'Cosatu cannot be paralysed'

The ANC disputes claims the trade union federation has been paralysed because of infighting.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe at the ANC's National Executive Committee meeting in Irene, 18 May 2012. Picture: SAPA

JOHANNESBURG - The African National Congress (ANC) on Wednesday disputed claims that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has become paralysed due to infighting and the recent suspension of its General Secretary.

Zwelinzima Vavi was suspended earlier this month after he admitted to having an affair with a junior employee.

He has since announced he will challenge his suspension in court.

Since then, his supporters have claimed the federation is unable to carry out its campaigns.

But the ruling party's Gwede Mantashe disagrees.

He argued that Cosatu's affiliates are currently active, saying that because of this, the federation cannot be paralysed.

"It cannot be paralysed because unions exist in their own right. The miners are in the middle of negotiations and the metalworkers are on strike."

But the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa)'s General Secretary Irvin Jim said the collective campaigns of Cosatu have not been implemented since the beginning of the year.

"Since then until now there's not a single programme of Cosatu leadership at a national level that they've been able to implement."

These issues are expected to be ironed out at the Tripartite Alliance Summit, scheduled for next week.

Mantashe also warned union leaders not to dictate to their members who they should vote for in next year's general election.

The ANC General Secretary made the remarks on the fringes of the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru)'s political school currently underway in Benoni.

He is advocating for a more worker controlled trade union federation and said discussions about votes stem from individual preferences.

Mantashe said while ANC election campaigns driven by unions in the run up to the polls are important, they are not the deciding factor when voters make their mark.

"Those ANC members who are in those affiliates are not going to be dragged into hating the ANC all of a sudden."

He said some union leaders risk exposing their political agenda when making such remarks.

"It's a political decision you take. One as an individual first, and then when you drag your union to that position, you are doing that at your own risk."

Last week the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) said it was unsure whether it would be able to campaign for the ruling party due to divisions within Cosatu.

Fawu's national leadership has since requested a bilateral meeting with the ANC.