A factional Cosatu uses workers as cannon fodder

12 May 2016 - 12:09 By NATASHA MARRIAN

It's no no secret that the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has in recent years been plunged into a crisis that has rendered it unrecognisable from the mighty federation it once was.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini at the special national congress. File photo.
Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini at the special national congress. File photo.
Image: Moeletsi Mabe. ©The Times

During its three-year-long paralysis, in which it was subsumed by self-destructive, factional warfare, Cosatu was barely in the news for its fight on behalf of workers, but constantly made the headlines for the battles among its leaders.

Emerging from that crisis, and purged from what it described as the "enemy within" — its former largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, and former general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi — the new character of the federation is finally emerging. Its members are now mainly public sector workers, and a federation that was once militant and cynical even of its allies, now panders to the political powers that be.

When Cosatu came out in defence of the 4,500 or so Oakbay employees, who could be affected adversely by the banks’ closure of the Gupta-owned company’s bank accounts, questions were raised about its motives. But its president, Sdumo Dlamini, insists the aim is to defend the rights of workers employed by the family.

He also questions what appears to have been a co-ordinated move by the banks and other companies to act against Oakbay at the same time, coincidentally, when the influence of the family on the African National Congress (ANC) was coming under intense scrutiny by the party itself. He says the move was political, and a clear sign that the banks have delved into the political machinations of the governing party.

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