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Giant federation mooted

Oct 23 2014 18:15
Terry Bell

Cape Town - Trade unions both within Cosatu and among the other federations and independent organisations are being approached about the possibility of forming a single “super federation” should Cosatu decide to either expel rebellious affiliates or end its political affiliation to the ANC.

The president of the National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu), Joseph Maqhenkeni, has been given a mandate by his federation to make these approaches.

They come in the wake of tensions within Cosatu and speculation that the country’s largest federation is about to expel its largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa). However, this seems unlikely and would, in any event, be unconstitutional as such action can only be taken by a national congress.

Numsa and eight other affiliates of Cosatu have been calling for more than a year for such a gathering to be held, but have been fobbed off by the majority of the Cosatu executive, although this delay is also unconstitutional.  Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa and his ANC counterpart, Jesse Duarte then stepped in to try to reconcile the warring parties.

But this intervention seems to have backfired and may have exacerbated tensions within Cosatu unions.  Recommendations for what Cosatu should do that are contained in a report handed to the federation by Ramaphosa are seen by many unionists as evidence that Cosatu has become a virtual labour desk of the ANC.

So now the pressure is on for a special congress to be called, although Ramaphosa has suggested that the unions involved wait until next year when the next general congress is scheduled.

“Whatever happens, it would be suicidal for Cosatu to expel Numsa because other unions will certainly follow,” says Maqhenkeni.  

In any event, and in accordance with the Cosatu constitution, any expulsion of an affiliate has to be ratified by a national congress.

“But many trade unionists feel it is correct for unions not to affiliate to any one political party.” says Maqhenkeni.  

He maintains that if Cosatu as a whole or Numsa and other unions leave the ANC alliance, this will “unite workers in Nactu, Fedusa, Consawu and independents into one giant federation”.

cosatu  |  numsa  |  unions


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