Cosatu believes infighting and the fracturing of its affiliates is partially to blame for the ANC’s worst-ever election results. The federation has now called for an urgent meeting between tripartite alliance leaders to discuss concerns raised by voters during campaigning.
“We have taken our share of responsibility for the election results. The outcome was due to our own weaknesses in the federation. The leadership of the alliance as a whole should take responsibility,” Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini told the Mail & Guardian on Thursday.
The most serious concerns, Dlamini said, were about poor service delivery and scandals surrounding ANC president Jacob Zuma.
“Let the alliance deal with key issues such as Nkandla and the Constitutional Court ruling, which has been mishandled. Another important issue raised by voters is the internal fighting in the ANC.”
But he was not convinced that there are now legitimate grounds to call for Zuma’s resignation, or that of other party leaders including secretary general Gwede Mantashe.
“We are listening to all these calls for resignations (from the ANC Youth League). We hope every call has a reason and think that should be explained,” he said.
The federation remained vague about what it wants the ANC to do. While the governing party’s national executive committee last week agreed to hold its elective conference in 2017, Cosatu appeared sympathetic to the youth league’s call for it to be brought forward.
“Cosatu is not going to oppose the call, but we will continue to listen to the reason put forward,” said the federation’s general secretary, Bheki Ntshalintshali.
Cosatu remains the country’s largest trade union federation, with a membership of around 1.7 million workers. The number of workers organised under the umbrella body dropped significantly after the expulsion of metalworkers union Numsa in 2014. Its general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, was dismissed the following year and a host of other unions split over conflicting loyalties.
Dlamini said these factors are behind the federation’s inability to campaign effectively during the local polls. The election results, which saw the ANC support drop to its weakest ever tally of 53.9% of votes, have been described as a wake-up call by Mantashe.
The SACP blamed violent clashes between its members and the ANC over ward councillor deployments for the results, but Cosatu said the relationship between the alliance partners remains intact.
“There’s absolutely no tension between Cosatu and its alliance partners. The only cry we have is that we should be working on programmes that benefit workers, we are not. That’s our major concern,” Dlamini said.
The federation’s leader also responded to a perceived conspiracy against Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, apparently led by the Directorate for Priority Crimes Unit (the Hawks).
“We don’t know if he’s being targeted or not. We are saying we should not create a perception that we are not equal before the law. If he has things to answer, he must do that. But state agencies should not behave in a way which creates doubt as to whether they are being political,” he said.
Cosatu deputy president Zingiswa Losi said Gordhan, as well as other political leaders accused of wrongdoing, should be afforded an opportunity to respond in court.