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Mayday! Mayday! Cosatu affiliates choose capital over workers

COSATU’s presidential call beset with individual capital interest instead of the workers cause?


Organised labour we are told exists to work themselves out of existence, yet that may have been the historical and noble ideals of plausibly the first generations of organised labour from a Eurocentric evolution. It appears all sanity and critical reasoning has dissipated in this ANC elective year.



COSATU has become the point of contact; the playing grounds for an attempt at disrupting of the ANC led Alliance. This week two of the COSATU affiliates namely NEHAWU and CWU decided to write letters to the CEC demanding explanations as to why the ANC president who is also the president of SA will be allowed to speak at the May 1, 2017 COSATU gathering when COSATU already expressed a vote of no confidence in his leadership at nation level. It is clear from these letters the bigger NEHAWU led CWU if the CWU letter is taken cognisance of.


NEHAWU’s letter has as second clause in verbatim the following,  “In this context NEHAWU believes that inviting the President of the ANC to address any of our coming May Day rallies particularly the main rally in Bloemfontein will create conflicting messages to our member, workers and public in general. The possible confusion will intensify the existing instability within the movement and present a potential to further weaken COSATU.


The CWU letter states, “Our understanding of the resolution of the CEC regarding President Zuma is the same NEHAWU’s, that “ COSATU no longer believes that the president of the ANC and the republic, comrade Jacob Zuma is the right person to unite and lead movement, the alliance and the country”


Their agreed logic for asking this question from COSATU leadership is on the back of a recent resolution of the CEC of COSATU, which called for the stepping down of President Jacob Zuma as president of the SA.


There are perhaps two or three fundamental challenges with this demand on the part of COSATU affiliates (NEHAWU and CWU), it may be worth unpacking for us to appreciate the politics of their concern.


Firstly we must ascertain what is the standard procedure for COSATU May Day celebrations. Tradition and practice would have a Workers day organized by COSATU as leader of organized labour and member of the Tripartite Alliance formation. Invitations are therefore typically sent out to Alliance partners, who in turn have absolute liberty as to whom it proffers to represent them as invited Alliance partners. This gathering is usually addressed by the president of the ANC as Alliance partner as tradition hitherto dictated.



COSATU therefore never instructs its Alliance partners as to whom it must bring as representing either the ANC or SACP even SANCO. It remains the prerogative of the Alliance partners to select its representatives devoid of demands, instructions, intimidation, or veiled threats.


It appears on one hand the letters penned by NEHAWU and CWU respectively attest a convenient absent-mindedness of this standard practice undeniable history and obvious reality. It furthermore fails to acknowledge the historical and contextual reality of all COSATU Workers-Day celebrations and the Alliance representations.


It equally negates to separate between the ANC president and the SA president. Granted our political system hitherto sees these as one and regardless to how some may dream and advocate for a different setting in which the SA president is not the ANC president we are simply not there yet. Yet COSATU affiliates cannot in convenience of choice with political agenda of advancing the cause of its preferred candidate for a December 2017 ANC election suffer of selective amnesia.


The second convenient challenge evidenced by these communiqués of COSATU affiliates is them confusing a COSATU rightful decision for its own reasons to call for step down of an SA president when it simply never can call for an ANC president to step down. It would appear at least in the case of the CWU that that they conclude the ANC president unfit to lead the ANC, Alliance, and Country. The latter too may be a right to claim but the ANC leadership simply is not for a COSATU affiliate to decide in armchair convenience.


With this arrogance a COSATU affiliate shows its disdain for democratic structures and processes in the ANC that ultimately results in ANC national leadership. By what power does an affiliate of COSATU deny the ANC branches and its people the right to decide on its leadership? Can COSATU and its affiliates confirm where the ANC branches ever made known its desire or intent to recall its president? This is therefore disrespectful arrogant and contra to the spirit of the Alliance, that exists longer than the current affiliates leaders in leadership.



This un-Alliance behaviour confirms the reality of our times understood in an ANC elective year in which the stakes are high and the offers plausibly also even bigger.




COSATU has officially endorsed the candidacy of former NUM leader Cyril Ramaphosa for the December 2017, ANC presidential contest. That decision for what it is worth is COSATU’s right to use as means of influence and lobbying yet it cannot be assumed as NEHAWU and CWU in narrowness of convenience attempt to make it stand as a functional and conclusive reality in April 2017, meaning Ramaphosa has replaced Zuma.



It also cannot be naively or mischievously deducted to assume that the ANC president is called to step down when no ANC structure has yet expressed any stance. COSATU like all of us know very well, only an ANC Conference can recall a sitting ANC president not external Alliance partners or sentiment from segments of the public be they ANC or non-ANC members.



The question we may ask is why these affiliate leaderships would be this naive if not irrational to make this unsubstantiated political demand?


It all do not make any sense until you realise we are in silly election season. Ramaphosa is a leading candidate in this race and as earlier alluded COSATU has endorsed his candidacy for the ANC race. You will notice I deliberately remind us it’s an ANC race not a COSATU or SACP race for high office. It is important never to lose sight of this cardinal aspect.


We may ask devoid of historical reality of NUM leadership why COSATU would move in this season for this candidate who simply no longer remotely represents the interest of workers but the corporate sector evidenced in big business.



COSATU it appears is perhaps stuck in the paradigm of having its first ANC president albeit a candidate that in this life is remotely associated with his former life of a NUM leader.



COSATU is yet to explain its logical conclusion for an endorsement of its Ramaphosa candidacy? It is yet to explain how a potential president from the big business fold will assist the cause of the Workers. It is yet to argue how radical economic transformation and Workers interest will be served with a candidate so deeply vested in an apartheid economy who as buffer zone becomes the dividing line and evidence of this undeniable chasm of unemployment, inequality, and poverty COSATU seeks to bridge.




At another level COSATU must come clean and tell us how it previously endorsed other candidates and why the rejection of others in preference of candidates for the option of Ramaphosa better serve its fundamental and ideological Workers cause? Unless it is no longer about the Workers or unless COSATU believes it can sway its former NUM leader.



COSATU owes it its affiliates to argue its logic for its recent endorsement therefore in that sense NEHAWU and CWU is correct to ask if COSATU asked for a Zuma to step down why he is allowed to address them?



This is in a sense a rhetorical question for the reality of a longstanding praxis as earlier alluded yet it plausibly may point to the fact that the call for a Zuma stepping down was not carefully thought through, canvased and may lack substantial and corroborating evidence for its logic.




Let us then ask why COSATU called for the SA president to step down. COSATU regardless to what may have preceded their call do so for one solitary reason that being the recent reshuffle.


COSATU may differ with us but if it’s call is critically analysed it was done in defence of a former finance minister Pravin Gordhan. COSATU no different to the SACP asks for a step down of the president because he exercised his constitutional right to constitute and reconstitute his cabinet informed by his logic for delivery.



Let us also again lay to rest the sophism of claims consultation-information-sharing and lengthy deliberations following a November 2016 informing of the president that he wants to replace his finance minister.


Therefore the centrality for the call of COSATU for an SA president to step down it appears takes its queue from the three national office bearers who each expressed their own personal dissatisfaction with the president’s reshuffling but more so the firing of Gordhan. When the SG Mantashe, Deputy President Ramaphosa and Treasury General Mkhize came out in contradiction to ANC culture to ventilate their personal feelings it is not devoid of the reality of the upcoming elections. It must also be understood that Ramaphosa and Mantashe are both former COSATU Affiliate leaders that have made it like Motlanthe into the ANC SG and deputy presidency roles respectively. We also know that the NWC was unequivocal that this personal and public utterances or behaviour on the part of NOB’s should not repeat itself.




One therefore may wonder while neither Ramaphosa and Mantashe yet made the call for a Zuma stepping down if it’s sensible to surmise, it appears their original constituencies (organised labour) confirms the voices for that call.


This may render the COSATU call a plausible sign of a proxy war that in this season seeks to benefit candidate(s) who are squaring up for December 2017. At another level it’s the intent of COSATU to insert itself in the ANC top structure and elections contest.



COSATU’s call hopes to deliver a Ramaphosa early presidency, therefore solidifying their claim of having been a kingmaker for a Ramaphosa presidency.


Nehawu and CWU equally attempt making functional a COSATU candidate 8 months before a democratic organizational contest.


COSATU and its affiliates will forgive us for assuming they want to hand Ramaphosa a presidential seat without a contest. Their narrow interpretation of ANC elections exposes their own challenged state with the losses suffered to AMCU, NUMSA and more recently expected by the forming of a SAFTU as Vavi led.


The attempted exerting of flexing of a waning muscle on the part of COSATU is off course completely oblivious to the fact that both COSATU and the SACP voices in power is less of significance in the ANC as much as the ANC has little say on who COSATU or SACP elect to its respective leadership.



This decision of COSATU to call for a stepping down or Zuma followed by a subsequent over-eager and less thoughtful call on the part of NEHAWU and CWU confirms the political-loadedness of these actions as hardly for the benefit of the Workers cause but may resonate with individual benefit be it a SACP Gordhan or a Ramaphosa and whomever has hopes to become president and deputy president of the ANC come December 2017.


Can COSATU be made the contesting ground for Alliance disunity with personal benefit at the epicentre? Must the workers just cause take a backseat to the career of a wealthy politician?


Exactly who in COSATU stands to benefit at a personal level from both the early Ramaphosa endorsement and the call for a step down of the SA president?


What promises were made to whom, where and in what form, that affords the workers cause compromised in this season?

Clyde Ramalaine – Columnist and Analyst
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine is an ordained and licensed member of the SA and USA clergy with over 25 years of service as a practicing theologian. Ramalaine’s incisive political analysis and commentary on a variety of issues has appeared regularly in most SA newspapers since 2010.
His work continues, among others, to appear in The Thinker, the leading Pan African Journal for thought leaders. He participates in panel discussions on subjects of his interest, and has appeared on SABC and ANN7 platforms, among others.
A published author including annual anthologies of political commentary and a volume of poetry named Gekraakte Blare.
He holds a BTH (Hons-Status) with double majors Systematic Theology and Sociology from the University of Western Cape (UWC).
He also earned a MA Theology (Systematic Theology) Cum Laude from North West University (NWU). His dissertation “Black Identity and experience in Black Theology: A Critical Assessment” is considered a ground-breaking and very relevant work in Black Theology. In such, he successfully questioned the usage of the epithet ‘black’ from a socio -historical and theological perspective.
He serves as management consultant on strategy design, analysis, and communication services for the last 22 years with serving clients in both private and public sector domains.
Analyst for Weekly Xpose.
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