Cosatu faction wants Losi in the hot seat

Cosatu could have its first female general secretary if plans by some of the union federation’s leaders to elevate second deputy president Zingiswa Losi to the powerful position succeed.

Cosatu will hold its national congress next month, where the general secretary position will be hotly contested. The position became vacant when Zwelinzima Vavi was expelled after he rebelled against the expulsion of Cosatu’s largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

Three senior Cosatu leaders told the Mail & Guardian this week that there was a strong lobby to elect Losi as general secretary. Another group in Cosatu, however, prefers deputy general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali, who has been acting in the position, to take over.

A general secretary from one of Cosatu’s affiliates, who asked not to be named because of fear of victimisation, said Losi’s lobby group enjoyed majority support in Cosatu’s leadership. He described Losi as “vocal” and “articulate”.

“We want someone who is vocal,” said the affiliate’s leader. “We need some vibrancy in Cosatu and she is the perfect person who can bring that. She is a very confident person who is good at articulating Cosatu policies. People agree Bheki [Ntshalintshali] is not a public person. He is very intelligent but prefers operating behind the scenes.”

The leader said his group was planning to approach Ntshalintshali to ask him not to stand against Losi but to remain in his current position for the sake of unity in Cosatu.

“We don’t need too much contestation, which will create divisions. We don’t want a situation where we end up with angry people who leave Cosatu to go and join Vavi and Numsa after the national congress,” the leader said. “As much as we support a democratic process, we are also mindful of how destructive it can be.”

A trained soldier, Losi cut her teeth in politics in the Congress of South African Students, according to Cosatu’s website. She also served in ANC Youth League structures in the Eastern Cape and worked for the South African National Defence Force for three years before joining car manufacturer Ford in Port Elizabeth in 2002 as an operator in the engine components and assembly division. She became a Numsa shop steward at the plant that year.

Losi, a close ally of Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini, resigned from Numsa following tensions between the two Cosatu factions led by Vavi and Dlamini respectively.

Speaking from Brazil on Thursday, Losi told the M&G she was unaware of plans to elect her.

“It would be premature to talk about positions now. I have never been approached by anyone,” she said. “I would rather let the nomination process unfold before I can talk about that. I don’t want to be ahead of myself. When the time is right, I will respond internally.”

The M&G’s attempts to get comments from Ntshalintshali were unsuccessful, but a leader sympathetic to him said he is the perfect person to lead Cosatu in the general secretary position.

“He might lack charisma, but in terms of running the organisation he is good. He understands the animal that is Cosatu. The organisation needs less loud healing. The last term was very difficult,” said the leader.

Cosatu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said workers would be allowed to choose anyone who qualified to be elected a Cosatu leader.

“This is an elective congress. Workers can choose whoever they want. It’s a democratic process,” he said, adding that the nomination process for leadership would happen on the congress’s first day.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world