'Cosatu leaders must put federation first'

Delegates at the group's congress in Midrand have been asked to put internal squabbles aside.

Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Congress of South African Trade Unions' (Cosatu) national congress has started with an appeal to delegates to put the federation before internal squabbles, and what appears to be a boycott by some of the smaller unions within the federation.

#COSATU James: We should remember to always put members first, above everything. But it doesn't mean they are put ahead of the country. GW

#COSATU James: If COSATU is divided and fighting, South Africa and the alliance will never be well. GW

The congress was delayed for several hours due to the failure of unions to submit their lists of membership numbers and delegations.

There's also been a heated exchange between the house chairperson Tyotyo James and other unions over the status of second deputy president Zingiswa Losi.

Credentials have been opposed by the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), which says Losi should not be allowed to take part in the congress.

This is apparently because their presence is in violation of the constitution.

Sadtu's general secretary Mugwena Maluleke said, "The CEC has failed the workers that belong to Cosatu."

The congress then heard that the federation's executive body failed its members by not disciplining Fawu for its objections.

#COSATU FAWU now rising on a point of order, saying the top table must be included in credentials. Other unions arguing on technicalities.

#COSATU A member of SATAWU has seconded FAWU's opposition of the credentials. FAWU disputes Zingiswa Losi's status as NOB. GW

Fawu's opposition was also criticised by a delegate from teacher union Sadtu.

"Some of them are not supposed to be seated at the front table and we want to raise that within the prescripts of the constitution."

The house chairperson then called for a vote, but the acting general secretary said Fawu should be allowed to motivate its position.

The debate is likely to be postponed until after ANC President Jacob Zuma addresses delegates.

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.

At the same time, Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini says delegates attending the congress should not be distracted by the ANC succession debate.

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

"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."