Cosatu report: A hodgepodge of perplexity


Irvin Jim, the general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, has called trade union federation Cosatu’s political and organisational report for its 2015 national congress a “cut-and-paste job”.

Other critics have highlighted the numerous spelling and grammatical errors that plague the document, but that’s the least of why it is off the wall. It is filled with bizarre statements and astonishing predictions that range from hilarious to perplexing.

For instance, Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali writes that the “most irritating [aspect] of this continued ill discipline has been the premature succession debates regarding the 2017 ANC 54th conference”. This while Cosatu affiliates including teachers’ union Sadtu, nursing union Denosa and public sector union Nehawu all insisted on the congress discussing who should lead the ANC after 2017.

These large unions wanted Cosatu to throw its weight behind Cyril Ramaphosa, arguing that the ANC deputy president should become the next party president.

“Again, this has had an effect of presenting the ANC as an organisation whose preoccupation is the next conference and the next election, and that it has no other programme except this preoccupation,” Ntshalintshali noted in the report, which was released at this week’s Cosatu national congress.

With much of the debate on the second evening being about the ANC, it seems Cosatu was just as preoccupied with ANC leadership debates as its fellow alliance partners.

Ntshalintshali’s report went deep into quixotic mode. “There is a lie circulating that the ANC lost the elections,” he said out of the blue. Which elections? And whoever said that?

But there’s more: “Media has gone out to pursue a particular agenda that tends to frustrate the public.”

Then came something that left me bewildered. Cosatu seemed to have some crystal ball to predict how the ANC will fare in next year’s local government elections: “This also includes the fact that in the Eastern Cape the organisation remains on the back foot, as seen in the recent local government election results in which we lost the Nelson Mandela Metro to the [Democratic Alliance], including having the DA winning the SRC election at the Walter Sisulu University,” the report noted.

When did the ANC lose the Nelson Mandela Bay metro? Also, what “recent local government elections results” did Cosatu have sight of?

When South African Communist Party secretary general Blade Nzimande reached the high-pitched crescendo of his speech by calling for the defeat of capitalism, the screen behind him displayed a banner of the “proud sponsors of Cosatu national congress”. These not-so-socialist stock exchange heavyweights included Old Mutual, Liberty, Alexander Forbes, Investec and African Rainbow Minerals. Their logos remained up on the screens as delegates sang about communism.

One was almost expecting a word from one of the sponsors, reminding the delegates: Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your pension benefits!

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