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Media Centre | Discussion
Draft Discussion document on the Unity and Cohesion of COSATU towards COSATU Special National Congress, to be held from 13th -14th July 2015, Gallagher Estate, at Midrand, Johannesburg.
10 July 2015
“A trade union is the prime mass organisation of the working class. To fulfil its purpose, it must be as broad as possible and fight to maintain its legal status. It must attempt, in the first place, to unite, on an industrial basis, all workers (at whatever level of political consciousness) who understand the elementary need to come together and defend and advance their economic conditions. It cannot demand more as a condition of membership. But because the state and its political and repressive apparatus is an instrument of the dominant economic classes, it is impossible for trade unions in any part of the world to keep out of the broader political conflict” - Joe Slovo
The convening of this Special National Congress (SNC) is based on a request by nine (9) COSATU affiliates to the COSATU President whom they requested to convene a Special National Congress to discuss the Unity and Cohesion of COSATU and the leadership.
This request was presented at the 2013 September Central Executive Committee (CEC) and it was made in terms of the COSATU constitution which gives the President responsibility to consider the request.
Clause 3.3.2 says that the President must call a SNC if the CEC passes a resolution calling for the meeting; or if not less than 1/3 of the affiliates in good standing submit a written request to the General Secretary for the attention of the President calling for the meeting.
The sitting of this Special National Congress follows from a long preparatory process contained in the reports which were presented by the COSATU president dating back from the 2013 November CEC and a number of deliberations which took place in all the CECs which followed the 2013 November CEC up to 2014 February CEC.
The Special CEC held on the 19th November 2014, agreed that the Special National Congress be convened from the 13th to the 14th July 2015 subject to the availability of the venue and the outcomes of the Political process which were underway.
It is worth noting that this Special National Congress is taking place four months before the convening of the ordinary Congress.
This explains why the discussions in the Special National Congress is different from that of an ordinary National Congress
This draft discussion document has been prepared under the dark cloud of plans by some within and outside of the federation to undermine it as part of undermining the Special National Congress as a whole.
Despite these plans we will not retreat an inch from holding a successful Special National Congress as duly requested by one third of COSATU affiliates. It is almost eight months since the 7 out of the 8 who asked for the Special National Congress took a decision to boycott the CEC.
It is worth noting that DENOSA only missed one CEC, whilst PAWUSA and CWU have rejoined the CEC and fully participating both in the CEC and other COSATU activities, whilst SACCAWU, SAFPU, SASAWU and FAWU have not been participating in the CEC and in any other federation’s activities.
It is important to note though that all COSATU unions have been participating in COSATU activities at a provincial level despite the decision by some union not to participate.
In the course of writing this document we have received reports attributed to the unions who are still boycotting the CEC, working together with the expelled union and a dismissed former leader of COSATU that they were having a plan to undermine the Special National Congress by using the SACCAWU, SAFPU, SASAWU and FAWU delegates to the Special National Congress to force through a demand of adding other agenda items which were not part of the request for the Special National Congress.
They have also declared that a new federation will be born on the same date of COSATU holding its Special National Congress.
The question which arises is why would these unions request for the Special National Congress, waste workers monies by taking COSATU to court under a false pretext that the President had refused to convene it and when the reality of the convening of the Special National Congress dawn then start planning to disrupt it?
Was the request to convene the Special National Congress aimed at destroying COSATU or was it aimed at building unity of our glorious federation?
As reports and evidence of the planned disruptions continue to be exposed, the choice we had has been to act destructively and shirk our responsibility in the light of the known plans to disrupt the Special National Congress or to honour our responsibility to do everything within our abilities to build a firm foundation towards the unity of the federation.
We have chosen to stand by our solemn commitment that we have no any other interest except to build the federation of Elijah Barayi, John Gomomo, Yure Mgotyolo, and Violet Seboni into a colossal, a bulwark, a fortification and an even stronger fighting federation for workers.
This is a responsibility we will never shirk nor abandon instead we will soldier on through the chilly winds and the staggering storms of lies, malice and plans to destroy our federation in the knowledge that at the end the truth shall triumph.
We remain inspired by the words of our first President comrade Elijah Barayi that “we have to make it clear to all that a giant has risen which will confront all who stand in its way, as COSATU will not stand for defeat”. Our main pre-occupation is to ensure that the overarching intention of Unity and Cohesion of COSATU should be to build a Strong COSATU.
We also remain inspired by the theme of this Special National Congress “Building unity and cohesion of COSATU to advance the National Democratic Revolution”
2. Expected outcomes from achieving the Unity of the Federation
‘It is very important to clarify ’what kind of unity’ we are seeking in our class struggle..... Everyone knows that the simple call for “unity” indicates little. One must not allow oneself to be mislead by the cry for ’unity’. Those who have this word most often on their lips are the ones who sow the most dissension... the biggest sectarians and the biggest brawlers and rogues at times shout the loudest for unity’-Engels
We need to be clear that the process of building unity and cohesion in the federation will not be an event but will be a protracted process which will have its own challenges. Secondly we should be clear that intention of building unity and cohesion is primarily about building COSATU to remain even stronger as a fighting federation.
The focus of this Special National Congress is about maintaining the unity of COSATU and the integrity of the organisation as a cohesive force in society. Workers in South Africa are strongest and best served when organised under a united COSATU.
The Principle of One Union One Industry, One country, One Federation, Paid up Membership, Non – racialism, International worker contact and Solidarity, Workers Control were accepted as the bedrock upon which the federation was founded .
COSATU’s primary objective is and must continue to be to defend, protect, consolidate and advance the interests of members. It also include mobilising workers and the working class behind a fighting programme that encompasses the implementation of all the federation’s resolutions and policies including its core campaigns in defence of workers.
COSATU is a home of all workers and we must all strive to ensure that this Special National Congress inspires all workers to see COSATU as their home.
We should therefore declare in advance that the expected outcomes of building the unity and cohesion of COSATU will include working to build a COSATU with the following features as adopted by our various congresses:
1. COSATU should increase its size substantially, becoming a home for all working people, black and white workers.
2. We should build a powerful organisation in all workplaces and sectors, able to defend workers rights, bargain for better wages and benefits, improve working conditions and the quality of working life, struggle for workplace democracy and service the needs of workers and shop stewards effectively.
3. We should build the federation and its affiliates as fighting organisations with efficient structures, led by effective, assertive and coherent leadership.
4. We should build dynamic, democratic, vibrant organisation which empowers its members to be active as workers, as trade unions members, and as citizens.
5. We need to develop the internal practices and goals that ensure our staff is skilled and committed, proud and happy to be trade unionists.
6. COSATU and its affiliates should become a home for working women, with many women leaders and staff, demonstrating in practice its ability to improve the working life of women.
7. We should rebuild a powerful working class movement, entailing a strong organisational relationship with an ANC which is biased towards the working class, working closer with the SACP as the vanguard of the working class as well as alliances with other social movements, NGOs, faith based organisation, intellectuals and the progressive student- movement , etc.
8. COSATU should asset and retain its independence while building alliances.
9. Democracy is a tremendous historical victory for the working class. COSATU should commit itself to consolidating, deepening and extending democracy in South Africa in other words, to political transformation or the redistribution of power.
10. COSATU is the biggest organisation representing the creators of wealth in South Africa. As such it should continue asserting its role in economic development, in redistribution of wealth, income, resources, knowledge and skills, and job creation.
11. COSATU should continue asserting its goals of broader social justice - the delivery of services to all citizens, the construction of a social welfare system, ending the wealth and income gaps produced by apartheid, a Living Wage for all, helping to end crime, corruption and violence, etc.
12. In pursuit of the above goals COSATU needs to develop the resources and capacities to engage effectively with the Alliance, government, parliament, NEDLAC, provincial and local government, and with employers at sectoral and workplace levels.
13. COSATU should ensure that it is a force to be reckoned with, increasing its influence in society and winning strong support from society. It should seek to deepen the culture of solidarity in society, as a counter to the culture of self-enrichment.
Deriving from this understanding it means that the discussion on unity and cohesion of COSATU must be goal oriented and must therefore be first and foremost about building our federation. This means that the debates and discussions on unity and cohesion must be anchored on the sound founding principles of the federation which we must all seek to defend and advance.
The reality is that it is these principles which lie at the centre of underlying causes that have led to the current divisions in the federation. This matter will be dealt with later in the document.
3. A platform for Engagement
This is a draft discussion document which is intended to stimulate discussions first and foremost amongst the COSATU affiliates as it offers a platform to do an honest self introspection and allowing us to assert our true character as a progressive, militant and radical federation of trade unions.
We must not shy away in recognizing our weaknesses because it is only when we acknowledge our weaknesses that we can be in a position to truly address them.
This Special National Congress therefore offers to lay a foundation for engagement towards the ordinary Congress to be held at the end of November this year where resolutions coupled with programmes can be adopted in finding an everlasting solution on the unity and cohesion of the federation.
If this is realized we would have fulfilled the call made in our founding statement that our core tasks is to:
1. Organize the unorganized workers and build effective trade unions based on the democratic organization of workers in the factories, mines, shops, farms and other workplaces.
2. Organize national industrial trade unions, financed and controlled by their worker members through democratically elected committees.
3. Unify national industrial trade unions, under COSATU`s leadership.
4. Combat the divisions amongst the workers of South Africa and unite them into strong and confident working class formations.
5. Encourage democratic worker organization and leadership in all spheres of our society together with other progressive sectors of the community.
6. Reinforce and encourage progressive international worker contact and solidarity so as to assist one another in our struggles.
We would have increased the call captured in our founding statement that “COSATU calls on all those who identify with this (above) commitment to join us and the workers whom we represent, as comrades in the struggle ahead. We call on all trade unions to strive to unite their members in their ranks without discrimination and prejudice. We seek to protect and further the interests of all workers. Our struggle is inspired by the universal slogan of working class solidarity: "An injury to one is an injury to all".
We are therefore reminded that we have inherited a rich legacy of democratic and militant trade unionism from our predecessors.
We owe it to them to sustain and build a united COSATU.
It is for this reason that this report is dedicated to the millions of ordinary workers – employed and unemployed, within and beyond the borders of our country who on a daily basis wake up to brave the dangers of the dark morning and night to face the chilly winter travelling to work or to seek employment with only one thing in their mind – to earn an honest living so that they can put food on the table for their families, so that their families can dress, have shelter and so that their children can have money for transport to school.
It is a dedication to those who travel unmeasured distances to the darkest belly of the earth to produce the wealth, which keeps the engines of our economy running, and still earn peanuts.
This discussion document has been inspired by the fortitude and endurance of those who have nothing to lose but their chains. It is intended to build on the commitment of the working class who against all odds continue to occupy the front ranks in the struggle for their total emancipation.
It is further dedicated to the memory of those that walked this road before us, the stalwarts that laid the foundation for us.
These heroes and heroines of our movement have passed the revolutionary baton to the current generation of COSATU leaders and members.
They have left us with a great sense of responsibility towards the federation and indeed our country. It is because of their legacy and the glorious history that defines our federation that the nation expects us to play a catalytic role in this current phase of our democratic dispensation.
We are indeed inspired by among others Elijah Barayi, John Gomomo, Chris Dlamini, Allinah Rantsolase, Leslie Masina, Mark Shope, Liz Abrahams, Moses Kotane, Vuyisile Mini, Ray Alexander Simons, Moses Mabhida, Stephen Dlamini, Harry Gwala, Lawrence Phokanoka, Billy Nair, Thozamile Gqwetha, Jabulile Ndlovu, Mbuyiselo Ngwenda, Violet Seboni Bill Andrews, Dora Tamana, J La Guma, JB Marks, Lilian Ngoyi, Chief Albert Luthuli, Francis Baard, Poobie Naidoo, Ruth First, Oliver Tambo, Alpheus Malivha, Chris Hani, Joe Slovo, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Mzala Nxumalo, the list is endless - and indeed Nelson Mandela.
The Special National Congress has an obligation to ask itself a few pressing questions that deserved equally frank answers. Have we as a collective done enough to protect the legacy of our forbearers?
As we approach the Special National Congress we are reminded about what we said in the 2015 plan that “the complex challenges facing the working class demand a longer- term vision to build a strong trade union movement and to assert working class leadership. The march to our longer- term vision demands patience, resilience; bold thinking foresighted and visionary leadership”.
The overarching intention of this report is therefore to be like a song of hope in the gray lips of the hungry, to give comfort, consolation and solace that can wipe out the tears in the burning eyes of the angry, and to recommit to the promise of freedom that will make the sweat on the forehead of the weary worthwhile.
Its overarching message is war to the class enemy and unity amongst the working people!
4. Objectives of the Discussion Document
This discussion document is therefore intended to achieve among others the following objectives:
1. A desire to find sustainable solutions and a way out to the challenges confronting us as the federation, the challenges confronting the workers and the working class as a whole.
2. To use it as a basis to develop a uniting platform for the federation as whole and to use to lay a firm foundation to build a strong workers federation.
3. To objectively conduct collective self introspection, determine progress and challenges and to share lessons from our own experiences and from others and to develop a new perspective as we generate new ideas to advance the unity of workers under the leadership of COSATU.
4. To recommit to the founding principles of the federation.
5. To use lessons derived out of this period to build strong industrial, services and public sector unions.
5. The context of the Special National Congress
There are two main and dominant issues which defines the context within which the Special National Congress will be taking place,
The first one is the fact that the challenges facing COSATU today are not new in the history of the trade union movement both internationally and particularly in the history of the African Continent post independence.
As the South African trade union movement, we are better informed of the dangers that have faced trade union movements before us both in the continent and internationally.
History has shown that liberation movements ascended to political office and had their political power undermined by amongst others the fact that they held political office without having political power.
As noted in one document presented at the 1985 ANC consultative conference held in Kabwe that “it is conceivable in a capitalist country, as it happened in France, Britain, Sweden, etc, that a party of the working class may win the elections and assume political office - that is, it is given control over the ministries - without that in any way altering the fact that political power remains in the hands of the capitalist class.
What happens in such instances is that a party of the working class is allowed to administer the capitalist state, introduce ameliorative reforms, and even impose certain controls on the activities of the capitalists just as long as it does not tamper with the central sphere of capitalist political power”.
Political power also get undermined by lack of capacity to govern which communicated a message of a party not being ready to govern and in the process governing becomes a learning experience with many mistakes and challenges.
Countries such as CUBA did go through such challenges regarding the capacity of cadres deployed in the strategic centres of the state but they responded swiftly as soon as they identified the challenge.
It is this experience which later made comrade Che Guevara to write that “when it became clear that a new social class had definitely taken power in Cuba, the great limitations which the exercise of state power would encounter because of the existing conditions in the state became evident: the lack of cadres to cope with the enormous tasks which had to be carried out in the state apparatus, in political organisation, and on the entire economic front.
Immediately after the taking of power, administrative assignments were made "by rule of thumb"; there were no major problems - there were none because as yet the old structure had not been shattered.
The apparatus functioned in its old, slow, lifeless, broken-down way, but it had an organisation and with it sufficient co-ordination to maintain itself through inertia, disdaining the political changes which came about as a prelude to the change in the economic structure”
The masses and supporters of the liberation movement have always shown understanding of the difficulties for the first few years however as time goes on they became impatient for the lack of development; service delivery and more on the economic side; coupled with this, many get the desire to lead and internal challenges emerge of regime change and young leaders getting impatient and splits happened.
The trade union movements which have been part of the liberation movements find itself in the same developments. The question of the policies of the liberation movement how “right" or “left" emerged in the trade union movement. In that context not only "left" but "ultra left" thought of action become dominant and insist that "ultra left" represent the real revolution.
When this happen people find it hard to identify counter revolution when it comes in "left" clothing. They think "Anyway left is better than right. Having learned to hate imperialism, they tend to assume that he who speaks most sharply and advocates the most extreme actions hates imperialism the most; that the reddest flag is ipso facto, the most revolutionary". If revolutionary politics were so simply no one would need to study Marx, Engels, Lenin or Mao.
As Comrade Samora Matchell once said that: “...the other face is that of the indirect and secondary enemy, who presents himself under the cover of a nationalist and even as a revolutionary thus making it difficult to identify him... the fighter must distinguish friend from foe even if the latter is concealed under the same colour, language, family ties or tribal markings as their own, even if he raises his flag with us”.
The "Ultra left" politics may appear to be redder but are disastrous because they tend to isolate the working class and make it impossible for the working class leaders to unite all forces that can be united against the main enemy.
A common element disrupting unity is often is " I am the core" thinking, which maintains that "I and my group" are the real revolutionaries while people with other ideas or people who have come to the same ideas at the later date really do not deserve consideration as comrades and certainly cannot be in the leadership.
This shows how damaging the “I am the core" thinking can be, how it leads to arrogance, isolation and finally to crimes against the people, and dressed in the most noble left rhetoric.
Our continent has many examples of how trade unions responded to the developments post independence.
We had seen examples of labour moving out of the alliance and forming its own party as part of the opposition.
This either fails to take place, as in the case of Nigeria, or in the case of Zambia and Zimbabwe labour initiates a political party but becomes victims of reactionary politics by the new parties. We also have examples of Uganda and Ghana where labour abstains from party politics with a mix bag of results.
So, with the experience on our side we thought that when this illness visits us we would be better prepared and strong enough from falling into these pitfalls.
Reflecting where we are now we can conclude that we are at that moment which had been experienced by other countries post independence, however we are not ready as we thought we would be to respond properly.
So this is the context which we find ourselves as we approach our special national congress. We have been deliberately weakened, misled, divided and isolated from many of our friends and allies, particularly from the progressive civil society formations.
Below we further contextualise the situation we are in; in particular we look at the peculiarities of the current situation in the federation:
Few unprecedented actions:
1. In past COSATU CEC has expelled Affiliates namely SADSAWU, SADNU and CWUSA for inability to honour their obligation to pay affiliation fees as required by the COSATU constitution. It is the first time in our history to expel an affiliation for defying the founding principles of the federation.
Again this was done in terms of the constitution after the union in question (NUMSA) flagrantly violated the founding principle of the federation of one union one industry and had ignored the repeated pleas to reverse its decisions to extend its scope to other union’s scope with an intention to liquidate them.
Now there are COSATU leaders who are supporting this union despite its wrong action.
2. The CEC has in the past dismissed worker National Office Bearers namely comrade Peter Malepe (who was forced to tender his resignation at a Special CEC that was specially convene to discuss his matter)and Willy Madisha including comrade Joe Nkosi who had to resign at a point of facing accusation of bringing the organisation into disrepute but it is the first time that the CEC had to dismiss the official in the name of the General Secretary for violating the federation’s constitution including the fact that he was facing many other disciplinary charges. .
3. It is not for the first time for the federation to convene the Special National Congress.
We convened more than Special National Congresses between 1988 and 1999. The difference is that the previous ones were convened by the CEC and its agenda and preparations were done by the CEC. It is worth noting that these Special National Congresses only discussed issues that they were convened for.
On this one, it is the first time we are convening it under the request by one third of COSATU affiliates. Strange enough four of those unions who requested the SNC are working tirelessly to undermine the same Special National Congress.
In fact there has been a declaration made by the same grouping that there would be a new federation born on the 13th and 14 July which are the dates of our Special National Congress.
As we go to the Special National Congress we have received reports that a war chest which runs into millions of rands have been created and its is intended to be used to disrupt and collapse the Special National Congress , divide unions and to launch a new federation
4. It is the first time that we would have two (2) congresses in one year at the cost of about R12 million for COSATU and many thousands rands for affiliates. This is a deliberate move under the pretext to exercise the constitutional right to financially liquidate the federation.
5. For the first time in the history of the federation we could not hold a scheduled Central Committee because there was a stalemate between the former General Secretary and the Political Commission on the context and content of the political report of the CEC towards the Central Committee.
6. It is also for the first time in our history that we have unions namely FAWU, SACCAWU and SAFPU and SASAWU who took a conscious decision to boycott the CEC on the basis of a democratic decision taken by the CEC to expel NUMSA. These unions were part of the decision but because the decision was not in their favour they decided to boycott the CEC.
What choices do we have? We have only one choice that is to defend our glorious Federation – COSATU.
Heightened Offensive against Workers and the Working Class
Other factors which constitute the context of our Special National Congress are the environment of an increased offensive against the workers and the working class all over the world including in our country.
There is a concerted offensive against the working class at both the domestic and international levels.
This has, amongst other things, been characterized by the centralization and concentration of capital and wealth; the financialisation of the economy; the systematic attack on the social functions of the state achieved through the struggle of the workers and peoples; the commercialization of all spheres of social life, in a logic of privatizing all that can bring higher returns to capital; the attacks on international law and sovereignty of the states; the centralization of political power and its submission to economic power and to the strategies of militarization of international relations, are features of capitalist policies that dominate most countries all over the world.
The exploitation of working men and women worsens and intensifies all over the world, being clearly marked by a denial of rights and the abuse of its workforce in return of increasingly lower wages. The central axes of this offensive are cuts in real wages; intensification of work periods; deregulation and increase in working hours; deregulation of labour relations; widespread casual labour, particularly among the women and young workers, and overexploitation of migrant workers.
In addition, there is an increase in the appropriation of labour productivity gains by capital; an increase in the retirement age; cuts in pensions and retirement benefits; increase in unemployment rates; regression of social and labour rights; and the denial of the right to bargain collectively and to strike.
The offensive seen at an international level gets translated into our country in different forms.
Capital in our country through their ideological and political institutions such as the DA and the Free Market Foundation have come fighting to take away our hard won rights which include the constitutionally guaranteed right to strike , the right to collective bargaining, employers in our country are openly refusing to implement some of the transformational labour legislations and where they do implement these legislations they do so half heartedly for compliance reasons or in a manner that hollows out the intended objectives of these legislation.
These include recognition of Prior Learning, Skills Development Act and in particular the Employment Equity Act
The offensive waged by international and domestic capital adds to the prevailing colonial and apartheid social conditions in which the triple challenge of unemployment, poverty and inequalities continues to define South African society, 21 years into our democracy.
Progress, Victories and the remaining Challenges
Whilst we can say with pride and confidence that our struggles and our revolution have in the past 21 years secured a constitution which guarantees workers rights including the right to strike and the right to join a trade union.
This came with a number of transformative legislations which further advanced and protected workers rights including the protection of rights in the vulnerable sectors.
We can point to concrete progress with regard to socio economic development where we have seen over 1 million households being connected to electricity, adding to the 6 million households electrified between 1994 and 2009.
Half a million solar water heaters have been installed on rooftops – mainly for poor households, one of most ambitious programmes in the world.
More than 315 000 have been installed from 2009 to 2013; with regard to infrastructure development we saw the building of dams and road infrastructure to facilitate development.
But the reality is that centuries of colonialism and apartheid have left a legacy which makes it take longer to address the ills and this is coupled with the 2007 and 2008 capitalist crisis which deepens the crisis.
This was also caused by the policy choices made in government which accommodated the neo liberal policy trajectory and did not focus the revolution on the overhaul of the colonial and apartheid economic structure of our country,
Therefore even with all the progress and developments secured since the 1994 breakthrough it is clear that more work still needs to be done to transform the legacy of colonialism and apartheid.
Challenges still confronting us
a) Continued increase of unemployment: We remain confronted by a reality in which more than 50% of South Africans live in poverty and the unemployment rate stands at more than 37%.
Blacks and Africans in particular, continue to constitute the majority of the unemployed. The rate of unemployment is affecting young people the most, with more than 50% of those between 15 & 24 years and more than 31% for 24 and 35 years. Those without matric are most likely to be unemployed.
b) Persisting inequality: In 1995, the inequality in the country was at 0.64, using the Gini coefficient, and stood at 0.65 in 2010/11. At the same time the share of wages in national income has been decreasing, from just below 55% in 1994 to 51% per cent in 2012.
c) Continued marginalisation of the working class in the economy: The marginalisation of the working class in the economy has also been evidenced by the flexibilisation of the labour market in the form of casualisation, outsourcing and the use of labour brokers, the commodification of basic needs (e.g. high electricity tariffs and e-tolls) and the suppression of workers’ wages below productivity gains. As all these challenges facing workers and the working class were heightening the federation had to deal with these challenges imposed by capital and at the same time deal with its own challenges.
6. A brief reflection on the victories secured by COSATU as a evidence of its resilience despite all the challenges
Whilst the Special National Congress is not about reporting on victories but we can say that we remain the biggest federation in South Africa with more than 1, 9 million members and also the biggest in Africa second to NLC. We are still attracting many trade unions and even as we speak we have admitted a new Metal Workers Union and we are still processing many applications for unions who want to be affiliated to COSATU. Below we briefly reflect on some of the achievements secured in the process
6.1. Continued use of strike action by our unions as weapon against employers: Despite the challenges our affiliates, continued to reaffirm the strike as an irreplaceable weapon for workers.
The Department of Labour’s Report on Industrial Action 2014 shows that over the period 2009 to 2014 there has been a constant increase in the number of reported strikes. We suspect that the numbers are substantially under-reported, but regardless of the absolute numbers, there is an upward trend. For an example in 2009 we had 51 strikes; in 2010 we had 74 strikes; in 2011 we had 67 strikes; in 2012 there were 99 strikes and in 2013 there 114 strikes. All of these strike actions are accounted for by COSATU affiliates. For example, in 2013, almost two thirds of all working days lost to industrial action were due to action taken by COSATU affiliates including: NEHAWU 6%; NUM 17%; SATAWU 25%.
6.2. The Convening of the Collective Bargaining, organising and campaigns conference: March 2013 Conference was highly successful, despite the divisions in the federation, because it focused the organisation on the critical issues. Most importantly it sharply placed our demands for labour market transformation, the national minimum wage, and comprehensive collective bargaining, on the national agenda; in addition to addressing the issues of organisational renewal, recruitment etc.
6.3. We mobilised towards Protest Actions On the 7 March 2012: On the 7th March 2012 we mobilised towards one of the most successful protests action against e-tolls and Labour brokers. The national protests action became a massive success despite attempts by some within the federation to sabotage it. Millions of workers went out in numbers.
6.4. Some of the Victories Secured
We continue to occupy the space with regard to other government policy which stands to impact of the working class such immigration policy, the land reform proposals , fracking etc.
We fought and won many struggles in defence of workers’ rights. We waged relentless struggles against an attempt by employers and capital to take away our right to strike.
6.4.1. On the Right to Strike : The DA and the Free market Foundation attempted to table a Bill which was intended to take away our hard won right to strike but we engaged them to a point of the parliament rejecting the bill.
6.4.2. On the National Minimum Wage: Our long standing demand for a National Minimum wage has been agreed to by the Alliance as a whole and the discussions under way are no longer about whether we should have a National Minimum Wage but it is about the form and the modalities towards the realisation of such a Minimum Wage. We have recently presented convincing and properly considered policy proposals at various platforms of engagement.
6.4.3. Campaign against Labour Brokers, E-tolls and Public Transport: We have fought and made progress with regard to e-tolls and labour brokers but we are still pushing the boundaries for a total ban. It is the same with e-tolls campaign which we have now taken to higher levels. Despite on the introduction of the new regime with regard to e-tolls but we continue to call for the scrapping of e –tolls. We are also preparing to also heighten our campaign for an accessible, reliable, affordable and safe public transport.
6.4.4. Labour Law Review: over and above progress made with regard to various aspects of labour legislations which included amendments which effectively resulted to the protection of workers in the vulnerable sectors.
6.4.5. National health Insurance : Our demand for a National Health Insurance as part of the Comprehensive Social Security is no longer about whether we should have it or not but the focus is now on implementation and this still required more focused campaigns. But contestation of interests has delayed its full elaboration and implementation. The Department of Health has rolled out a number of pilot sites for the NHI (National Health Insurance). But there remains a challenge of ensuring that there is clarity on the funding of NHI.
6.4.6. Retirement Funds and comprehensive social security: Government made proposals in the Taxation Laws Amendment Act No.32 of 2013 which was intended to ensure that members save their retirement funds, by converting provident funds, as we know them into in pension funds, which pay a guaranteed monthly payment after retirement until the member is deceased.
The idea has been that when changing employment, or leaving employment, workers should keep their provident funds intact until retirement age. All those over the age of 55 would not be affected by the preservation regulations, and any money accumulated in a fund prior to March 2015 will also not be affected. The changes were also to bring about equal tax treatment for provident and pension funds, which will be beneficial to provident fund members.
We have continued to reject the unilateral imposition of retirement annuities outside of agreement on a package of social security and have demanded a moratorium on the changes in regulation. As we meet in this Special National Congress we have been able to force government to agree to a moratorium on the introduction of the unilateral changes.
7. Brief overview on the 30 years of COSATU’s existence
7.1. Formation of COSATU
Amongst the initial engagements towards the formation of COSATU were the deliberations which took place at the Langa Summit in 8 August 1981, where 100 representatives from 29 unions met to discuss a united response to the newly introduced labour laws which were the attempts to divide unions and tame them into its sweetheart unions.
Even these early discussions were not without challenges where unions got divided around the question of being registered or not being registered.
There were Congress-aligned unions which rejected registration and the FOSATU and CUSA-aligned unions who were eager to use the space opened up by registration.
In April 1982 a Second union summit on unity was convened in Wilgespruit and it resolved to work towards a new, all-inclusive labour federation.
A third summit, held in July 1982 in Port Elizabeth, saw bitter divisions over a range of issues, and failed to move towards agreement for the basis of a broad federation. During this Summit there had emerged a grouping of some seven community based unions who tabled 7 non- negotiable principles at the Summit and were referred to as to as the Magnificent 7, who at some stage walked out leading to the collapse of the Summit.
Does this Sound Familiar?
A fourth summit was convened in Athlone in April 1983 where it was agreed that the proposed federation could embrace unions with different policies, and a feasibility committee was set up to look at the issues. By that time the Magnificent Seven had compromised from their non negotiable seven demands.
Some of the differences were between the unions who were aligned with the principles of the Freedom Charter and affiliated to the UDF and those from the federation of South African Trade Unions (FOSATU), who remained largely `workerist`, arguing for autonomy from political interests.
FOSATU also emphasised the central role of the shop stewards in bargaining and negotiating structures.
On 8th and 9th June, 1985, a fifth and which became a final summit was held at Ipeleheng in Soweto, where a wide range of unions brought their national executive committees to deliberate on the way forward. Unions aligned to the UDF, Black Consciousness, and representing various positions on the nature of the federation, were represented by 400 delegates.
The meeting was chaired by comrade Cyril Ramaphosa (who is also presiding in this process of preserving the integrity of the unity of workers under COSATU) who was the General Secretary of the NUM which had broken away from CUSA.
This Summit proposed a tight federation and set out its five founding principle as non-racialism, ‘one union one industry’, worker control, representation on the basis of paid-up membership, and co-operation at national and international level.
At the centre of the challenges confronting the federation today has been a divide between respecting and disrespecting these principles. This include their interpretation in the context of developments and changes in the workplace.
On 30th November 1985, more than 760 delegates from 33 unions descended on the sports hall of the University of Natal, in Durban, at Howard College campus to inaugurate the new trade union federation. This was followed by a rally which was held at Kings Park Stadium attended by thousands of workers.
7.2. The period beyond the launch of COSATU– 1985 – 1995 – the first ten years
COSATU was born at the time when the political tempo had reached its peak in the country. It was during a state of emergency which signalled the consolidation of a total onslaught by the apartheid regime against the liberation movement. This period of the federation was characterised by the following:
a) On the Alliance: The first ten years of the federation were characterised by heightened and integrated political and workplace struggles with the federations defining its character and choosing its allies in the actual battlefield. One of the tasks which were undertaken by the newly elected leadership of the federation included meeting with the ANC in exile. The meeting took place from the 5th – 6th March 1986 and included the ANC, SACTU and COSATU leadership. At the end of the meeting a statement was issued which on amongst others committed to work towards the total destruction of the colonial and apartheid system.
b) Launch of a Living Wage Campaign and heightening of other campaigns: During this period, the federation launched the Living Wage Campaign. Amongst the early victories of the federation were the removals of Pass Laws in 13 November 1987, a recognition by employers to amend the Labour relations Act in September 1987, recognition of May Day as a public Holiday 1987. Each of these was campaigns taken by COSATU working with the alliance formations which included the ANC/UDF C and the SACP.
c) A counter offensive by apartheid regime: This period was also characterised by an extensive counter offensive from the apartheid regime which operated in alliance with employers. This offensive saw the bombing of COSATU head office, raiding and attacks to many union offices and the killing and arrest of many trade union leaders.
d) Mergers: It was also during the first ten years of its formation that the federation began to translate its founding principle of “one union one industry” into practice through commencing with the formation of mergers.
e) Adoption of the Freedom Charter: COSATU held its second national congress from 14 to 18 July 1987 and one of the issues which were placed before the congress was the proposal by the NUM that COSATU was to adopt the Freedom Charter. Amongst the unions which differed vehemently with this proposal was NUMSA which instead demanded that only large, mass-based socialist-oriented organizations be accepted as allies, the NUM resolution was adopted, although the federation was deeply divided by the move, many having a more critical relation to the Charter and Charterist political forces.
f) Proposals on the United Front: A Special Congress was convened in 14 May 1988 at Wits University and amongst the issues debated at the congress was the proposal on the formation of a United Front. The debate exposed sharp differences between Charterist and non- charterists but it was severely defeated!
g) Proposals on the Workers Charter: On 12 July 1989 COSATU held its third congress at the Nasrec and the major topic was negotiations, and delegates set out minimum conditions before the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) would enter into talks with the apartheid government, this congress also debated the nature of the Alliance. In this congress Plans were presented for drawing up a worker’s charter and organizing a campaign to drive the process. Women’s issues came to the fore, and various resolutions, for example a demand for maternity rights, were proposed and accepted.
h) Defiance Campaign: On 26 July1989 the MDM, COSATU and the UDF, called for a National Defiance Campaign, and the response was overwhelming throughout the country and by October all the Rivonia Trialists were released from prison, except Nelson Mandela, who was released on 11 February 1990.
i) Focus on Economic Policy: In 1990, a workshop on “Economic Policy for a Post-Apartheid South Africa” was convened by the COSATU Economic Trends Group and the ANC Economics Department to come up with some recommendations on economic policy for a Post-Apartheid South Africa. That workshop was attended by researchers from a number of institutions, part-time economists of the ANC, some ANC leaders, COSATU representatives and COSATU economists. The significance of that workshop is that it introduced the concept of a growth path in the policy discourse of the democratic movement . This is the workshop which laid the basis towards the adoption of the RDP as the electoral platform of the ANC – led alliance
j) Decisive role leading to the 1994 political breakthrough: The period leading to 1995 which was the tenth anniversary of COSATU saw on amongst others the federation playing a decisive role in the 1994 electoral victory of the ANC characterized as a democratic breakthrough.
k) Formation of NEDLAC: This was also a period which saw the formation of NEDLAC as a platform for tripartite engagement regarding policy formulation.
l) Growth in membership: By the 10th anniversary in 1995 the federation had grown from 460 000 with 33 affiliates to 1, 6 million members with 19 affiliates as a results of mergers to pursue the principle of one union one industry.
m) Affirmation of non – racial character of COSATU: By 1995 the composition of COSATU’s union had grown beyond industrial unions to include professional, public sector and other while collar workers which cut across all races making COSATU a truly non – racial organization.
7.3. The Period between 1995 and 2005
a) New labour legislations: In the very same period new labour legislations were passed by parliament and include the new Labour relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. Etc.
b) Introduction of GEAR: Just as workers and the federation had been celebrating a political breakthrough and progress with the introduction of a new labour law regime which was advancing worker’s rights, in 1996 the ANC led government introduced GEAR as an overarching economic policy which it said was non -negotiable.
c) Alliance Summit: An Alliance Summit was convened from 31 August to 1 September 1997 two weeks before the COSATU National Congress (and also in the general run-up to the ANC December National Conference, and the SACP`s April 1998 Congress.
On among others this Alliance Summit focus on the centrality of a strong, democratic state to drive; restructuring of the public sector; to develop a coordinated employment strategy which aligns all aspects of government policy, and around which the alliance forges a common approach; a need for a developmental, macro-economic policy, aligned to the needs of the country. Such a policy must evolve in line with these needs, while recognising the real constraints we face. The summit said that no macro-economic policy is cast in stone and the Alliance needs to continue to discussion on areas where there is disagreement.
The Summit also focused on a social wage, labour market and industrial and investment strategy, will be taken forward by task forces of the alliance, which will report to the national office bearers.
All these issues remain in the agendas of the alliance to this day albeit in different forms.
d) Organisational Review and proposal on the Alliance Pact: At the Congress held 1997 the federation adopted the historic September commissions report which on amongst others conducted organisational review based and set out scenarios on the future of COSATU and the Alliance. This period also saw the 6th Congress of COSATU adopting a proposal of an Alliance pact
e) Review of mergers and strengthening of the policy on pouching: The 6th Congress also reviewed progress on mergers and adopted a resolution on demarcations and pouching
f) Special National Congress in 1999: Holding of the Special National Congress – which saw the election of Willie Madisha as the new President.
g) Resignation of COSATU’ s First Vice President, Peter Malepe: In November 1999 , the COSATU 1st Vice President comrade peter Malepe tendered his resignation to the federation’s Central Executive Committee (CEC) currently meeting in Johannesburg. The resignation was occasioned by unauthorised use of COSATU funds totalling R38 061. Comrade Peter Malepe did not receive the support which was given to other leaders later around 2007/8 when one leader was accused of similar conduct.
h) Focus on the weaknesses of the federation: This Special National Congress also focused on the weaknesses of the federations.
i) Sharpened differences expressed between the state as the Employer and Public Sector unions: This period also saw more sharpened antagonistic relationship between COSATU affiliates public sector unions and the democratic government as an employer
j) Campaign against neo-liberal policies: The whole period was a marked with heightening of campaigns against neo – liberal policies –focusing on privatisation; fight against reduction of tariffs; fight against labour market flexibility, fight against HIV and AIDS: This saw COSATU working with the SACP and a number of social movements to launch a series of Anti- Privatisation campaigns as part of the campaign against the package of neo-liberal policies contained on GEAR policy.
k) Guidelines /Policy on Social Movements: Given the reality of the emergence of Social movement, at its 8th congress the federation adopted a policy outlining a criteria on how the federation were to choose social movement which could work with the COSATU
l) 2015 Plan: Given its accumulated experience and its resolve to deepen the NDR the federation adopted the 2015 plan which was to guide its work towards the 30th anniversary. This was based on three pillars which included strategies to build the power of the organised working class in South Africa, in our region and continent as well as internationally. Strategies to make our relationship with the Alliance work.
The priority areas for intervening on socio economic policy in the short term to stem the job loss bloodbath and fight for quality jobs
7.4. Period between 2005 and 2015
a) Campaigns: During this period the federation continued with its campaigns and a focus on building the Alliance.
These included the Jobs and Poverty Campaign, fight against corruption, contesting the neo- liberal policies and the mass based character of the ANC, demanding that the ANC –led alliance be reconfigured in a manner that makes it to be a strategic centre of power based on our proposal for an the Alliance Pact.
This could not be secured and instead an agreement was reached to have an Alliance political Council modelled around the revolutionary council derived from exile experience. Even with this agreement, the Alliance continued function in the old way and still did implement its own decisions.
At the time of writing this report an Alliance Summit/meeting had taken place from the 25th June 2015– 1st July 2015, which focused on the state of the Alliance as w whole and state of each alliance partner including the state of the NDR and the international balance forces.
b) Expulsion of COSATU president – Willie Madisha: COSATU CEC took a decision to expel COSATU in 2007 for refusing to observe the constitution of COSATU and putting the name of the federation into disrepute
a) Global Economic Crisis: This period saw the deepening crisis of the Capitalist System leading to the global economic crisis which was witnessed in the period 2007 and 2008 .This in turn worsened the conditions of the working class in our country which had already been made worse by the legacy of Colonialism and Apartheid. COSATU became part of the NEDLAC partners who were signatory to South Africa’s Framework agreement to respond to the economic crisis.
8. Current Challenges facing the Federation
The recent history of the federation will show that the period between 2007 and 2015, will go down in the history of COSATU as the period in which COSATU policies and its principles were tested to the limit. It is the period in which the federation had to choose between collective leadership and individualism, between defending its constitution and allowing defiance of its constitution and policies, between standing firm on uniting the alliance to maximize the unity of the people’s camp or allowing undermining of the liberation movement, between defending its character as a trade union federation or allow being turned into a political formation to replace both the ANC and the SACP to pursue the NDR and the Struggle for socialism respectively .
As we convene the Special National Congress the report by the Department of Labour shows that we have 179 registered trade unions in South Africa.
This represent less than 30 percent of the South African workforce and this is not strength but a weakness in that it undermines unity of workers upon which workers derive their strength.
We also note with concern that it is estimated that 117 of these registered unions do not belong to any of the existing four Federations, with multiple unions mostly in the sectors that are the least organised such as catering, wholesale, hotel, cleaning, security,
This period has seen an emergence of open challenges facing unions which came with alien include the following:
8.1. Lack of solidarity amongst unions: Unions no longer support each other’s struggles. This even applies to unions which are in the same industry or sector. All the effort by the federation has been ignored. This is hollowed out the task of COSATU as the coordinating centre and authority in the struggles waged by affiliates. COSATU unions currently exist as individual entities pursuing non connected struggles and this has exposed them to employers who have become more confident emboldened by this state of affairs.
8.2. The proliferation and the threat of Deregistration of unions: our legislation and the constitutional right to freedom of association make it too easy to create new unions and as a result hundreds and hundreds of unions have been registered with the Department of Labour and they are very weak. According to the latest report from the DoL, it shows that as at 1june 2015 there are 179 registered trade unions in South Africa. This represents less than 30 percent of the South African workforce. This weakens the unity and bargaining power of workers. We are equally concerned that 117 of these do not belong to any of the existing four Federations, with multiple unions mostly in the sectors that are the least organised such as catering, wholesale, hotel, cleaning, security,
Our unions continue to face a threat of being deregistered based on non compliance and also being targeted by some within the Department of Labour who work with our detractors to liquidate the federation. Some of our unions simply ignore the requirement of submitting the required documents to the department of labour and we have met those and worked to assist them in the process. But there is also an open intention by some bureaucrats in the Department of labour who are hell bent to get many of our unions liquidated and some instances even go beyond their bounds to interfere in the affairs of our unions. The matter was raised sharply with the minister of Labour. The special National Congress must debate this matter
8.3. Lack of organisational, political and ideological training: The profile of a COSATU union member has changed over the years. A typical union member and a shop steward are becoming younger and this happens at a time when the COSATU survey has shown that there is less investment by unions in ideological training of Shop Stewards. It has been argued in many forums that many of the challenges the trade union movement and the entire alliance is facing is born out of the decline by our structures to focus and invest on political and ideological training.
8.4. Confusing roles between affiliates and the federation: This has been manifested in a number of occasions where an affiliate will make pronouncements on an issue which generally falls under the ambit of the federation and some will even undertake campaigns which requires to be coordinated by the federation. The most critical one has been affiliates accusing the federation of not implementing decisions whilst it is them who are actually suppose to implement decisions in and through their structures. The role of the federation is to coordinate the activities of affiliates and it has no powers to punish unions based on non implementation, it only relies on the integrity of affiliates.
In this regard the September Commission’s report said that ““In order to assess our work, we have to define our basic functions. The Federation’s role is to build unity, to co-ordinate affiliates’ activities, and to create an environment that is favourable to the affiliates’ sectoral structures. Out of these three key tasks flow COSATU’s functions to ensure a unified voice for progressive labour, and ensure mutual protection and support between sectors. To develop policy positions for the entire working class, going beyond the sectoral needs of individual affiliates, and engage on them, including through national campaigns. Examples include economic policy, labour law and welfare policies. To deal with demarcation issues. To provide strategic support for affiliates by supplying materials and helping them share experiences in dealing with common problems. To give targeted assistance to weaker sectors, such as farm and domestic workers.
The affiliates’ functions are to ensure workers in the sector speak with a single voice, and provide support for workers in more vulnerable areas within the industry. To assist workers with grievances in the workplace. To negotiate wages and other conditions of service. To develop policies for their sectors, working with the Federation and affiliates in related sectors where necessary. To co-ordinate workplace organisation to avoid conflicts and ensure greater efficiency, including leading campaigns around sectoral issues, for instance on restructuring or AIDS.
To ensure the implementation within the sector of gains won by the Federation on a policy level, such as the new labour or pension laws.
8.5. Abuse of the concept of autonomy of affiliates: The above is linked to a tendency by affiliates to over emphasise their autonomy at the expense of the role of COSATU as the coordinating centre. In this regard the COSATU constitution says “Affiliates, including affiliates that are being orientated about the Federation, remain autonomous bodies governed by their own constitution but they must abide by this Constitution and the policies of the Federation”. Affiliates conveniently ignores this when its suits them.
8.6. Obsession about being big by all means and at all costs: A new phenomenon has emerged in which unions strive to increase their sized by all means and at all costs including through poaching from other COSATU unions. There is no attempt to organise the unorganised. The quest for a bigger size is not aimed at increasing the strength against employers but aimed using arrogance to weaken the federation. It is this obsession which has brought up poaching with impunity.
8.7. Labelling, mistrust and suspicions: This period has also seen a decline at the levels of trust amongst comrades which has been born out of among others external processes in which comrades participate and then seek to take views from such processes and impose them in the organisation. A example of this has been the participation of COSATU leaders in the ANC and SACP constitutional structures which resulted to them being labelled as sell outs when wither the ANC or the SACP says or take decisions which are not in conformity with COSATU’s policy or not liked by some individuals in the federation. This is despite the fact that their participation in the formation is born out of COSATU’s own congress resolutions and in line with the 2015 Plan.
8.8. Use of courts to solve both political and organisational issues: The Federation and many unions have been in and out of courts by its leaders regarding the constitution and the decisions taken in constitutional meetings. The question which arises is whether is it right to take the organisation to court instead of exhausting internal processes to find a solution. The Special National Congress must discuss the need to consider the possibility of developing policy in this regard.
8.9. Use of the tactic of boycotting meeting as a leverage to subvert democratic outcomes and undermining the democratic processes and decisions of the organisation: This is a new phenomenon and the question has to be asked if this tactic does help to take strengthen the organisation or it undermines the very internal democratic processes and values upon which organisations were founded.
8.10. Usage of media to attack the decisions of constitutional structures, including the leaking of documents as part of undermining and attacking the organisation: This has become a sticking problem which has affected the liberation movement as a whole. This is done deliberately to gunner sympathy, win debates by stealth and impose views by mobilising public support outside of the structures of the organisation. In the process those who leak information of the organisation become the darling of the media born out of the mutualistic relationship of feeding and publicising information to feed to factional agendas.
8.11. Creation of factions : over a period of time factions have become a permanent feature of the organisation and factions have developed a life of their and pull the organisation into different directions to a point of rendering the organisation stagnant and directionless when leaders cannot be decisive because they pay more allegiance to their factions than to the organisation they lead
8.12. 2005 ANC NGC: In 2005 COSATU participated openly processes to mobilise ANC branches to assert the mass based character of the ANC, a campaign which was linked at questioning the country’s neo-liberal economic policy trajectory under the policy of GEAR and defending the ANC Deputy President at the time who was facing what COSATU considered to be concocted corruption charges. This period saw COSATU being part of the process mobilising towards the 2005 ANC NGC which marked the turning point to the events leading to the 52nd National Congress of the ANC held in Polokwane in which there was an overhaul of leadership, which was followed by many of them who were also serving as ministers leaving the ANC to form A splinter organisation called COPE, adding to a list of splinter organisations from the ANC such as the IFP, the PAC and UDM. It was unprecedented that COSATU could openly campaign openly against the change of leadership for another alliance partner.
8.13. Constitutional breaches in the federation and breaches on the Alliance Protocols: In the same Year the federation convened the 3rd Central Committee un-constitutionally not on a year preceding the National Congress. This was an open constitutional breach which got ignored. At the Central Committee the federation discussed and resolved on the preferred leadership to be elected at the ANC 52nd National Conference in breach of the Alliance protocols of respecting other alliance partners’ electoral processes. This was followed with the ANC‘s recall of its former President.
8.14. Emergence of King Maker mentality: In the period post Polokwane there emerged a new phenomenon of a grouping within and outside COSATU of comrades who saw themselves as King Makers with a track record of being conquerors who remove one great and strong leader and replaced him with another one great and strong leader. They therefore arrogated to themselves to themselves the status of King Makers who were above their own organisations. It is this phenomenon which led to the expulsion of the former ANCL leaders who later went to form a new political organisation as a way of retaining their status as leaders who could not respect the supreme law of their own organisations. This phenomenon of King Maker mentality also found expression inside the federation
8.15. The King Maker mentality came with the emergence of a personality cult, Disrespect for COSTU founding principles, its Constitution and the founding principles. This saw some comrades who get defeated in democratic organisational processes and then choose to publicly undermine the decisions of constitutional structures.
8.16. The Cancer of Corruption : this has find practical expression inside our organisations through the following experiences:
a) It is the intersection between union work and money. it includes use of resources from investment companies and service providers to impose preferred leaders in the unions including imposing certain policies to protect specific financial interests for individuals inside the unions – corruption
b) The second element linked to this is how those union leaders who have been put into positions of trust regarding the investment companies and union monies have become corrupted by their access to the power of deciding about union monies. This weakness of leaders being attracted to money more than their trade union work has been exploited by service providers who promise kick backs to individual leaders on the basis of securing contracts in the unions.
c) The use of money to influence outcomes has not only been used by outside business to our unions but a new tendency has emerged characterised by an abuse of self sufficiency. This is where those unions with money bankroll dispense patronage in the form of money to other unions with a purpose of remote controlling them to support their views and support their programmes even if such programmes do not serve the interests of those unions.
d) That is how business unionism expresses itself in the trade unions. There are even cases where trade union leaders become silent business partners in different business ventures and in many of the cases get represented by their partners and or relatives. It’s called preparing for soft landing in the case where a leader looses a position of leadership and cannot go back to employment as an ordinary worker
e) This also includes undermining of good governance which includes undermining of procurement policies by people positioning themselves to access resources of the organisation for their selfish interests.
It is when the core trade union work of providing service to members gets treated as a second priority in favour of activities which creates possibilities of accumulation such as leaders and organisers making deals with employers for future promotion at work which comes with better perks at the expense of advancing workers demands.
It is when members get to support one union leader on the basis of patronage which comes with such benefits as access to trade union cars , lap tops , getting favours for international trips , access to exclusive and discriminatory training opportunities in which one section of shop stewards is in favour for international trips and training over others .
In all these cases the core trade union work gets compromised because a leader cannot mobilise for a strike against employers who are also his or her business partners or a shop steward compromises the case of a worker because he or she has been promised a promotion post.
The current state of COSATU makes it impossible for the leadership to decisively intervene to protect the image of the COSATU.
More worryingly, COSATU is getting divided even around the need to battle against corruption within its ranks and society.
8.17. Lack of exit strategy for leaders: One of the problems our organisations have is leaders who overstay their welcome in an organisation even when they no longer want to hold those positions. This is caused by amongst others the fact that many of our leaders do not have skills which allows them for alternative career paths, many want to continue holding on positions given the power, prestige, opportunities and resources which comes with such power.
There is a need to open up a frank discussion about this matter which continues to compromise our organisations and comrades in general.
9. Undermining of the Founding Principles of the Federation
9.1. Worker Control, Democratic Centralism and Collective leadership
“Trade unionism in our country has been guided by appropriate organisational forms and democratic processes. Without open public elections, complete participation of the mass of the membership in all decision-making, day-to-day accountability of officials, etc., trade unionism would lose its effectiveness…” (Joe Slovo)
The undermining of this principle can be explained by how it is connected to the fact that over time since the launch of COSATU unions have become bigger and more complex organisations, it has become more difficult for worker structures to monitor, guide and control them. In many cases worker structures feel disempowered, and there are often complaints about a widening gap between the leadership and the membership.
It happens at a time when worker office bearers are almost full time being seconded by their unions to the COSATU Head office but there still exist information gap between the General Secretaries and Worker Office Bearers.
This is caused by the fact that even with the full time office bearers available almost every day but the federation continues to execute its operations as if worker office bearers were still not available on a full time bases. The role of democratic structures at different levels is still not clearly defined, in a manner that can allow them to focus on the major issues of organisational direction, policy, campaigns and mass action, and holding general secretaries and regional/branch secretaries to account.
The flow of information is still suffocated by lack of protocol about information management.
No leader or worker can participate meaningfully in influencing the policy direction and the general life of the federation without useful information at their disposal which can allow them to formulate their own judgements and conclusions about issues.
There is still lack of focus on empowering of local structures to be active and dynamic and to have capacity to take initiatives and engage in struggle and yet these are the most important aspects of democracy and worker control in the unions.
There is still an absence of protocol on how worker office-bearers can freely access information and to be able to familiarise themselves with all aspects of the organisation.
Worker Office bearers are still not properly resource in line with the demands of the work of a full time office bearer. Only recently after many years of a decision being taken we have one executive support which we are expected to share amongst ourselves.
This means that the worker office Bearers even though they are full time but they do not have an efficient and well resourced machinery to effectively execute their work.
The constitution still has areas where the powers and duties of NOBs overlap.
The current configuration of responsibilities which comes with corresponding configuration of power places one leader above the collective and the unsuspecting workers can only arrive to one conclusion that the other members of the collective are just escorting one leader as his juniors.
A response to this overlap has been the development of a modus operandi for the NOBs but this document too remained contested where it fails to clarify certain things.
9.2. Democratic Centralism and Collective leadership
The undermining of this principle was through on among others the use of organisational Operational processes to undermine the collective
Power is centralised and one person becomes the self declared centre of formal authority and holds the power to control and influence activities within the organisation.
It is these conditions which gave rise to the investigations by the Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo firm of Auditors on the selling and purchasing of COSATU offices were under taken.
It is also these conditions which gave rise to the incident of sex in the office with a junior married staff member to which there is a report by an independent chairperson.
The undermining of this principle also happened through the abuse of COSATU platforms to undermine and attack Alliance partners whilst at the same continuing to undermine the leadership collective. This included using platforms such strikes convened by the federation to and use it as political platform to advance an attack to other alliance leaders against the alliance protocol
It also included writing of Political Papers whose content ignores and negates the views of the collective; Briefing of Journalist and making sensitive public statements outside the knowledge and consent of the collective and in many occasions against the Policy of the federation.; Selective Implementation and undermining of Resolutions; Convening of meeting and deliberately excluding the Alliance against the decision of the collective - the Civil Society Conference in 2010
This is despite that fact the for an example the 8th National Congress provides and ideological guide on how we should engage with civil society and this was completely ignored in order to serve an objective which remains unknown to the collective.
The reality of the matter is that this has resulted to COSATU being closer to these civil society formations than our traditional political and ideological allies. It is through this exclusive relationship with civil society formations that a platform has been prepared for what we see unfolding today which include the formation of the united front and a sustained attack against the liberation movement and its leaders.
9.3. Independence of COSATU and its character being contested
Comrade Joe Slovo, writing in his article titled “the South African Working Class and the National Democratic Revolution said that “a trade union is the prime mass organisation of the working class. To fulfil its purpose, it must be as broad as possible and fight to maintain its legal status. It must attempt, in the first place, to unite, on an industrial basis, all workers (at whatever level of political consciousness) who understand the elementary need to come together and defend and advance their economic conditions. It cannot demand more as a condition of membership.
But because the state and its political and repressive apparatus is an instrument of the dominant economic classes, it is impossible for trade unions in any part of the world to keep out of the broader political conflict.
Especially in our country, where racist domination and capitalist exploitation are two sides of the same coin, it is even clearer that a trade union cannot stand aside from the liberation struggle. Indeed, the trade union movement is the most important mass contingent of the working class. Its organised involvement in struggle, both as an independent force and as part of the broad liberation alliance, undoubtedly reinforces the dominant role of the workers as a class. In addition, trade unions` and workers` experience of struggle in unions provide the most fertile field in which to school masses of workers in socialist understanding and political consciousness.
The very fact that the workers` economic struggle cannot be separated from the struggle against national domination has helped to blur the border-line between trade unionism and the political leadership of the working class as a whole. It is, however, vital to maintain the distinction between trade union politics and overall revolutionary leadership. A trade union cannot carry out this dual role; if it attempted to do so it would have to change its basic character and risk committing suicide as a mass legal force. In addition, the very nature and purpose of trade unionism disqualifies it from carrying out the tasks of a revolutionary vanguard.(9)
The syndicalism notion that trade unions should act as political parties is so discredited that it has few, if any, open adherents. But, from time to time, the notion is introduced through the back door in the shape of policies which would, in practice, allocate such a role to the trade union movement.
An example of one such tendency is the premature attempt to formally incorporate the objective of socialism into trade unions and the federation to which they belong. Such a move would narrow the mass character of the trade union movement by demanding an unreal level of political consciousness from its members or affiliates as a condition for joining. It would also, incidentally, give the enemy the very excuse it needs to deal with one of its most formidable foes”.
Contained in this statement is an explanation about the basis for our existence and our character as a trade union federation. But more importantly it touches on what may as well be at the very centre of the challenges confronting COSATU today where it says that “the very fact that the workers` economic struggle cannot be separated from the struggle against national domination has helped to blur the border-line between trade unionism and the political leadership of the working class as a whole. It is, however, vital to maintain the distinction between trade union politics and overall revolutionary leadership. A trade union cannot carry out this dual role; if it attempted to do so it would have to change its basic character and risk committing suicide as a mass legal force. In addition, the very nature and purpose of trade unionism disqualifies it from carrying out the tasks of a revolutionary vanguard”.
This means that trade unions under capitalism are the elementary self-defence organizations of the working class, organizations in which workers combine to fight for their immediate interests at the point of production or the place of work. By their very nature the trade unions must include all workers at a given workplace, workers with all levels of consciousness, inevitably including people under the sway of divisive bourgeois ideologies such as sexism, racism and anti-communism, and people wholly given to illusions about bourgeois democracy. The trade union is not a revolutionary organization and cannot take the place of a communist party.
Lack of common understanding of this fact has led to a number of problems in the federation including on what is to be the posture of the federation towards the ANC and the SACP. As a result what has been at the centre of the challenges facing the federation included disagreement regarding the posture of COSATU towards the ANC and the SACP?
COSATU is a militant , radical , transformative and independent trade union federation which is primarily in a strategic revolutionary alliance with the ANC , SACP and SANCO and also work with various progressive civil society formations.
This principle of an independent COSATU has had its meaning being hollowed out because it has been used to over-emphasise COSATU’s independence from the ANC and SACP and this has over time amounted to systematic separation from our Alliance partners.
The non invitation of the Alliance in the 2010 Civic Society Conference against the advice of the collective was done under cover of advancing this principle. Instead a political analyst got invited. A similar trend continues to the 11th Congress when another political analyst was to be invited to speak at the Congress.
9.4. Principles of One industry, one union - one country, one federation
This period also saw an open defiance against COSATU’s founding principles by one of its affiliates which went to a Special National Congress and took resolutions which stood in opposition to COSATU’s existing policies, its constitution and its founding principles in particular the principle of “One Union, One Industry”
The existing COSATU policy with regard to this principle is expressed in the resolution on demarcations dates back to the 6th National Congress up to the 11th National Congress which called for the implementation of the resolution on mergers based on lessons learnt in the process since the resolution was taken.
In November 2013 NUMSA went to a Special National Congress and took resolutions which on amongst others included the following;
1. Call on COSATU to break the Alliance
2. Organise a march to COSATU House to coincide with the 1st COSATUCEC in February 2014
3. To neither endorse nor support the ANC in 2014
4. To extend scope of operation into glass production, sale and fitment; car valet and wash bay establishment; manufacture of jewellery, the refining of petrol, wholesale transportation, extraction and distribution of petrochemicals, mining and smelting of both base and precious metals; drivers that provide support to activities of NUMSA sectors; building and construction; auto industry textile, security, cleaning, canteen and health services that are covered by NUMSA scope; kiosks; industrial chemicals; alternative energy, information and communication technologies.
5. NUMSA should adopt the tactic of withholding our subscriptions to COSATU as an ultimatum for the convening of the Special National Congress of COSATU.
6. To Establish a new United Front: NUMSA will lead in the establishment of a new United Front that will coordinate struggles in the workplace and in communities, in a way similar to the UDF of the 1980s.
7. Side by side with the establishment of the new United Front, NUMSA will explore the establishment of a Movement for Socialism as the working class needs a political organisation committed in its policies and actions to the establishment of a socialist South Africa.
8. To be alert to gains that may present possibilities of either the new united front, or any other progressive coalition or party committed to socialism, standing for elections in future.
9. To continue poaching members from other COSATU unions on the bases that members come willingly.
This resolution is currently being implemented and some of the victims have been SATAWU, NUM and CEPPWAWU.
Not only has NUMSA adopted these opposing resolutions but openly went out to mount a campaign that was intended to directly undermine and oppose the policies of the federation.
In the process defending our constitution, our founding principles and our policies the federation had to take hard but necessary decisions which included the expulsion of NUMSA as a COSATU affiliate because they continued to implement their 2013 Special Congress Resolutions which were effectively undermining COSATU existing policy in particular the principle of one union one industry.
There is a view that which says principles may not hold good for life. They are in part based on objective material conditions. For instance the ‘one union one industry’ principle may no longer hold given the changes in work production. Should these principles not be open to negotiations in order to ensure that the federation is an organic institution rather than an animal frozen in time? The Special National Congress may debate this view.
9.5. Our uniting War Cry which have stood the test of time
Our constitution concludes by saying that our struggle is inspired by the universal slogan of working class solidarity articulated as war cry “An injury to one is an injury to all".
As we speak in COSATU we now have a section of our unions which in the name of a call for a Special National Congress have formed themselves into another organisation inside COSATU called the nine unions.
Does this sound familiar when looking at the history of COSATU?
They have established their own vision, goals and objectives, they recruit their own membership based on this strategic intent, and they have developed their own modus operandi which includes convening their own exclusive meetings. They have their own funding to their own programmes.
They go public and make media statements in their own name and part of the things they do includes openly working to divide the membership.
All this is done outside the federation and in opposition to the federation. The COSATU Eastern Cape structure became a stronghold and the launching ground of the campaign by these unions.
There was a time when it had become an acceptable fact that the NOBs could not address COSATU structures without the meeting being disrupted through insults and singing demands the special congress and the reinstatement of the former General Secretary.
For the first time in the history of COSATU there are no go areas for COSATU leaders deliberately created by our own unions.
9.6. Interventions by various task teams to facilitate a process of finding a solution
The challenges in the federation reached a point where it became necessary to allow external facilitators. Amongst those whom the CEC agreed to intervene and facilitate the process towards unity and cohesion of the federation were comrade Petrus Mashishi and Charles Nupen; the former Leaders of COSATU; the ANC task team.
Among this task team, all tried their best but could not get to comprehensively deal with issues because of many reasons which included refusal by some affiliates to cooperate.
It is the ANC Task Team which was able to present a report with recommendations that were adopted by the CEC.
The report of the ANC Task team contained the conclusions and a way forward which can be summarised as followed:
a) Conclusion One: The TT has found that there is agreement on the importance of maintaining the unity of COSATU and the integrity of the organisation as a cohesive force in society, because workers in South Africa are strongest and best served when organized under a united COSATU. The principle of `one union one industry` was accepted as the founding basis of COSATU. The NOB`s agreed that they need to show a united approach to addressing issues relating to the contravention of the constitution of COSATU.
b) Conclusion Two: The TT found widespread support and agreement that all COSATU resolutions adopted at the national congress must be implemented.
c) Conclusion Three: COSATU`s primary objective is, and must continue to be, to defend, protect and advance the interests of members.
d) Conclusion Four: The TT found that everyone in the Federation acknowledges that there have always been internal differences on questions of policy and strategy since its formation as would be expected from a large federation that draws its membership across all industries, provinces and viewpoints. However, the NOB`s agree that the task of leadership is to manage the diversity of opinion, identify the areas of broad consensus as captured in resolutions of the federation and manage the internal dynamics carefully. This requires the NOB`s to play a key role as unifiers of the Federation.
e) Conclusion Five: The autonomy of affiliates must be respected and it be acknowledged that this autonomy must be exercised within the broad policies of the federation and its Constitution. It is further emphasized that the federation’s constitution and principles are binding on all affiliates.
f) Conclusion Six: There is agreement that during this period of rebuilding unity, there must be a cessation of hostilities and that the Committee of ANC DSG and COSATU DGS will handle the current contraventions, perceived or real.
g) Conclusion Seven: There is agreement on the constitutional right of one third of affiliates to call for a special national congress. The TT notes that the NOBs recognise that the right for calling for a special national congress should be exercised with care, informed by clear intended outcomes and take into consideration all factors such as costs, logistics, etc. The NOBs recognize that the current request for a special national congress is perceived differently by affiliates and have created divisions and that it may lead to a split in COSATU. It was therefore the view of the NOB`s that the COSATU Central Committee`s main function is to assess and evaluate the implementation of current policies and resolutions. It was further agreed that political issues such as the NDR, NDP and the functioning of the Alliance need urgent engagement. It was the view of both the NOBs and ANC task team that the purpose a Special Congress should be to help the federation to rebuild its unity and internal cohesion. The timing of the Congress, its precise agenda and purpose, will all be influenced by the outcome of the current internal process within COSATU and the engagement with the ANC Task team.
h) Conclusion Eight: There must be a process in place to deal with certain organizational and administrative matters; such as the pending disciplinary cases, the status of the second Deputy President, the Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo Report and others so as to bring these to closure
i) Conclusion Nine: The Federation’s staff must show impartiality in serving the office bearers and they should not become involved in activities that support one group in the Federation and the NOBs must take steps to ensure this impartiality.
j) Conclusion Ten: The CEC must unite around a fighting programme that encompasses the implementation of all the Federation’s Resolutions and Policies, including its core campaigns in defense of workers
k) Conclusion Eleven: There is acknowledgement that the political differences on matters such as the direction of the NDR, the NDP and the functioning of the Alliance must be addressed in the federation and through Alliance processes that will draw in all the Allies to develop mechanisms to address them. These matters must now receive priority in the work of the Alliance. . All affiliates that the Task team met, as well as the NOB`s re-affirmed their continued commitment to the strategic Alliance.
With regard to the Way forward the report said the following:
This Report constitutes the first full Report of the Task-team to the COSATU CEC. The Report contains the observations of the ANC TT and recommendations for consideration by the COSATU NOBs and CEC.
It is the view of the ANC TT that the COSATU CEC and the ANC should work closely together on the process of rebuilding unity of the Federation as it prepares for its 30th anniversary next year.
The ANC TT received inputs that indicate that divisions exist also at affiliate level. These issues may go beyond the matters raised in this report, relating to the various leadership matters and questions of political analysis. These matters are best addressed through a COSATU that remains a united Federation. The TT therefore proposes that the NOBs, with the support of the Alliance, lead such a process of reconciliation between comrades in affiliates and within COSATU.
The TT concludes this part of its work and intends to remain engaged in further processes in support of efforts by COSATU to strengthen itself as a fighting organ of workers. We therefore propose, if the CEC broadly endorses this Report, a new phase to be undertaken; with the TT engaging in a more focused way, on the matters that have emerged in this process.
a) Ideological and political differences that may exist in the Federation
b) Addressing the administrative gaps and weaknesses that have become evident
c) A process to rebuild trust, deals with the damage caused by divisions, dismantle the factions and build common positions on organizational and policy issues.
We are not walking away from COSATU!
9.7. Expulsion of the General Secretary: The federation also expelled its General Secretary for acting against COSATU‘s code of conduct and for undermining COSATU’s constitution. In this regard the CEC held from the 30th – 31st March said the following:
1. On the failure and refusal of the general Secretary to perform his duties and carry out his responsibilities.
1.1. The Central Executive Committee noting with concern that:
1.2. After the Special Central Executive Committee meeting held on the 7th November 2014 in which a decision was taken to expel NUMSA, the General Secretary did not attend the media conference which was convened to communicate the decisions of this CEC. Instead he wrote a letter which was also accessed by the media in which he expressed his opposition to the decision of this CEC to expel NUMSA. This was a CEC which he had convened and in which he was also present and participated in its deliberations.
1.3. He did not attend the joint Political and Socio- Economic Commission which he had convened on the 24th January 2015, saying that he will not attend the meeting because the other affiliates who went public about boycotting the CEC had also not attended the meeting.
1.4. He did not attend the properly constituted ordinary CEC held from the 2nd to 4th March 2015 which was convened by himself, citing the absence of the unions which had openly boycotted the meeting as the reasons for his non-attendance. Throughout the proceedings of the meeting he spoke to the media communicating views that were in opposition to or contrary to the interests of the Federation which he had been elected by the 11th Congress to lead as its General Secretary.
1.5. At its properly constituted ordinary CEC held from the 2nd to 4th March 2015 which he convened , in the light of the failure of the General Secretary to attend this meeting o to explain his behaviour which went against the expressed provisions of the COSATU constitution and the code of conduct for staff and leaders , it was decided that the General Secretary be called upon to attend the meeting of the Special Central Executive Committee scheduled from 30th to 31st March 2015 to explain his failure to attend the ordinary CEC held from the 2nd to 4th March 2015 . By not coming to this CEC to explain his conduct he therefore waved his right to put his side of the story. This is in addition to his refusal to cooperate in giving his side of the story on serious allegations contained in the Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo report.
1.6. The General Secretary refused and failed to attend these meetings . The failure of the General Secretary to attend the meeting of the 2nd to 4th March 2015, including the Special CEC convened from the 30th to 31st March 2015 had major implications on the management and administration of the affairs of the Federation.
1.7. The duties of the General Secretary in terms of the constitution include being responsible for the following :
10.1.1 Financial affairs including –
10.1.1.1. The keeping of books and accounts as may be required by the CEC;
10.1.1.2. The collection of affiliate fees;
10.1.1.3. The banking of monies received in the name of the Federation;
10.1.1.4. The preparation and circulation of detailed monthly financial statements to the Provinces and affiliates of the Federation;
10.1.2 Correspondence and notices including –
10.1.2.1. Tabling correspondence where necessary, at CEC meetings;
10.1.2.2. Sending out notices and minutes of all meetings of the NC, CC, CEC and other related committees and sub-committees;
10.1.3 Reports including –
10.1.3.1. The preparation and circulation of the Financial Annual Report which must include statements of income and expenditure and the balance sheet; and
10.1.3.2. The circulation of the auditor`s report to the CEC;
10.1.4 General co-ordination and supervision including –
10.1.4.1. Office work and administration of the affairs and activities of the Federation; and
10.1.4.2. The supervision of staff and the Provincial Secretaries,
10.1.5 Other duties including tasks issued by the NC, CC and CEC.
1.8. It is important and necessary that at all times unless duly authorized, both the General Secretary and the Deputy General Secretary must be available to perform their functions and carry out their responsibilities.
2. The Central Executive Committee further noting that:
2.1. The General Secretary has failed and refused to attend the meeting to explain his behaviour
2.2. The General Secretary has failed to obtain leave of absence for his non-attendance of the properly constituted ordinary Central Executive Committee meeting including the Special CEC of the 30th to 31st March 2015;
3. The Central Executive Committee further noting that:
3.1. The General Secretary held a press conference on the 29th March 2015 where on amongst others he said the following : “from this point I will no longer participate in the internal factional wrangling in the organization” page 30 para-43 . “ I will not attend the meetings of the federation” page 31 para-44 . …”I cannot attend the pending Special CEC “ page 31 para-45 . If my refusal to attend the Special CEC is used as a pretext to fire me, then so be it” page 32 para 65. “ This is a deliberate act of defiance on my part …”, page 34 para-71. “I am making a statement that COSATU belongs to its members , not to any faction or clique, page 43 , para-72. Please see the document titled Zwelinzima Vavi’s Public statement , 29 March 2015
4. The Central Executive Committee further noting that:
4.1. The General Secretary continues to divide unions by addressing unconstitutional meetings.
4.2. He continues to use the resources of the federation to service NUMSA an expelled union which has declared intentions to destroy COSATU affiliates and openly undermined the founding principles of the federation of One Union , One Industry .
4.3. He continues to meet with people who have been suspended, some dismissed for corruption by COSATU unions . Many of these have declared intentions to destroy COSATU unions and thereby destroy the federation as a whole.
5. The General Secretary violated the COSATU code of conduct for staff and leaders which on amongst others says that leaders are the face of the organization, the custodians of organisational decisions and must be alert to, and make others aware of any potential damages to the local and global image of the Federation. Therefore leaders will support and promote the wellbeing of the Federation including organisational cohesion.
6. Taking into account the COSATU code of conduct for staff and elected leaders violated by the General Secretary on the General duties of leaders of the Federation which says that:
1.1. Every leader and employee occupies a position of trust towards his or her structure and all other structures of the Federation;
1.2. Every leader has a fiduciary duty to the Federation, which requires that he or she, at all times, acts with fidelity, honesty, integrity and in good faith; and in the best interest of the Federation;
1.3. Leaders must advance the principles of co-operative governance between the structures by ensuring that: they conduct their activities without impeding nor contradicting the spirit and efforts of the Federation’s constitution, its policies and decisions; and
1.4. co-operate with other structures within the Federation in a spirit of mutual trust and good faith by: assisting and supporting one another; informing one another of, and consulting one another on matters of common interest;
2. Taking into account the code of Conduct for staff and elected leadership which the General Secretary violated on the use of the Federation’s Property, Assets and Resources :
1.1. A leader and or a staff member shall not make unauthorized use of any property, assets or other resources of the Federation for any personal reasons.
1.2. A leader and or a staff member shall only use the Federation’s property, assets or resources for activities associated with discharge of their duties, unless otherwise authorized;
1.3. The intellectual property and any work produced by a leader or a staff member of the Federation in the course of his or her leadership, employment or association with the Federation are exclusive property of the Federation;
2. Taking into account the COSATU Code of Conduct for staff and elected which the General Secretary violated on Discipline:
2.1. A leader and or staff member will strive for the maximum unity of purpose and functioning of the Federation;
2.2. A leader and or staff member will observe discipline, behave honestly and carry out decisions of the majority, of the collective and of higher bodies;
2.3. A leader and or staff member will respect decisions taken by the Federation in terms of its structures, whether or not he or she personally agrees with them and he/she will report such decisions in a positive manner to avoid undermining them;
2.4. A leader and or staff member will not behave in a manner that brings the Federation or its structures into disrepute or which manifests a flagrant violation of the moral integrity expected of a leader;
2.5. A leader and or staff member will refrain from publishing, leading and /or distributing any media, which purport to be the views of any organized grouping, faction or tendency within the Federation;
2.6. A leader and or staff member will defend the unity and integrity of the Federation and its principles and combat any tendency - towards disruption and factionalism. This includes combating propaganda detrimental to the interests of the Federation and defending its policies, aims and programmes.
3. Noting the COSATU code of conduct for staff and elected leadership on the duty to avoid conflicts of interest when it says that:
3.1. Every leader and or staff member must:
3.1.1. Take every possible step to avoid a conflict of interest between his/her personal interest and the interests of the Federation;
3.1.2. not place himself or herself in a position where his or her personal interest could conflict with his or her duties to the Federation;
4. Noting that :
4.1. Over the years the federation has been operating on the basis of trust and integrity that those occupying positions of leadership will always respect collective decisions and will always act to advance the best interests of the federation
4.2. Based on this trust the federation has allowed individual leaders enough space to execute their tasks without hindrances and in the process this has created a space for the accumulation of unchecked power.
4.3. The General Secretary’s has in the recent past abused the trust given to him by the federation and workers affiliated to COSATU unions and he continues to do so with impunity which culminated to the unauthorized press conference of 29th March 2015 , This rebellious conduct has brought the federation into disrepute. ( Please refer to item 1 above )
4.4. He has in the process behaved in a manner which placed him above the organization, as an untouchable leader. . He treated the organization as his own, including the COSATU leadership collective and the entire membership as his inferior subjects.
4.5. His behavior has undermined all the efforts to achieve unity and cohesion in the federation as facilitated by the ANC.
4.6. No individual leader is above COSATU as an organization and its constitution
4.7. Collective leadership, organisational discipline, trust, integrity and revolutionary morality is the bedrock upon which COSATU‘s work is predicated.
4.8. The General Secretary as part of the collective at the helm of ensuring the functionality of the federation has behaved in a manner which corroded the moral and revolutionary soul of the federation and undermined each of the principles stated above.
4.9. The General Secretary has behaved in a manner which reduces the federation to his own entity where he can do as he wish including neglecting his duties ,making public statements which puts the name of the federation into disrepute and has openly defied and undermined COSATU’s constitution.
Based on the COSATU constitution on clause 10.4 on the removal of officials which says that:
10.4.1 The CEC may suspend or dismiss the General Secretary or any other official, if in the opinion of the CEC the official –
10.4.1.1. Has committed misconduct;
10.4.1.2. Has neglected his / her duties;
10.4.1.3. Has acted in a manner detrimental to the Federation; or
10.4.1.4. Has acted in a manner which conflicts with this Constitution.
10.4.2 The CEC or the NC may suspend or dismiss the General Secretary or any other official for any other reason deemed sufficient.
5. The CEC concludes that the provisions of the COSATU constitution and the code of conduct for staff and leaders have been violated by the General Secretary.
The conduct of the General Secretary constitute gross misconduct
7. It is hereby resolved that:
7.1. Comrade Zwelinzima Vavi is dismissed as the General Secretary of COSATU with immediate effect.
7.2. He must return all the property of the federation with immediate effect of this resolution being communicated to him. .
7.3. He must henceforth stop speaking on behalf of the federation as he is no longer the General Secretary of COSATU.
7.4. In an instance where comrade Zwelinzima Vavi wants to access the COSATU offices as part of clearing his office desk, he should do so in consultation with the National Office Bearers.
7.5. The National Office Bearers will work to ensure that the security of the federation’s communication and information is maximized. This will include ensuring that there are no interceptions and hacking of computers.
7.6. No structure of the federation shall be allowed to undermine this decision. This includes inviting him or creating platforms for him to address members affiliated to COSATU unions.
7.7. No staff member including Provincial Secretaries should take instructions from comrade Zwelinzima Vavi.
7.8. The National office Bearers will immediately communicate this decision to all our structures including the Alliance structures and our international bodies we are affiliated to .
7.9. Special Provincial Executive Committee meeting will be convened as a matter of urgency to communicate this decision.
7.10. All units of COSATU are instructed to henceforth stop using our media platform or any COSATU platforms to profile comrade Zwelinzima Vavi.
7.11. All staff members, particularly Provincial Secretaries of the federation and of our unions are instructed to desist from participating in comrade Zwelinzima Vavi’ led activities. These are not consistent with the policies and decisions of the federation and they are intended to destroy and not to build COSATU.
7.12. The NOBs should continue to facilitate the work directed at achieving the unity of the federation. This includes coordinating activities and campaigns of the federation on the ground. Affiliates should continue to escalate the provision of quality service to members.
7.13. All outstanding allegations against the General Secretary will be processed by the National Office Bearers through a properly constituted task team which will be working with various experts.
9. What are the implications of these challenges?
All these demand that COSATU should never be diverted to focus on issues which have nothing to do with addressing these challenges.
It means that our work towards achieving unity of COSATU should be about placing COSATU at the forehead of fighting for workers and in the class battles as a united force.
This means that a strong COSATU is more needed then ever in the history of our struggle.
This is the reality within which COSATU challenges emerged. The task of building the unity of workers under COSATU and of uniting COSATU is an urgent task which cannot be postponed
Therefore the starting point regarding the unity and cohesion of the federation is the existing common understanding throughout the federation that the solution to our challenges shall emerge from within the federation itself.
This means that we need to put more value in our own attempts to achieving unity and cohesion than to rely on external intervention, important as it is to have such external interventions
10. Proposed Way Forward
a) The Special National Congress must consider having systematic discussions aimed at finding sustainable solutions. This may be done through having commissions
b) The organisational, political and leadership issues which have been raised herein are interconnected. They cannot be resolved without seeing them in their interconnectedness. They all connect at a single point and that the authority of the organisation over individuals unions and individual leaders. Therefore the first thing that is required is for all to accept that COSATU is an organisation with the constitutional rules and policies taken by its highest organs which must be observed by all without exception.
c) The second thing is to accept that COSATU is not immune to being influence and coerced by the environmental factors within which it is operating. COSATU leaders are not immune from being coerced into adopting capitalist values. COSATU is not immune from the contestations and challenges obtaining in its alliance partners and the liberation movement post independence period.
d) The most recent experience has shown that the COSATU constitution has many grey areas and loopholes which needs to be addressed and this will require that leading to the 12th National Congress a task team /constitutional committee should be constituted to start surfacing problematic areas in the constitution
e) COSATU has a code of conduct and there is a need to discuss the organisation capacity required to popularise and implement the code of conduct when necessary.
f) The organisational orientation of COSATU has over the years proven that it is in itself imposing limitations and there is a need to revisit these discussions including the relationship between COSATU and its affiliates.
g) Part of this should include a discussion on the operations of the National Office bearers and addressing all the gaps which constitute the basis for disunity and incoherence amongst the NOB collective and the CEC as a whole.
h) The principles, strategies and tactics of the federation have been put to the test and so far everything has been done to defend them. The Special National Congress should ask if is it not time to enter into a discussion about ensuring that these principles, strategies and tactics remain grounded on the obtaining material reality on the ground.
i) Part of these is expressed as the challenge which consistently emerges, which include COSATU and the tripartite Alliance, COSATU and civil society formations, COSATU and other political formations outside the fold of the Congress movement, COSATU and the struggle for Socialism. All there are political and ideological issues which needs a systematic discussion. These may require that task team of the political commission be constituted to look at this matter as part of preparations towards the Ordinary Congress
j) It is becoming a common trend that in our unions including in the federation, there are leaders who serve longer terms in office. This has proven to impose its own limitations in the organisation if not that it has continuously been identified as a source of the problem. There is a need to enter into a discussion on how the federation prepares its leaders for an avoidable exit from the federation and union leadership.
k) At the centre of the challenges facing our unions including the federation are allegations of corruption, business unionism including the fact that many trade union leaders have their families particularly spouses in business. Included to this has been the role of union investment companies. There is a need to confront this discussion and on the type of control measures to be imposed.
l) The challenges we are going through have been experiences elsewhere in the world. It will help that moving towards the 12th National Congress a study is commissions to derive lessons from the international experiences.
m) All this means that leading to the 12th Congress the federation should start a process similar to the September Commission which will look at organisational and political orientation of the federation including its founding principles.
We are inviting our structures to read through this discussion document and relate to issues raised herein based on their own experiences.
The task is to use the period towards and during the Special National Congress as a period of honest self introspection whose outcome must be to build COSATU into a powerful trade union federation that towers above individuals and that remains trusted amongst workers and the working class in general.
Issued by COSATU