The president of Cosatu, S’dumo Dlamini, has been placed on terms by the federation’s affiliates at its central committee. He should tell the labour federation if he is unable to campaign for ANC deputy Cyril Rampahosa to take over as leader of the country, so that they can “find an alternative”.

Dlamini faced an unprecedented revolt from within Cosatu at the central committee meeting in Centurion over his endorsement of Jacob Zuma, after Cosatu called on the president of the country to resign.

“As leadership, you seem to have been found wanting.
You are not uniting us. President of the federation, lead that process [of campaigning for Ramphosa and calling on Zuma to step down]. Because you have almost two million workers behind you. And if you can’t as president take that responsibility, please don’t be afraid to rise and tell us so we can look at alternative ways to lead that process,” National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) chairperson Peter Bailey told the committee meeting.

Bailey acknowledged that some affiliates had planned a motion of no confidence against Dlamini, but said the NUM would not support the move and is “100% behind the collective leadership.”

“We must be bold enough [to speak out], because a true comrade is someone who rises and speaks against the mistakes of another comrade in order to assist them. As NUM, we will never support it [a motion of no confidence], but play your role as the president of the federation,” Bailey said.

Dlamini was also scolded by teachers union Sadtu and education and health union Nehawu, which said he owed the meeting an apology for attending Zuma’s 75th birthday party in Soweto. He had represented Cosatu there and told Zuma that workers support the president, just one day after the federation had called on Zuma to step down.

In his closing address, Dlamini said he was grateful that the central executive committee had accepted his apology for attending the event.

“But this being the parliament of the workers again, I want to communicate my unreserved apology for the confusion that has been caused to the workers about my utterances and attendance to that birthday party of President Zuma,” he told delegates to the meeting, to loud applause.

“Once the decision is taken by the structure it is binding to all and sundry in the organisation. Including those who may have had a different view … It is binding to me,” Dlamini said.

But the Cosatu leader warned members about the journey that lays ahead.

“You have committed to a serious battle, I don’t know if you understand the magnitude and depth of the battle you have chosen. I want men and women of Cosatu who are prepared to run the full distance of the journey. If you pick a fight, be ready to fight, and in order to fight, you must be sure that you picked the fight that you are going to win,” Dlamini said.

He said workers should prepare for casualties in the battle, as he had already received a warning. The weekend after Cosatu called for Zuma to resign, Dlamini said a decapitated cat with its intestines removed was found at the back door of his home in Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal.

“Next time it could be the a human body, so we must prepare for these casualties,” he said.

Referring to the alliance political council meeting on Sunday, Dlamini said there was great expectation from affiliates. “Comrades, you are expecting that this leadership will go to the political council meeting on June 4 & 5 and say ‘Zuma resign’, and then he will do it.”

He encouraged the affiliates to also take that message to lower structures.

“I want to see and be called into programmes on the ground led by yourselves addressing those workers., I want to see you in the branches of the ANC persuading them that you have a preferred candidate … You shouldn’t take us into a battle when you are not very sure. [But] I’ve got a sense that you are very sure of this battle, so I’m in.”

He warned that he would not mimic the outspoken criticism of the government that characterized the final days of Zwelinzima Vavi’s tenure as general secretary of Cosatu.

“I’m not going to be Vavi. I am S’dumo and I am different. I will do it my own way,” Dlamini said.