Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) president S’dumo Dlamini has warned that the federation cannot survive without the ANC-led tripartite alliance, which he said is in a state of disarray with the different partners being undermined by the governing party.
“The ANC cannot survive on her own, without us, the workers in this country. I want to argue that you yourselves [Cosatu] cannot survive without being in this current alliance arrangement, and hope to survive on your own,” Dlamini told delegates at Cosatu’s central committee, which began in Centurion on Monday.
“We should recognise there is no big brother and no small boy or tool boy [in the alliance]… How do we realise the task of building the alliance when the leader of the alliance is in a state of disarray?” he asked.
Dlamini received a muted reception at the meeting.
He faces a rebellion from within the federation and struggled to rouse delegates, many of whom remained silent for most of his speech and refused to sing for him as he made his way to the podium.
Cosatu has banned President Jacob Zuma from addressing its delegates, a move that followed Dlamini’s endorsement of the Zuma’s leadership at the president’s 75th birthday party in Soweto last month.
In Centurion, Dlamini told delegates that “Cosatu cannot decide that we can be working against the ANC,” but added that “when they [the ANC] do these wrong things, we will take the decisions and we will defend our decisions.”
Dlamini failed to note Cosatu’s endorsement of Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to be elected the next president of the ANC and the country, and the federation’s call for Zuma to resign.
Dlamini added the remarks as an announcement after lunch, but this was bemoaned by teachers union Sadtu. “The decisions of Cosatu were supposed to be emphasised when the president was presenting his political overview. This decision that is so important cannot come as an announcement from shop steward number one of the federation,” Sadtu’s KwaZulu-Natal secretary Nomarashiya Caluza said.
“The president himself must practically must unite us around the decisions of Cosatu. That is our decision. We are not ashamed of the decision,” she added.
Her criticism was echoed by health and education union Nehawu’s deputy president Mike Shingange, who said the union still planned to confront Dlamini over his attendance of Zuma’s birthday party and his endorsement of the president’s leadership.
Focusing mostly on the alliance, Dlamini told delegates that “Cosatu cannot decide that we can be working against the ANC,” but added that “when they [the ANC] do these wrong things, we will take the decisions and we will defend our decisions.”
Last month Cosatu’s central executive committee made a public call for Zuma to step down as head of state and said his leadership cannot be trusted, as he is not the right person to “unite and lead the movement”.
While Dlamini’s speech evoked hardly any reaction from delegates, deputy president Tyotyo James was cheered as he said Cosatu should not be condemned for its controversial call.
“Our movement must not be angry with us when we make pronouncements. We are making those pronouncements because we want to save the ANC from self-destruction. Cosatu must not be condemned for saying who it wants to be the president of the ANC. We want Cyril Ramaphosa to be elected president of the ANC,” James said to loud applause.
In an apparent reference to Zuma’s recent cabinet reshuffle, Dlamini acknowledged the strained relationship between the alliance partners.
“It seems that decisions can be taken by one partner and it affects all of us and none of us are consulted, that must come to an end … When there is a meeting request and there is no response until there is a crisis then you want to meet, that must come to an end,” Dlamini said.