​Cosatu unions’ open defiance leaves Dlamini isolated


Cosatu’s upcoming central executive committee (CEC) meeting will probably leave its president, S’dumo Dlamini, isolated.

Cracks are beginning to emerge in the faction in the tripartite alliance that remains loyal to President Jacob Zuma, which includes Dlamini, as Cosatu’s major unions find themselves at odds with him.

The unions openly defied his call to refrain from entering the ANC leadership debate and to mute their criticism of recent government scandals.

Over the past six months the Cosatu president has become the last line of defence for Zuma’s faction. Asked about Dlamini’s perceived reputation for guarding Zuma’s interests, the teachers’ union Sadtu said it believed it was because he would not pander to populist views.

“You have very strong leaders who are not populist … people want to see a personality and, when they don’t, they think he is weak,” the union’s general secretary, Mugwena Maluleke, said.

Dlamini has consistently prevented Cosatu’s biggest unions from endorsing Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as Zuma’s successor in the ANC. He has also refused to join the outcry over the public protector’s State of Capture report. He would also not be drawn on the scandal over Zuma’s Nkandla home when the matter was being argued in court, and called on South Africans to “move on” following the judgment.

This flies in the face of strong criticism of the ANC voiced by Cosatu’s unions.

Monday’s meeting will see him pitted against the leaders of these unions, which include the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union, the National Union of Mineworkers, the Communication Workers’ Union, the South African Football Players’ Union and the South African State and Allied Workers’ Union.

Several Cosatu union leaders are also members of the South African Communist Party, which in recent months has warned against the capture of the ANC’s branches by the Zuma faction.

These antithetical views will now be put forward at Cosatu’s CEC. But it does not appear that it will be enough to unseat Dlamini, who has retained his position despite the expulsion of Cosatu’s largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South African, and even with more unions threatening to leave.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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