COSATU MAKES THE CASE FOR CYRIL
Tripartite partner and trade union giant has made it clear: SA’s workers want Ramaphosa for president
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”.
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WORKING CLASS HERO Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa