Why Cosatu believes Ramaphosa will save the ANC

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has called for ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed Jacob Zuma as the party’s president – instructing its members to nominate the former worker leader and businessperson ahead of next year’s elective conference.

“We are asking our members [who are also members of the ANC] to consider in their nomination deputy president Ramaphosa to succeed the president,” said Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali.

Cosatu’s endorsement of Ramaphosa follows its hesitation to announce its preferred candidate because of differing opinions among its affiliates. But this week’s central committee meeting resolved that Ramaphosa has the “necessary capability to lead the ANC out of its current political gridlock”.

“We shall work to lobby and influence the ANC structures to support cadre Cyril Ramaphosa as the next leader of the movement,” the country’s largest workers’ federation said in a statement.

Cosatu said Ramaphosa has proved he is committed to the ANC and the tripartite alliance, fighting against corruption and placing the interests of workers first. It also resolved to reflect on which leadership collective would be best placed to work with him.

The federation’s first deputy president, Tyotyo James, told the Mail & Guardian Rampahosa was the best person to unite the ANC and would save the movement. “He is a unifier, a person of high integrity. He united the mineworkers, they were tribes before he formed the [National Union of Mineworkers] but he united them into an understanding that, before being tribal groups, they are workers,” James said.

“We need a leader that is going to unite the ANC and he has all the capabilities to [do that]. He’s a strong figure,” James added.

Asked about what the impact Ramaphosa’s presidency could have on the economy, James said the prospects were “very good … Ramaphosa is going to stabilise the ANC. When we as Cosatu had turbulence, he was key in uniting us, leading the ANC and he came here, had lengthy meetings with us, uniting us. He will bring the ANC together,” James concluded.

But Ntshalintshali said if Ramaphosa loses the ANC succession race, they would accept whichever candidate wins. “If the ANC elects somebody else, it’s going to be through the democratic process. Our support of ANC is not conditional on Cyril Ramaphosa [succeeding Zuma],” he said.

Cosatu second deputy president Zingiswa Losi, said regardless of who became president of the party, she does not expect the onslaught against it to cease. “Even if it’s Cyril or it’s somebody else that he leads or she leads with, those who do not want ANC to govern this country will find things against the leader of the ANC,” she said.

Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini made no remarks on Ramaphosa’s endorsement. Meanwhile, the federation said it intends calling another meeting with the ANC’s national working committee to discuss calls for Zuma to step down. The calls were made by the National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union and the Communication Workers’ Union in the wake of the damning State of Capture report about Zuma’s allegedly corrupt relationship with the Gupta family.

Cosatu confirmed that a robust debate on Zuma’s fate took place at the CEC meeting. The federation said it supports the call for a judicial commission of enquiry to be convened to investigate the report’s outcomes, and supports the public protector’s request for the chief justice to appoint a judge to chair the said commission.

But the statement cautioned against “the public lynching of those who have not been found guilty in the courts of law … but also instead that those found guilty should be held accountable for their actions and face the music”.

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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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