COSATU, beset by personality politics – lost focus !.

COSATU, beset by personality politics- snuffing life out of it.

–          What has COSATU become, in whose mouth is it speaking –


As this much-publicized COSATU CEC sits, for some it is a decisive moment immanent as reported in the fate of its general secretary. 


One would have thought the central issue for the CEC is the impending challenge of an organised labour fraternity tearing at its seams in self-destruct. 


There are those who for their own reasons almost demand and expiry date to the Tripartite Alliance. 


For some COSATU is today a voice of opposition from within the Alliance, something the Alliance cannot afford. Yet there are many who think COSATU has become embroiled in party politics at the expense of the workers interest and agenda.


The latter argument holds a dialectical tension in that to argue COSATU is involved in party politics as a new emerging phenomenon, is not a completely honest assertion, for COSATU throughout this democratic dispensation of ANC led governance has always played an active role in party political dimension be it the ANC or SACP. It is an existence of co-interdependence where often party political leadership manifest in COSATU and vice versa. This at times renders the lines blurred particularly since dual membership is an accepted practice and reality. 


Is  the current focus on the person of the general secretary either in defence of staying or demand of removal not erroneously confusing COSATU issues in personality definition? Irvin Jim of NUMSA is vocal in defence of the Vavi, equally Frans Baleni of NUM, is emphatic that no one is above question or scrutiny. 


Is it wholly unfair to the general secretary to accost him some blame for the current factionalised context? 


Is it possible that Zwelinzima Vavi as general secretary is directly the cause of the status of COSATU as a personality driven Organisation? 


What has happened to the workers struggle, the workers causes the workers issues and workers agenda?


Perhaps Vavi like all present COSATU leadership including COSATU president  Sdumo Dlamini must collectively own up  for the current state. A COSATU marked by glaring factional infighting weak and staggering in many instances is unequivocally the legacy of this leadership in which proving your personal and political  weight is the order of the day.


The numbers of Unions (Sectors) that have registered their displeasure with the sitting general secretary, is remarkable, leaving one to ask, will Vavi if it comes down to a vote survive?


 Vavi, often portrayed by the media as the antithesis of a generally accepted corrupt ANC, almost in darling fashion the patron of anti-corruption is seen in some circles as a victim yet others claim him a villain who has meticulously gone about dealing with others while covering himself in proverbial robes of honour. 


It has become increasingly blurring to understand when Vavi is speaking on behalf of organised labour and or when he is campaigning in political sense with a paradigm of greater significance. 


One is forgiven to conclude, the COSATU general secretary has come to realise he has his “own constituency” from where he may launch a semblance of a political campaign or even a structure. Let us not forget it was Vavi who told us Helen Zille  of the DA pursued him to join forces, the same he rejected.


The point worth considering is why the DA leader felt so comfortable to approach Vavi. From what wells of comfort did she drink conclude her politics resonates with him. We know Zille has made overtures to anyone and thing that remotely resembles distaste and hate for the ANC. It is common knowledge that Helen Zille is smitten with the idea of oppositionalism as a defining trait. Yet again, we must ask why the DA and its leader felt comfortable enough in political ideology to attempt the claimed overtures or as a Vavi puts its “pursuing ” of the opposition party of the general secretary of COSATU a member of the Tripartite Alliance that defines ANC leadership? 


If COSATU is under threat of becoming irrelevant as warned by the ANC Secretary General  in a recent comment, where lie the roots for this? 


Can we conclude we are dealing here with the resultant effect of worker-issues abandoned for personality power- politics?  


The rise of AMCU notwithstanding the claims and counter claims of many on both sides for obvious reasons may directly be attributed to the very wrongful focus of a complacent COSATU leadership in which a contest for attention in loudmouthness has come to define power. AMCU as an organised labour fraternity may  be labelled in  process as flawed yet no one can argue its  existence. AMCU cannot be wished away. Furthermore,  there is reason to suspect it will continue to grow especially since the current NUM complacency breaths fertile soil for its growth. 


NUM, with as great a history in organised labour sector cannot simply just accuse AMCU in process formation sense, neither can the politics of third forces be they local or of international making with extra deep pockets be purely blamed. NUM must lay its hand in bosom and admit it became complacent assuming a right of existence beyond serving its members. The shedding of more than 40000 members regardless whether one may argue the process, does not alter the fact that NUM is haemorrhaging in this season.



 This emergence of an AMCU, and other similar formations in what was previously unilaterally defined as NEHAWU territory must not be seen in isolation and may rear its head in NUMSA or any other environment, perhaps pointing to a rethink in the greater COSATU. COSATU, cannot afford to be complacent but must be much more vigilant in its drive to deliver the workers stake. 


Again, one shall ask perhaps a rhetorical question, if COSATU, is finding itself at odds internally, is it not because the workers struggle became the power platform of individuals who politically trades in the name of the workers for their own interest.


COSATU Federations appear to have  forgotten its strength is consolidated in the body of a COSATU. The new norm is the  throwing around of proverbial weight individual – federation weight. This is firstly misplaced emphasis and secondly fuelling the belief that the organisation  is in disarray. This new attitude lends itself to claims that there appear a vacuum in  misunderstanding the original intent for its formation. 


The signs for a confused factional workers entity are visible in the utterances by federation leaders engaging non-worker related political battles wrongfully defined in personalities- the workers remain the losers not NUM, NUMSA or NEHAWU or the bigger COSATU. 


COSATU must admit it is losing the heart of the workers struggle, the reason for its existence rendering it potentially without mandate.


In the end it is not wise to remove Vavi, at this stage for it would merely exacerbate the factional dimensions and fuelling an entrenched disunity. 


Hence, Vavi will survive but less because he is as “big” or has this groundswell workers support as some analysts may hold, but simply because the ANC is not interested in making anyone victims in an epoch of election preparation where all and every support is needed. 


There clearly  a bigger interest and this interest of COSATU hegemony should remain paramount for the Alliance sake. 


We will be fooled to expect that as the CEC draws to its close and the smiles and hugs are extended all is well in COSATU, for ego politics will in my view prove simmering oft busting unprotected when limelight becomes to challenging to resist. 


In the uprun to the 2014, general elections we must expect the flexing of ego political muscles at times misguided, at times involuntary other times utterly confused for the workers- interest will remain a backbencher for those who for whatever reason tasted power and its tantalizing affects. 


Clyde N.S. Ramalaine

Independent Commentator.



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