Tri­par­tite part­ner and trade union gi­ant has made it clear: SA’s work­ers want Ramaphosa for pres­i­dent

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Trade union fed­er­a­tion Cosatu will use the ANC pol­icy con­fer­ence in June next year as a spring­board to so­lid­ify its sup­port base for their pre­ferred pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, ahead of the elec­tive con­fer­ence in De­cem­ber. This was dis­cussed dur­ing a three-day sit­ting of the fed­er­a­tion’s cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (CEC), which re­solved to make a pro­nounce­ment on who should suc­ceed Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma as pres­i­dent of the ANC.

While not all unions were en­tirely sold on en­dors­ing Ramaphosa, they were per­suaded by the ma­jor­ity.

Those who had to be per­suaded in­clude the Po­lice and Pris­ons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Work­ers’ Union, the SA Mu­nic­i­pal Work­ers’ Union, the SA Trans­port and Al­lied Work­ers’ Union and new af­fil­i­ate the Lib­er­ated Me­tal­work­ers’ Union of SA.

The meet­ing was a dif­fi­cult one for Cosatu pres­i­dent Sdumo Dlamini, who had in a pre­vi­ous in­ter­view with City Press in­sisted that Cosatu would not re­peat the mis­take of mak­ing a pub­lic pro­nounce­ment on ANC suc­ces­sion. This was to avoid fur­ther di­vi­sion as was seen at the 2007 Polok­wane congress, where Cosatu and the SA Com­mu­nist Party (SACP) pushed hard for Zuma to be­come party pres­i­dent, suc­ceed­ing Thabo Mbeki.

Dlamini went into the meet­ing with lead­ers of af­fil­i­ates who have for some time been un­happy about his al­leged at­tempts to frus­trate this dis­cus­sion. Union lead­ers this week ac­cused Dlamini – who is said to have sat qui­etly for most of the meet­ing – of de­lib­er­ately push­ing back the dis­cus­sion for the last day of the meet­ing on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon. This was seen as an at­tempt to avoid dis­cussing the mat­ter.

Dur­ing what was de­scribed by in­sid­ers as a heated de­bate, Dlamini ar­gued that Cosatu needed to steer clear of the ANC lead­er­ship suc­ces­sion de­bate and not be seen to be tak­ing sides.

When his plea was re­jected, he ad­vanced that the mat­ter be kept in­ter­nally as it would cause fur­ther di­vi­sions in the ANC.

“What be­came a chal­lenge was that we had a man­date from last year’s Cosatu na­tional congress. That congress pro­nounced on the ANC tra­di­tion where the deputy suc­ceeded the pres­i­dent and gave pow­ers to the CEC to dis­cuss this mat­ter,” said a CEC mem­ber.

“There is no one who has the power to quash the de­bate. That’s where he lost.”

At Thurs­day’s me­dia brief­ing, dis­ap­point­ment was writ­ten all over Dlamini’s face. De­spite this, he him­self ex­plained the cri­te­ria used for choos­ing Ramaphosa.

Ramaphosa’s name was the only one raised at the CEC. “There was no one who men­tioned any other name be­sides Cyril,” said a se­nior union leader who at­tended the meet­ing.

How­ever, City Press has learnt that the bone of con­tention – par­tic­u­larly from Popcru – was that it was not the right time to make the pro­nounce­ment pub­li­cally.

Their view was that the mat­ter should have been de­ferred to the Cosatu cen­tral com­mit­tee next year.

The ANC has not opened the suc­ces­sion de­bate and had warned Cosatu not to med­dle in its af­fairs on lead­er­ship. Asked how he felt about the fact that he lost the de­bate to con­tain the lead­er­ship en­dorse­ment in­ter­nally, Dlamini said: “Cosatu’s CEC is the struc­ture that said that – be­fore and af­ter as­sess­ing the space – mo­men­tum was in­creas­ing. So they came back and dis­cussed this and said, let’s take this step.

“They were say­ing the cur­rent con­di­tions were worse than they were in 2005/07 and they couldn’t keep quiet, as this mat­ter was im­pact­ing on work­ers and Cosatu.”

A fac­tion known as the Premier League is lob­by­ing for African Union chair­per­son Nkosazana DlaminiZuma to be­come ANC pres­i­dent, but the sen­ti­ment within some quar­ters of the al­liance was that it would cre­ate an im­pres­sion of a “Zuma dy­nasty”.

Ramaphosa’s sup­port­ers in­sist that it can­not be ig­nored that Dlamini-Zuma is not part of the cur­rent ANC top six.

While there were no clear in­di­ca­tors about who will sup­port Ramaphosa in the ANC, re­cent de­vel­op­ments around the charges against Fi­nance Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han were an in­di­ca­tor of where loy­al­ties lie.

Ramaphosa, to­gether with some ANC na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee mem­bers, spoke out in sup­port of Gord­han and con­demned the use of state in­sti­tu­tions like the Na­tional Prose­cut­ing Author­ity for po­lit­i­cal gains. This was seen as a first salvo against Zuma’s lead­er­ship, who is fight­ing calls to re­sign.

This week’s Cosatu meet­ing could not avoid dis­cussing calls by some of its af­fil­i­ates for Zuma to step down. The Cosatu lead­er­ship has de­cided its stance on the mat­ter would be con­veyed to the ANC at in­ter­nal meet­ings.

City Press un­der­stands that there is a sen­ti­ment that Zuma can­not lead the party to 2019, a cru­cial year when na­tional elec­tions will take place.

An ob­ser­va­tion made in a po­lit­i­cal re­port pre­sented for dis­cus­sion at the CEC meet­ing was that the fac­tion that won de­bates at pol­icy con­fer­ences also emerged vic­to­ri­ous at elec­tive con­fer­ences. The pol­icy con­fer­ence is there­fore the cen­tral place where the SACP will push for Ramaphosa.

“The sec­tions that win the pol­icy de­bate usu­ally also emerge in the na­tional con­fer­ence. The rea­son for this is based on the un­der­stand­ing that the lead­er­ship col­lec­tive must be elected based on their ca­pac­ity to lead the or­gan­i­sa­tional pro­gramme whose con­tent is con­tained in poli­cies adopted by the con­fer­ence,” the re­port reads.

The plan would in­clude strongly lob­by­ing ANC mem­bers on “strate­gic pol­icy is­sues” that it will raise, such as eco­nomic pol­icy, land dis­tri­bu­tion and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of Na­tional Health In­surance.

Cosatu gen­eral sec­re­tary Bheki Nt­shal­intshali said Cosatu would re­visit res­o­lu­tions from the ANC’s 2012 con­fer­ence and then ded­i­cate four days at its CEC meet­ing around May next year to pre­pare for both the ANC and the SACP elec­tive con­fer­ences.

He said that “the ANC pol­icy con­fer­ence plays a big­ger role in the elec­tive con­fer­ence six months down the line”.

TALK TO US Do you agree that Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa should suc­ceed Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma?


WORK­ING CLASS HERO Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa

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