COSATU expected to elect first female president as 13th congress kicks off
17 September 2018
The Congress of SA Trade Unions (COSATU) is likely to elect its first female president - Zingiswa Losi - as it sits for its 13 th national congress this week.
Losi is COSATU's second deputy president, alongside Tyotyo James, under the leadership of Sdumo Dlamini.
More than 2 000 delegates are expected to convene in Midrand on Monday to discuss the state of the federation and elect new leadership.
On the first day, leaders are set to address delegates. ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande are among those expected to speak on Monday.
According to some in the trade union federation, Dlamini is on the fence about whether he wants to continue to serve. One leader told News24 that it was difficult to gauge what Dlamini was thinking.
"The president is confusing. One day he tells people he has served for long and it's time to go, then suddenly you hear he is in talks with people keen to give it another go. But I don't even think this issue will get to the ballot," the COSATU insider said.
"We are likely to have an uncontested congress," the source added, saying most of the top leadership have already been agreed to by COSATU's unions.
Dlamini has often been at odds with his own federation, defending former president Jacob Zuma and appearing alongside him when leaders and unions in COSATU were calling for his removal as the head of state.
Recently, he defended what appeared to be a clandestine meeting between Zuma and his closest allies in the ANC at a Durban hotel. The meeting has been linked to an alleged plot to remove Ramaphosa. The federation called for an investigation into the claims.
James is also expected to step down, along with Mike Shingange, the current first deputy president at the National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union, who is pitted for one of the two deputy posts.
General secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali, deputy general secretary, Solly Phetoe, and treasurer Freda Oosthuysen are expected to retain their positions.
COSATU will also have to spend its four-day conference deliberating over the health of its affiliates and its own relevance in the labour sector, as well as its role in the alliance with the ANC, SACP and the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco), while sharpening its position on issues such as land, the minimum wage and job insecurity.
Last week, Ntshalintshali admitted that COSATU had less numbers than in 2015, following the departure of the Food and Allied Workers Union. Other members walked away from COSATU. He said they would have to "interrogate" the issue and decide how to address it.
However, the federation's political report says that even though it is nowhere near its target of four million members, it has not deteriorated to the level previously predicted by some.
COSATU also acknowledged the many unions entering the labour sector but raised some concern over how it impacted those operating in that space, saying there has been a continued fragmentation in the labour sector since the 2009 recession, which has been worsened by the launch of many new unions.
"In this fragmentation, there is a tendency amongst unions to cannibalise each other – preoccupied with mainly recruiting members from each other and preferring sectors that are least affected by precarious terms of employment," notes COSATU in its report.
COSATU, which has often sided with the SACP on matters where that party and the ANC have not seen eye to eye, will have to discuss its own position on the SACP's yearning to contest state power and calls for the alliance to be reconfigured.
"The COSATU membership cannot be subjected into making a choice between the ANC and the SACP," the report says.
COSATU claims that asking workers to choose between the two would deepen divisions in the federation and possibly lead to a split.
COSATU also says there is scepticism among its members over the SACP's bid for state power, as there is no guaranteed support, claiming this view was held by some in the communist party.
"The reconfiguration of the alliance would never happen out of cap-in-hand appeals," says COSATU in its report.
The trade union federation, which has welcomed efforts from all in the liberation movement to work towards organisational renewal, say this is also the perfect opportunity to look at reconfiguring the alliance.
COSATU said it needed to develop its own programme and organisational perspective, along with concrete proposals on the matter.
The federation's 13 th congress is expected to end on Thursday.