ANC leadership battle to play out at Cosatu

Two of the favourites to become ANC president – Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (Gallo)

Two of the favourites to become ANC president – Cyril Ramaphosa and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. (Gallo)

The ANC leadership battle will play itself out during Cosatu’s national congress next week – with some affiliates planning to push for the endorsement of deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa as the next ANC president – while others would oppose the move, arguing the federation should stay away from the ANC succession debate.

In 2006, Cosatu leaders were united in their support for then deputy president Jacob Zuma to succeed Thabo Mbeki as ANC president.  But nine years down the line, some unionists have complained that Zuma’s presidency has done little to advance the interests of the working class. They have cautioned against committing the same mistake by endorsing any leader of the ANC.

Zuma’s ex-wife and African Union Commission chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is expected to challenge Ramaphosa for the top ANC job.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union [Sadtu] would lead a group that supports Ramaphosa’s endorsement, while the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union [Satawu] would lead those who are opposed to the move.

Sadtu general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said Sadtu would persuade other Cosatu affiliates during the Congress to endorse Ramaphosa’s name as a matter of principle.

“We do not want to engage in a succession debate. All what we are saying is that Cosatu must reaffirm its resolution taken in 2006 that the deputy president of the ANC should succeed the president when his term comes to an end.
This has been a principle within the ANC since the Stellenbosch conference in 2002. The ANC is a leader of the alliance, so we expect that it must be stable. We will not fold our arms and look when the ANC is being destabilised. If we want to build a strong ANC, we can’t afford contestations all the time. We are debating a matter of principle born out of concerns for the stability of our movement and the country. We are not debating succession but principles,” said Maluleke.

He said Ramaphosa was made deputy president not because someone did him a favour, but because he was capable as a leader.

“A deputy president is identified on the basis of skills and with the knowledge that if anything happens to the president, he will take us forward. I respect the [ANC] decision that we should not debate succession, but we cannot be afraid to debate principle. The reason we give the deputy president responsibilities is that we know he is capable to lead us,” said Maluleke. 

But Satawu deputy general secretary Nicholas Mazia warned that by supporting Ramaphosa, Cosatu would be supporting a faction in the ANC, which did nothing to heal divisions within the party. He claimed Cosatu leaders who supported Ramaphosa were also members of the South African Communist Party’s central committee. The SACP has declared a war against the so-called Premier League- which consist of three premiers from North West, Free State and Mpumalanga. The Premier League has been associated with a faction within the ANC, which supports Dlamini-Zuma as the preferred candidate to succeed Zuma. It enjoys the support of the newly elected KwaZulu-Natal chairman Sihle Zikalala, the ANC women and youth leagues. The SACP is understood to be in support of Ramaphosa as Zuma’s successor.

Mazia said:  “We [Cosatu] must only discuss the functioning of the alliance. The ANC has not started the succession debate. We [Cosatu] have lot of issues to focus on, including the unity of the federation.

What happens if a faction we condemn today wins tomorrow? Those who say they don’t want the Premier League are supporting a faction in the ANC. We can only condemn a faction, not support a faction. Otherwise, we would be furthering the divisions in the ANC,” said Mazia adding that both factions within the ANC posed a danger to the governing party.

National Union of Mineworkers [NUM] president Piet Matosa said his union would deal with the issue of Ramaphosa when Sadtu raised it in the conference.

“If we are convinced with the view of Sadtu, we will discuss it at the conference. Our [NUM] priority is not far from that of Sadtu. Sadtu is not wrong by raising the debate. We will deal with it there [at the congress],” said Matosa. He said NUM would make its position public when the right time comes. Ramaphosa is a former general secretary of NUM.

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo

Matuma Letsoalo is the political editor of the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003 and has won numerous awards since then, including the regional award for Vodacom Journalist of the Year in the economics and finance category in 2015, SA Journalist of the Year in 2011, the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the Year award in 2008 and CNN African Journalist of the Year – MKO Abiola Print Journalism in 2004. Read more from Matuma Letsoalo

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