The majority of delegates at the Cosatu National Conference have opted to support the status quo as its national office bearers, minus Zwelinzima Vavi, cling on to leadership for another three years.
In his address to the conference on Monday, Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini reminded delegates how five national leaders of Cosatu have been united since their election in 2009 and their re-election in 2012.
The odd one out was Vavi who opted not to appeal his expulsion from Cosatu at this conference. The divisions in Cosatu seemed to be blamed on him as clarion calls for unity were made on day one of the four-day conference.
But Vavi is old news now. On Monday evening, five of six national official positions were uncontested despite some pushback from food workers union Fawu.
The first deputy president is Tyotyo James while the controversial Zingiswa Losi remained in her position as second deputy president.
Losi has survived many fights by unions loyal to Vavi who claimed she unconstitutionally remained in her position because she resigned as a Numsa shop steward – a position which led her to become deputy president.
While Fawu pushed hard to reopen this debate which they had lost at Cosatu’s special national congress in July, they were overruled by the numbers of delegates which support the “Dlamini faction” of Cosatu.
Bheki Ntshalintshali is now the general secretary of Cosatu after acting in that position since Vavi’s expulsion while Freda Oosthuizen is uncontested as treasurer of the organisation.
The only contestation was for the position of deputy general secretary – a position left vacant by Ntshalintshali and is contested by North West Cosatu provincial secretary Solly Phetoe and Oscar Phaka – the provincial secretary of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa in North West.
Fawu resisted against the majority early in the conference at the adoption of credentials stage. But a vote by show of hands had them defeated.
President Jacob Zuma’s address to conference was delayed and he was kept in a holding room for two hours as the fight about credentials ensued. He then left and returned in the evening to address the conference.
Zuma said it was time Cosatu rises above its challenges.
“Do not let those who do not like us to divide us and to divert us,” he said.
Zuma warned against trade unionists trying to be politicians. He said it was more important for trade unions to deal with worker issues than political issues.
“Know where you do politics and where you do union work,” he said.
Zuma said Cosatu did not have the luxury of being disunited.
“By so doing you defeated yourself before you are defeated by your opponents,” he said.
In his address to the conference, Dlamini said protecting Cosatu was not an easy process.
“We will count in future generations (because) we stood altogether and said no… refusing for Cosatu to be destroyed,” he said.
“Here is your organisation, do what you want to with her,” he said.
It is unclear whether Fawu would continue their participation in the rest of the conference or boycott the conference as two other unions did.
Football players union Safpu and the South African State and Allied Workers Union boycotted the conference. They have been seen to be loyal to Vavi and expelled metalworkers union Numsa.
Judging from Cosatu’s speech at this conference in comparison to his address at the special national conference, Vavi and Numsa’s plans to created a workers party is no longer a threat to the leadership of Cosatu. There is almost a sense of invincibility projected from Cosatu leaders – much like was perceived after the 2012 conference.
But it is worth remembering that things fell apart less than six months after “a united Cosatu reelected its leaders” in 2012.