Cosatu 'ignored' ANC advice on healing rift

The ANC is peeved that Cosatu disregarded its plea to promote unity among its unions. (David Harrison, M&G)

The ANC is peeved that Cosatu disregarded its plea to promote unity among its unions. (David Harrison, M&G)

The ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) task team appointed to help resolve divisions in labour federation Cosatu was unsuccessful because none of the factions listened to it, according to an internal report.

The party’s national working committee made this observation in a document presented at last weekend’s NEC meeting.

The ANC said the team led by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa “has become redundant to a great extent” because Cosatu has ignored its recommendations, according to the report tabled by secretary general Gwede Mantashe.

The ANC also said it was disappointed with Cosatu’s failure to take the party into its confidence before expelling former general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

Vavi was booted out after he boycotted two of the federation’s central executive committee meetings in protest against the expulsion of what used to be Cosatu’s largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

Numsa’s expulsion followed a decision at its December 2013 congress not to campaign for the ANC ahead of the 2014 general elections. Numsa and Vavi have been vocal in their criticism of the ANC leadership under President Jacob Zuma, accusing the party of championing neo-liberal policies.

Two factions
The report found that affiliates in Cosatu broke into two factions – one aligned with Vavi and the other with the federation’s president, Sdumo Dlamini.

It advised that any action against Vavi and Numsa should be fair and assist in building unity in Cosatu. But even Dlamini’s faction, perceived to be close to the Zuma-led ANC, ignored the ruling party’s recommendations.

“The [task team] report tabled at the Cosatu [central executive committee (CEC) meeting] was set aside and decisions were taken as if there was no intervention by the ANC.
This, of course, is [the] prerogative of the federation,” read the ANC report.

“There was agreement that an informal gathering of all Cosatu unions had to be convened. The [CEC meeting] that preceded such an informal meeting decided to expel the general secretary.”

Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian it is not true that Cosatu ignored the ANC task team’s recommendations.

“We [Cosatu] contested the position when we had a bilateral [meeting] with them [the ANC]. We clarified to them that that was not the case.” He said issues had been discussed in detail at the CEC meeting.

‘No effort’
Although the ANC admits that Vavi’s behaviour “precipitated the decision”, it was taken aback that, “unfortunately, there was no effort on the part of the federation to take the task team into its confidence prior to the action”.

But Dlamini said he does not see why Cosatu should have confided in the ANC before expelling Vavi.

“What this means is that we should have whispered to the ANC that we are planning to expel Vavi. We don’t operate like that. Otherwise, Numsa would be correct to say we are a labour desk of the ANC. We did not know the [committee] was going to expel Vavi and Numsa.”

The ANC says it will continue to liaise with different affiliates in Cosatu, including rebel unions that are boycotting the federation’s meetings until Numsa is reinstated.

An ANC NEC member told the M&G that intervening in this Cosatu standoff is proving “very difficult” because of “hardened, antagonistic and irreversible relations between Vavi and Cosatu, mainly on the part of the leadership that supports Sdumo Dlamini”.

“Sdumo and his faction said the ANC doesn’t see the danger that they were seeing: the danger that Vavi and his supporters are controlled by other forces inside and outside the country, which they claim have got an objective to weaken the ANC through Cosatu,” said the NEC member.

He said the ANC is keen to persist because it “needs to be seen to be trying its best not to take sides, so that even Vavi’s supporters don’t give up on the ANC. They must know that they fought with Dlamini and not the ANC. The ANC is in a difficult situation with this one because we can’t lose their votes.” – Additional reporting by Mmanaledi Mataboge

ML

ML

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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