Zuma banned from addressing Cosatu gatherings

Labour federation Cosatu will not allow ANC president Jacob Zuma address any of its gatherings because it does not trust or support his leadership, and want him to step down.

“President Jacob Zuma will no longer be welcome to address Cosatu activities. This shall be communicated to the ANC, including engaging on its implications for our alliance,” Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said on Tuesday.

Cosatu has publicly called for Zuma to resign as head of state, saying he is not the right leader to lead and unite the ANC or the country. The federation has also publicly endorsed Zuma’s deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, to take over as head of the party and as president of the country.

The decision to bar Zuma was taken by a special meeting of Cosatu’s affiliates in Johannesburg on Monday. This is where the federation described the booing of Zuma at a May Day rally in Bloemfontein as a reflection of the “level of frustration felt by workers about the absence of leadership in the country”, according to the meeting’s statement.

Cosatu has also condemned leaders of the ANC who said the federation had attempted to “rent a crowd” in Bloemfontein to “disrupt and hijack our national event”. 

The meeting promised to raise these concerns at the alliance political council meeting, scheduled to happen before the ANC’s policy conference in July.

Cosatu’s second deputy president, Zingiswa Losi, said the federation was not to blame for Zuma’s hostile reception at the May Day rally; it had advised the ANC that affiliates did not want the president there.

“We don’t invite certain people and say we want so and so. We only sent the communication to the ANC, to say ‘we have a May Day activity, can you deploy leaders?’. The issue of discomfort around the president attending – the ANC said it is them that shall decide who attends the May Day rally,” Losi said.

She confirmed that Zuma will not be attending or speaking at Cosatu’s central committee (CEC) next week, saying the ANC had sent a list of delegates and Zuma was not included on it.

“In terms of who shall speak, it’s a different case. The CEC said when we release that invite, we are not going to invite the president of the ANC to address,” Losi added.

Despite the move to ban Zuma from speaking at its national events, Ntshalintshali said this does not signal the end of Cosatu’s participation in the tripartite alliance.

“We will continue to fight to have an alliance … We also remain a reliable ally of the ANC,” Ntshalintshali said.

The ANC, however, said it had not been informed of the federation’s decision not to allow Zuma to address its gatherings and would respond in due course.

The federation also appeared to blame Zuma’s lack of leadership on the decision by General Motors (GM) to disinvest from South Africa.

GM has already served retrenchment notices, in terms of section 189(A) of the Labour Relations Act, to metalworkers union Numsa. It is estimated that 600 jobs will be lost and 1 500 workers will be affected.

Ntshalintshali said: “One of the unmentioned reasons for the disinvestment of GMSA [GM South Africa] is the question of lack of leadership, which has been raised by rating agencies.”

“[Rating agencies] have raised the issue that foreign investors will not invest until there is a new leader whom they can trust. While the issue of leadership is currently a challenge, it is regrettable that GMSA may be using politics to deal with business challenges,” Ntshalintshali added.

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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