Why Cosatu wants Cyril

De­spite warn­ings from the ANC, the labour fed­er­a­tion cau­tiously en­dorses Ramaphosa for pres­i­dent in 2017

CityPress - - Front Page - HLENGIWE NHLA­BATHI and SE­TUMO STONE news@city­press.co.za

Not even the ANC’s be­hind-thescenes ef­forts could stop trade union fed­er­a­tion Cosatu this week from in­di­rectly en­dors­ing Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa as its can­di­date to re­place Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma in 2017.

Del­e­gates at the fed­er­a­tion’s 11th na­tional con­gress in­sisted on hav­ing their say in the ANC’s suc­ces­sion plan be­cause the gov­ern­ing party was seen to be giv­ing free rein to some of its se­nior lead­ers to punt African Union Com­mis­sion chair­per­son Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as their pre­ferred can­di­date, de­spite its stern warn­ing that mem­bers should not dis­cuss the 2017 lead­er­ship race.

Dlamini-Zuma, whose cam­paign was of­fi­cially launched in Au­gust by the ANC Women’s League, with the sup­port of ANC lead­ers in Mpumalanga, the Free State and North West, has sub­se­quently gained the sup­port of the ANC Youth League.

Cosatu lead­ers told City Press that ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe met Cosatu na­tional of­fice bear­ers on Tues­day with a view to per­suad­ing them that con­gress should not take a res­o­lu­tion on the ANC lead­er­ship race.

But af­ter the five Cosatu of­fi­cials met the gen­eral sec­re­taries of its af­fil­i­ates, his in­ter­ven­tion was over­ruled as af­fil­i­ate lead­ers in­sisted that Cosatu was an au­ton­o­mous or­gan­i­sa­tion that could take its own de­ci­sions.

Man­tashe re­it­er­ated on Satur­day that it was not for Cosatu to re­solve how the ANC did things.

Asked about his in­ter­ven­tion, Man­tashe said: “We never talked in the con­gress. We kept quiet de­lib­er­ately. You were there all the time. It was open.

“There were no closed ses­sions. I came late and left early ev­ery day.”

The SA Demo­cratic Teach­ers’ Union (Sadtu), the third-big­gest af­fil­i­ate in Cosatu, moved for the pro­posal that the ANC deputy pres­i­dent was the nat­u­ral suc­ces­sor in ple­nary on Wed­nes­day.

This was ap­plauded by most of the 2 500 del­e­gates at­tend­ing the na­tional con­gress.

Unions that en­dorsed the pro­posal in­clude nurses’ union Denosa, pub­lic sec­tor union Ne­hawu, trans­port union Satawu and mu­nic­i­pal work­ers’ union Samwu.

Sadtu said the “prin­ci­ple” must be ob­served for the sake of sta­bil­ity and to elim­i­nate the paral­y­sis within the al­liance fu­elled by spec­u­la­tion about who would suc­ceed Pres­i­dent Zuma.

Mine work­ers’ union the NUM ex­pressed con­cern about the di­vi­sive na­ture of such a de­bate ahead of cru­cial lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

The fi­nal res­o­lu­tion of the con­gress was that the ANC should fol­low its tra­di­tions and prin­ci­ples, which is a tacit en­dorse­ment.

The main rea­sons for sup­port­ing Ramaphosa were that he was a for­mer worker leader and was known by work­ers. It was also felt that while many lead­ers were cap­i­tal­ists, this should not be used against him.

Fur­ther­more, the fact that he had money could mean that he would not spend time try­ing to ac­cu­mu­late more for him­self.

Newly elected Cosatu gen­eral sec­re­tary Bheki Nt­shal­intshali told City Press in an in­ter­view that it was the view of the work­ers that “it is bet­ter the devil you know rather than the one you do not know”.

Nt­shal­intshali said that “some mem­bers of the ANC had not dealt with the mat­ter in a strict way”.

“The ANC has taken a de­ci­sion that we must not dis­cuss the suc­ces­sion de­bate be­cause it is too early, yet it al­lows oth­ers in the ANC to make a pos­ture.

“Peo­ple might be feel­ing that those who are dis­ci­plined might be pay­ing the price. Those who say we must keep quiet are al­low­ing an­other fac­tion to have a free run.”

ANC trea­surer-gen­eral Zweli Mkhize said Cosatu was an in­de­pen­dent or­gan­i­sa­tion and had a right to dis­cuss what­ever is­sues [it wanted to]. How­ever, he re­fused to en­ter the de­bate, say­ing the Cosatu con­gress was not an ANC elec­tive con­fer­ence where lead­er­ship was de­cided.

“All the ANC will do is to en­gage Cosatu in the right fo­rum to deal with any of the is­sues that arise from the con­gress, in­clud­ing their res­o­lu­tions – whether we agree or dis­agree.”

But Ramaphosa’s cam­paign was yet to be con­sol­i­dated and still re­mained an ef­fort by loose groups in dif­fer­ent cor­ners seek­ing to stage a chal­lenge against the Dlamini-Zuma lobby.

Those sup­port­ing him say that the ANC’s Lim­popo pro­vin­cial ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee was ex­pected to lead Ramaphosa’s cam­paign, with Gaut­eng as well as the Eastern Cape join­ing in at a later stage.

Cosatu mem­bers who City Press spoke to said Ramaphosa’s back­ground as a for­mer trade union­ist had earned him [the work­ers’] trust that he would be able to un­der­stand and be sym­pa­thetic to work­ers and their strug­gles.

Con­cerns that he is con­sid­ered a cap­i­tal­ist have been thrown out of the win­dow be­cause “most lead­ers in the ANC are cap­i­tal­ists”.

“Cyril can be a cap­i­tal­ist or a bil­lion­aire, but what’s im­por­tant is that he brings dig­nity. He is cur­rently the un­der­dog that brings hope to some who feel side­lined by the cur­rent regime,” said a mem­ber of one of Cosatu’s pub­lic sec­tor unions.

“There is a feel­ing that with Nkosazana, we will see Zuma rul­ing from the grave.”

Po­lice union Popcru pres­i­dent Ziza­mele Ce­bekhulu said fear had crept in and “we have to look at our fu­ture as work­ers”.

“Work­ers want some­one who is work­er­friendly,” he said, but added that it was way too early to talk about names be­cause even Ramaphosa could opt out of the race.

“We can have nice strate­gies, but we need good lead­ers who can drive them,” said Ce­bekhulu.

Nt­shal­intshali agreed, say­ing Cosatu’s cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee would have to, among other things, “set cri­te­ria for lead­ers”.

He pointed out that while there were com­mu­nists in the ANC, “they have not been in the pow­er­ful po­si­tion of pres­i­dent. In­stead, they get vil­i­fied and get peo­ple bay­ing for their blood” – as was the case with Man­tashe in 2012 and now SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) gen­eral sec­re­tary Blade Nz­i­mande.

Ramaphosa has been a cham­pion of the con­tentious Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan, as­pects of which Cosatu and the SACP have op­posed.

There was a view that Ramaphosa will play a key role in dis­man­tling cor­rup­tion be­cause he would not try to ac­cu­mu­late for him­self and his cronies first as he al­ready has his own re­sources.

“When­ever you give some­one power, be­fore they go any fur­ther, they start by set­ting them­selves up first. By the time they move their fo­cus to the coun­try, it’s too late,” said an al­liance leader.

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