Cosatu divisions apparent at congress

Sasawu is one of Numsa’s most vocal supporters and it did not send a delegation.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions’ national congress is taking place in Midrand. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The South African State and Allied Workers Union (Sasawu) has confirmed that it's boycotting the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)'s national congress underway in Midrand because there is no hope of resolving divisions within the federation.

Cosatu's divisions have been apparent from the start of the congress, with rival factions clashing over credentials and the expulsion of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa).

Sasawu's general secretary has told Eyewitness News after Cosatu's last congress they realised that there was no hope at forging unity.

Sasawu is one of Numsa's most vocal supporters, and despite being an affiliate in good standing, it did not send a delegation.

The debate around credentials has also led to President Jacob Zuma postponing his address to congress until later this evening.

#Cosatu Members of the trade union federation sing ahead of the start of their National Congress. VM

While Cosatu affiliates continue debating whether disputed leaders and unions should remain in its national congress, there's been another desperate plea to abandon the bickering and focus on worker issues.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) has clashed with unions such as Popcru, Sadtu and Nehawu over the presence of Zingiswa Losi and the Liberated Metalworkers Union of South Africa (Limusa) at the congress.

They argue that Losi and Limusa's presence is not in line with Cosatu's constitution.

The matter was eventually put down to a vote with an overwhelming victory for Losi and Limusa.

The vote was lost by 1,987 votes for and 331 votes against.

First deputy president Tyotyo James says the divisions need to be put aside for the sake of unity.

"We have come for only one thing: to unite our federation. To put everything that sets us apart aside and focus on this glorious movement."


The long delay there is a sign of the level of contestation at this conference.

Fawu knew coming into this conference that it simply doesn't have the numbers to support expelled metalworkers union, Numsa, in any meaningful way.

But its conduct in refusing to allow the agenda to continue shows how angry some people are at the way Numsa was expelled.

That's a sign the scars of that expulsion have not yet healed and that there's a long road ahead before Cosatu's leaders can say it's unified.