Nehawu: Don’t let Zuma address Cosatu’s May Day Rally

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has received a letter from one of its biggest affiliates asking that Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa address its main rally in Bloemfontein instead of ANC President Jacob Zuma.

The Mail & Guardian is in possession of a letter from National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) general secretary Bereng Soke to his counterpart, Cosatu’s Bheki Ntshalintshali, in which the union asks him to instruct the ANC to reshuffle its deployee to the federation’s May Day Rally on Monday.

“We request the national office bearers to look into this matter and inform the ANC that comrade Zuma must be replaced by another eligible leader of the ANC, particularly the deputy president as the main speaker in the main rally,” Soke writes in the letter.

Zuma was due to address Cosatu’s rally at the Loch Logan Park in Bloemfontein on Monday, alongside the federation’s president, S’dumo Dlamini ,and South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande.

Nehawu’s request follow’s Cosatu’s endorsement of Ramaphosa’s bid to take over the ANC presidency from Zuma at the party’s elective conference in December.

At its central executive committee last month, Cosatu unions decided to publicly call for Zuma to step down as head of state, because the president “is no longer the right person to unite and lead the movement, the alliance and the country”.

Inviting Zuma to speak at the May Day rally, Nehawu said, would “create conflicting messages to our members, workers and the public in general”.

“This possible confusion will intensify the existing instability within the movement and present a potential to further weaken Cosatu,” Soke’s letter states.

Last week the M&G revealed that Nehawu plans to confront the Cosatu president at the federation’s upcoming central committee about his decision to attend Zuma’s 75th birthday party in Soweto.

Dlamini has publicly reiterated his support for Zuma after Cosatu’s call for the president to step down, placing him at odds with the federation’s top leaders and biggest unions.

The Communication Workers’ Union supported Nehawu’s request with its own letter asking that Zuma not be allowed to address the rally.

“Our understanding of the resolution of the CEC regarding President Zuma is the same as Nehawu’s that ‘…Cosatu no longer believes that the president of the African National Congress and the republic, comrade Jacob Zuma, is the right person to unite and lead the movement, the alliance and the country’.”

“‘We therefore agree that President Zuma should not address the National May Day rally on May 1 2017 and that he must be replaced,” CWU deputy general secretary Thabo Mogalane said in a letter.

But Ntshalintshali said Zuma would deliver the address as expected since Cosatu’s call for him to step down does not prevent him from speaking at alliance rallies.

“… We took a decision that the alliance partners should deploy their leaders to Cosatu May Day celebrations. The understanding was that at the main rally, president Sdumo Dlamini, president Zuma, general secretary Nzimande and president Mdakane would be speakers,” a letter by Ntshalintshali reads.

“Recently we have received reports that workers want clarity on why President Zuna is allowed to address the May Day when the CEC has declared no confidence in him. In addition, we have received a letter from one of our affiliateswhich is hereby attached seeking clarity.”

“The Cosatu NOBs’ understanding is that President Zuma as state president should step down. We do not have an understanding that as ANC president he is no more allowed to attend Cosatu activities. 

“Please advise us urgently on your understanding of the special CEC decision, its interpretation and implications”

Ntshalintshali has called on Cosatu affiliates to begin an urgent discussion on whether Zuma’s address should go ahead.

Cosatu national treasurer Freda Oosthuysen said: “It does not mean as Cosatu that we hate Zuma. No we don’t hate him. We say it in a comradely manner that he must step down.”

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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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