Vavi keeps Cosatu top job
Johannesburg - Cosatu's top leadership retained their positions unopposed at the trade union federation's 11th national congress on Monday.
General secretary Zwelinzima Vavi was nominated unopposed to the same position for a third term at the congress in Midrand.
Bheki Ntshalintshali will remain Vavi's deputy.
Congress of SA Trade Unions president Sidumo Dlamini, first deputy president Tyotyo James, second deputy president Zingiswa Losi retain their positions.
Freda Oosthuizen was the only candidate nominated for the position of treasurer.
Although all the positions are unopposed, the results of the leadership election will officially be announced on Thursday.
President Jacob Zuma congratulated the leaders.
“Originally I was supposed to greet you, before elections. Now I must greet you as the new office bearers... and I wish to congratulate you, this new fresh from the box, collective of the office bearers,” he said.
“It says something to this federation... that when challenges are there, this federation brings back unity.”
Zuma thanked Cosatu delegates for preventing those who wanted to “deplete” the federation from taking control of the congress.
Events at Lonmin's mine in Marikana dominated proceedings on the first day of the four-day congress.
Forty-five people have been killed in incidents relating to an illegal strike at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, in North West, since August.
The ongoing strike has been partly blamed on rivalry between incumbent union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), a Cosatu affiliate, and a breakaway union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).
Zuma hit back at opposition parties for comparing a strong police presence in Marikana to apartheid tactics.
“We appeal to some political party leaders in the country who have been vocal, to desist from the irresponsible language of comparing the Marikana law enforcement campaign to apartheid-era measures,” he told the around 3000 delegates.
“They know that what they are saying is not true. They are unashamedly using a tragedy to score political points instead of putting the interests of the workers and the country first.”
Zuma said the increased police presence at Marikana was a reaction to increased intimidation and violence by striking workers.
“This 1/8police presence 3/8 does not take away the rights of miners and residents to protest, peacefully and unarmed, as provided for in the laws of the land. The agencies have been told to be firm, but to respect the rights of residents and strikers,” he said.
Dlamini said workers should use the congress to tell Cosautu where it had gone wrong.
“These four days will be your opportunity to tell us to our faces where we have deviated. An organisation becomes stronger by purging itself.” Cosatu also had to respond to “systematic attacks” against it in the wake of the Marikana shooting, Dlamini said.
“The problem in Marikana is not rivalry between unions, nor can it simply be put as being a widening gap between leaders and members.
“This will obviously be a matter which we will have to honestly confront during our discussions, but the central issue is that workers in the mines are rising against their continued exploitation by employers,” Dlamini said.
“Workers... 1/8were 3/8 simply saying we produce wealth and we want our reasonable share and they expect to be given a fair share.”
It was “interesting to note” that most of the richest people in South Africa came from those in charge of the mining sector, he said.
Zuma urged miners and mine bosses to urgently resolve their disputes as they were undermining the economy and South Africa could not afford to go into recession.
“We cannot afford to go into a recession, and revert to the 2008 and 2009 period where the country lost close to a million jobs, which we are still battling to recover.”
The gold and platinum sector had lost almost R4.5 billion in production in the past nine months due to work stoppages, he said.
The coal sector had lost R118 million in this period.
“The National Treasury estimates that through its indirect impact on the economy, the strike actions in addition to other stoppages have subtracted close to R3.1 billion already from the national fiscus,” Zuma said.
He said government would continue to help the mining negotiations through the department of labour.
SA Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande said it was time to be self-critical.
“We failed these workers and their families,” he said, referring to Marikana.
“We failed to leverage effective social responsibility requirements out of the mining houses,” he said.
“We were too focused on using the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Act to enforce BEE shareholding.”
Zuma received a warm welcome as he made his way on to the stage. Following his speech, he broke into his trademark “Umshini wami” with delegates joining in enthusiastically.
A handful held two fingers in the air Ä a sign calling for Zuma to serve a second term as African National Congress president.
Congress house rules do not allow singing divisive, war, or tribal songs, “unrelated to the class battle”.
“Singing in praise of any serving leader of the alliance is not divisive. However, singing against any leader of the alliance... is divisive and will not be allowed,” according to the rules.
The rules also ban “showing of signs that seek to prematurely open the debate on leadership in the ANC”.
The ANC holds its national conference in Mangaung in December, when new leaders will be elected. Nominations for leadership positions by branches officially open only in October.
The first day ended with Vavi reading a declaration on the Marikana tragedy, which called for a second independent commission of inquiry to work in parallel with the president's Judicial Commission.
This commission would look at miners' social and working conditions. - Sapa