Rebel unions dealt first blow at Cosatu congress

Unions aligned with Numsa failed to force the gathering to hear an appeal by the union & Zwelinzima Vavi.

Cosatu members sing during the opening day of the union federation's two-day Special National Congress in Midrand. Picture: Vumani Mkhize/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Rebel unions aligned with Numsa have lost the first battle in the Cosatu's special national congress by failing to force the gathering to hear an appeal by the metalworkers' union and expelled Secretary General Zwelinzima Vavi.

Delegates from rival factions took part in a 10-hour debate on whether Second Deputy President Zingiswa Losi and Numsa's replacement, the Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (Limusa) should be allowed into the meeting.

Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) were eventually defeated in a vote, with an overwhelming majority voting in favour of their presence.

As it became evident that workers would not entertain a change to the agenda proposed by Cosatu to leaders, delegates of unions supporting Numsa started walking out of the main venue.

They included workers from the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa's (Denosa), Fawu and the South African Municipal Workers' Union (Samwu).

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The entire Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (Sacau) delegation also left the hall, but Cosatu President S'dumo Dlamini claimed this was not a walkout.

"Sacau, who did the right thing, came to us here and said, 'we want to apologise leadership, we must leave with our delegates, so that we catch up with that other matter that side. We will not see seen like we are boycotting the vote, we're coming back tomorrow to participate in the Congress.'"

The agenda was adopted with one addition, that leadership is discussed by delegates when congress resumes today.