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Cosatu unions divided over success of SNC

Jul 17 2015 05:52
Genevieve Quintal, News24

Johannesburg - While the intention of Cosatu's special national congress was to create unity and cohesion, the federation's affiliates are now divided on whether it was a success or a waste of time.

The call to hold a special national congress was made by a third of Cosatu's affiliates.

These were the unions which were said to be in support of the reinstatement of expelled general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa).

The group wanted the congress to elect new leaders and to discuss the issues pertaining to Vavi and Numsa's expulsion.

However, it was decided by the central executive committee, that the congress would not discuss these matters, but would focus on rebuilding unity and cohesion.

Vavi and Numsa would get the opportunity to appeal their expulsions at the ordinary congress in November.

Many of the unions, which called for the congress, had been boycotting CEC meetings.

In an unprecedented move on Monday, Cosatu closed its congress to the media during a debate and vote on credentials and the agenda.

The special congress spent more than nine hours debating credentials and the way they should be voted on.

Two issues were raised by the so-called rebel affiliates - the inclusion of new metalworkers union Limusa and second deputy president Zingiswa Losi.

Losi was elected a national office-bearer when she was still a Numsa member. She left Numsa and shortly afterwards joined Popcru. Some affiliates felt this meant she should be able to retain her position as second deputy president.

Voted through a show of hands

The two motions were denied and the special national congress voted on credentials through a show of hands, again against the wishes of some to have a secret ballot.

Attempts by unions to raise the issue of Vavi and Numsa from the floor were also unsuccessful during the second day of congress.

Following the congress, Cosatu President Sidumo Dlamini claimed that it had been successfully convened and that the trade union federation was still alive.

He said there was no violence or "blood on the floor" and that debates were robust and open.

This was contradicted by the views of some unions, which were not happy with the way the special congress was held.

Speaking to News24 on Thursday, Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) General Secretary Katishi Masemola said his union felt that the congress was not managed properly, especially when it came to the voting process.

"That has left some of us very worried, and very concerned... during voting itself there were people standing and singing, it was chaotic," he said.

"Voting through a show of hands is nothing but block voting."

Masemola claimed that a vote by show of hands ensured that those who would have voted differently to their leaders would be too scared to do so.

'The constitution was flushed down'

SA Football Players Union (Safpu) General Secretary Thulaganyo Gaoshubelwe agreed, saying Cosatu's constitution was ignored.

"Anything and everything we wanted to raise, people said no, we can only talk in November. The constitution was flushed down," he told News24.

"It is our view we missed our opportunity... We would have raised those issues... workers have seen exactly how the federation is run."

Neither Masemola or Gaoshubelwe believed that unity was achieved at the special congress.

SA Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) General Secretary Bones Skulu said unity in Cosatu was far from being achieved.

"People can talk about unity, [but] they're just papering over the cracks.”

He criticised Dlamini for "attacking" affiliates during his opening address.

Dlamini had called on unions which were supporting Vavi and Numsa to "free yourselves" from their grip.

"[He] told the unions to free themselves, as if those unions cannot think for themselves. That, for us, was not fostering any unity," said Skulu.

'Sanity will prevail'

He said the congress was "more or less" a waste of time and money.

But this did not mean that the union was thinking of leaving Cosatu. He also dispelled any rumours that some were looking at starting an alternative federation.

"Like Fawu said, we are members of Cosatu, we can never leave Cosatu. We will fight until Cosatu is correct. Sanity will prevail."

The unions, which were said to be against Vavi and Numsa, had a similar view to Dlamini, hailing the special congress a success.

SA Transport and Allied Workers Union General Secretary Zenzo Mahlangu said the congress went well and felt that those who were for Vavi's and Numsa's expulsion were vindicated.

"Vavi and Numsa never found any kind of support and given the circumstances we knew that the agenda was to collapse the congress, and it didn't collapse," he told News24.

Mahlangu said those who were unhappy with the voting had sour grapes.

The National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union and the SA Democratic Teachers Union shared Satawu's sentiments that the congress was a success.

"We think we have laid a firm ground for us to move on with the unity and cohesion of the organisation," Sadtu General Secretary Mugwena Maluleke told News24.

"We should not say we regret the time, or wasted money it was necessary."

Nehawu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the congress had allowed unions which had not spoken for 18 months to sit under one roof and put to bed some issues.

"Workers reclaimed their organisation. Unity can only be achieved by people conscious of what they're trying to do," he told News24.



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