Cosatu wraps up intense congress

S'dumo Dlamini wrapped up the federation’s special national congress with a declaration calling for unity.

Cosatu members at the union’s special national congress held at Gallagher Convention Center on 13 July 2015. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Cosatu President S'dumo Dlamini has said all of the federation's concerns around building unity while unions remain divided on loyalty have been expressed in the declaration at its special national congress.

The meeting wrapped up in Midrand on Tuesday after two days of intense debates about whether the Numsa and Zwelinzima Vavi should return, and if other unions are guilty of poaching each other's members.

In the end, unions overwhelmingly voted to restrict Numsa and Vavi's appeal to an ordinary congress in November.

Dlamini said they want to build unity in the federation's lower structures.

"It was not straitjacketing people to raise other issues of concern about unity and cohesion of the federation. You find them expressed very clearly in the declaration. We are making a point, there can be no unity that will be superficial."

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The congress wrapped up with a declaration being adopted after concerns about utterances on leadership.

Dlamini said the special national congress was a success and campaigns will be adopted to make sure unity is built over time.

He said Cosatu has disproved its critics.

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Cosatu's special national congress concluded with rival factions sticking to their guns despite a clear show of support for the leadership and a commitment to unity from all delegates.

The congress was called by a third of affiliates two years ago to address divisions, at the heart of which was Numsa's expulsion and Vavi's dismissal.

The metalworkers union and former general secretary were sharply criticised by unions such as the Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) and Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (Limusa) but received support from unions such as the South Africa Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu), the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) and the South African Football Players Union (Safpu).

The four-hour debate on Tuesday was aimed at flushing out the reasons for divisions in Cosatu, but it turned into delegates hurling insults at rival factions and the leadership.

Delegates from Popcru and Limusa took aim at those calling for a change of leadership.

"The federation is intact. Now there's the loudest noise when the federation takes corrective measures against an affiliate. That cannot be accepted. There was no noise when this federation took action against certain leaders in the past," said a Popcru representative.

"You've seen that we've been arguing since yesterday a this congress that the CEC does not have a right to interpret the Constitution. And that is not true. Chapter 17 is clear that the CEC interprets the Constitution and takes decisions on the basis of that," added a Limusa representative.

Fawu and Safpu then hit back.

"Immediately when the ANC closed the door behind us at the CEC, what did we do? We unbundled all the issues that have been put on ceasefire… we singled out Numsa and we expelled it as the CEC. Everything has been thrown at the CEC to help Cosatu. And every time it touches that, it breaks it," said a Fawu representative.

"It's very unfortunate that this congress was denied an opportunity to really deal with the issues of unity and cohesion. Electing not to, of course, address the issue of Numsa and the issue of comrade Zwelinzima Vavi. When you look at the discussion document, from page 28 to page 37, there are a number of allegations that are made which I believe would have been important for those comrades to come and address this issue, said the Safpu representative"

In the declaration, Cosatu acknowledged the polarising views but called on unions to work on building unity from within the federation.