President Cyril Ramaphosa has been given a reprieve by labour federation Cosatu, which has decided not to change its national congress resolution and will continue backing the ANC in the general election, scheduled for May 8.
The explosive proposal not to support the ANC was raised by some Cosatu affiliate leaders during the federation’s central executive committee (CEC) meeting in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, last week.
David Sipunzi, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, had hinted that the union could decide not to vote for the ANC in the election.
But City Press understands that the suggestion to withdraw support for the ANC in the upcoming polls failed to gain momentum during the CEC meeting.
However, it is understood that some Cosatu affiliate leaders told the meeting that the federation, with its 1.6 million members, should engage the SA Communist Party (SACP) to start preparing to contest future elections.
Cosatu has a standing resolution to support and help build the SACP.
Cosatu is at loggerheads with Ramaphosa over his government plans to fix Eskom.
Ramaphosa announced his proposal to unbundle the troubled power utility into three separate units – responsible for power generation, distribution and transmission – during his state of the nation address last month.
Ramaphosa, who was Cosatu’s preferred candidate to succeed former president Jacob Zuma, was the darling of the workers before the ANC’s national conference in 2017.
“Although we are unhappy with the ANC, supporting the party is a congress resolution,” said a CEC member.
“It is a congress which said we will support the ANC on the basis of a reconfigured alliance. It cannot be easily be overturned by the CEC. Our difficulty is convincing our members to vote for the ANC.”
Cosatu’s deputy general secretary, Solly Phetoe, told City Press that the question of whether the federation should support the ANC in the election was raised sharply in the CEC meeting.
We must be very clear that ministers who are arrogant to workers will be named and shamed.
“The only way to review the congress resolution is by convening a special national congress. The CEC has no mandate to change the congress resolution. Its responsibility is to implement the congress resolution,” he said.
At its national congress last year, Cosatu resolved that all its unions should make resources available to campaign for the ANC.
However, Phetoe warned that the CEC meeting resolved to review its decision to back the ANC in future elections if there was no agreement on the debate about the reconfigured alliance.
Regarding the difficult task that lay ahead for Cosatu to convince workers to vote for the ANC, Phetoe said: “It is not going to be easy for Cosatu to mobilise workers to vote for the ANC, especially on the issue of Eskom. We are dealing with those matters. I am sure that individual workers were raising those issues on the basis of emotions.”
Despite Cosatu’s clear signs of discomfort with Ramaphosa’s government, Phetoe said the federation did not regret supporting Ramaphosa.
“Our support for Cyril does not mean we are going to agree with everything he says that is disadvantaging workers. Even the ANC knows our position on privatisation.”
Meanwhile, Cosatu is gunning for what it calls “arrogant” Cabinet ministers, namely Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and Energy Minister Jeff Radebe.
The federation has vowed that nothing will stop it from forcing Ramaphosa to remove them.
“We must be very clear that ministers who are arrogant to workers will be named and shamed. The arrogance of comrade Radebe leaves much to be desired on this issue of independent power producers, which will affect jobs. Mboweni is arrogant and a populist. He speaks about anything he wants without even consulting the president,” Phetoe said.
Cosatu is irked by Mboweni’s remarks during his budget speech last month that state-owned enterprises placed severe pressure on the government’s budget.
“Isn’t it about time the country asks the question: Do we still need these enterprises? If we do, can we manage them better? If we don’t need them, what should we do?” Mboweni asked.
Cosatu general-secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said remnants of the “1996 class project” were regrouping in the ANC and government.
He said Cabinet ministers were defying the ANC’s Nasrec resolution and should not be reappointed.
“If the ANC says the Reserve Bank must be nationalised and then you get people saying there is nothing wrong with the bank, it shows that there is something wrong here – meaning, not everybody has shifted from the [privatisation] policies of 1996,” he said.