Cosatu: We will mark our revival with National Congress

Cosatu began its congress in Midrand today where 2,500 delegates will discuss its numerous challenges.

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

JOHANNESBURG - The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)'s second deputy president Tyotyo James says while the federation's critics hope it'll be buried, the organisation's congress will instead mark its revival.

Cosatu starts its congress in Midrand today where 2,500 delegates will discuss its numerous challenges.

#COSATU national congress still delayed. Most of the affiliate haven't arrived yet. GW pic.twitter.com/N9jdRDm1OJ

James says Cosatu will defy critics' expectations.

"We are hoping to cement the unity process that we have started already. The challenges we are facing are not insurmountable. We are going to overcome them. We will unite Cosatu here today. It will not die here."

NEW LEADERS

Delegates are due to elect new leaders for the first time since infighting and factional battles started in 2012.

Cosatu began its congress with an acting general secretary and newly admitted metalworkers union following the dismissal of Zwelinzima Vavi and expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

But despite the infighting and membership drop of around 400,000 workers the incumbent leadership does not appear to be at risk of losing their positions.

This congress is expected to elect Bheki Ntshalintshali as Vavi's replacement.

He played a crucial role in managing the divisions within Cosatu and officially announced the decision to dismiss Vavi to the public.

NEW METALWORKERS UNION

Congress is also expected to ratify the admittance of the Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (Limusa) as Numsa's replacement in Cosatu.

But there has been some discontent among affiliates about Limusa's low membership numbers, which hover at around 7,000 workers.

At the Special National Congress held in September, unions such as South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union (Saccawu) and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) told delegates that they will confront leadership issues and victimisation of certain leaders at this gathering.

Nominations for leadership is expected to take place today.

NO DISTRACTIONS

Meanwhile, Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini says delegates attending the congress should not be distracted by the African National Congress (ANC) succession debate, as this will divert attention away from issues affecting workers.

Dlamini says Cosatu needs to take a critical look at the causes of divisions within each affiliate, in order to restore unity.

He says while the congress must emerge with a clear plan to campaign for the ANC during next year's local government elections, delegates should not focus on succession within the ruling party.

"Let us not rush into any succession debate on the leadership of the ANC. We have the elections to win next year and we have workers' issues to address."

Despite Dlamini's calls for restraint, unions such as Sadtu and the NUM have hinted at discussions on succession at the congress.