Nehawu: Change Cosatu’s constitution before it dies

The National Education and Health Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) has called for an urgent amendment to the Cosatu constitution, to allow the federation to intervene among its affiliates.

The call was made by Nehawu President Mzwandile Makwayiba during his opening address to the Nehawu congress that started on Monday in Boksburg.

“The former general secretary of Nehawu argued passionately that [the] constitution of Cosatu must be changed to give it tooth [sic] to intervene among affiliates. The federation of Elijah Baraji is in trouble. And it’s not being put in trouble by intruders, it’s in trouble by its own leaders,” Makwayiba said.

He argued that Cosatu’s national leaders were not to blame for the decay of its affilaites, but rather the leaders of the different unions. At the Cosatu central committee last month, the federation identified the inability to intervene among affiliates that are in a “state of disarray” as its biggest problem.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, The Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union and the South African State and Allied Workers’ Union are in dire straits, with the unions failing to hold constitutional meetings, pay affiliation fees and elect new leaders.

“The problem is with the leaders of affiliates … Unless federation has tooth to intervene and bite and change things, [and] if this doesn’t happen soon, this federation will diminish,” the Nehawu president said.

He also lashed out at the ANC, telling the delegation led by ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa that if the party’s leadership cannot restore unity, it should return the movement to workers who will foster it.

“The problem is that you can’t differentiate between friends and the organisation. You are going to lose friends when articulating the position of the oragnisaion, it doesn’t matter. You must chose the organisation,” he said.

Addressing Ramaphosa directly, Makwayiba said that he should chose between the bosses and the workers.

“Comrade Cyril, the ANC must choose between the bosses and us. It must make a choice. If you try to satisfy two different opposing class interests, there is a class you are going to undermine and neglect. As workers, we feel that we’ve been neglected by the ANC.”


In a report card for the union’s performance, the president said it would score 5% for implementing its resolutions on servicing members, 48% for promoting class consciousness among its members and 150% for taking part in international working class solidarity campaigns.

The conference is also due to elect fresh leaders — a process that’s already been marred by tensions between Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces.

Nehawu’s first deputy president Mike Shingange was asked to recuse himself from chairing a nominations session and accused of being conflicted because he is contesting the election.

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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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