from ML

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