Thapelo Lekabe

By Thapelo Lekabe

Senior Digital Journalist

ANC should be worried about Cosatu divisions over support for SACP in 2024 elections

Sadtu has taken Cosatu to court over its resolution to back the SACP during next year's polls, but the federation denies it has adopted such a stance.

A political analyst has warned of a repeat in tensions within the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) over its continued stance to support the African National Congress (ANC) ahead of next year’s much-anticipated general elections.

2024 general elections

This comes after Cosatu’s affiliate, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (Sadtu), took the labour union federation to court earlier this month, accusing it of taking a resolution at its 13th national congress to support the SA Communist Party (SACP) over the governing party without properly consulting its unions.

ALSO READ: Chris Hani’s wife says TRC was a waste of taxpayers’ money, takes swipe at Zondo

Political analyst Mpumelelo Mkhabela says the ANC should be concerned about Sadtu’s legal action.

He says this could possibly result in divisions among Cosatu unions similar to 2014 when the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) was expelled from the federation for taking a decision not to support the ANC in the general elections that year.

“The ANC should be worried because at this stage of its weakness, the last thing it needs is any of the alliance partners to fall apart. The departure of Numsa from Cosatu weakened Cosatu a lot to the extent that Cosatu predominantly became a public sector labour federation.

“The last thing that you really need when you’re at your weak position, is to have another party contemplating leaving the alliance. The ANC now, given its state of affairs, requires all its alliance partners to rally behind it and to stay within the alliance,” said Mkhabela, speaking to The Citizen.

Cosatu Constitution

Sadtu’s deputy general secretary, Nkosana Dolopi, said the teacher union was not opposed to Cosatu adopting a resolution to back the SACP in the polls.

He said the union was taking the federation to court for allegedly failing to adhere to its own Constitution and processes on the adoption of resolutions at its national congress held in September last year, in Johannesburg.

RELATED: SACP, Cosatu slam Ramaphosa’s electricity minister plan

Dolopi claims the resolution to support the SACP, which has been threatening for a while now to contest the elections outside of the ANC-led alliance, was adopted without affiliates being given the opportunity to express their views on the matter.

“When we go to national congresses, all of us in terms of the Constitution are encouraged as affiliates of Cosatu to submit motions for consideration so as to influence the policy direction of Cosatu. And all those motions should be submitted 30 days before the congress… on this motion, there was no motion submitted 30 days before the congress,” said Dolopi.

He added: “The second option is when we arrive at the floor of the congress. Unions can lobby for a special motion to be presented to congress. That did not happen. This is a procedural issue that we are contesting and not us being against the communist party”.

Dolopi said Sadtu raised the issue with Cosatu’s top brass several times, however, their pleas apparently fall on deaf ears, and hence they decided to go to court.

‘There was no decision taken’

Speaking to The Citizen, Cosatu national spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said the federation would not comment on Sadtu’s legal action as the matter is before the courts.

Pamla denied that Cosatu’s 13th national congress did in fact adopt a resolution to support the SACP.

He said Cosatu’s highest decision-making body – the central executive committee – would meet next month to discuss the issue.

“There was no decision that was taken. There were processes that were put in place regarding this decision. There is nowhere the federation specifically said a decision was taken,” said Pamla.

READ: New ANC leadership urged to intensify the fight against corruption

Asked whether Cosatu was concerned that the legal action by Sadtu could lead to divisions among its affiliate unions, Pamla said the federation was not fazed by this because the teacher union has every right to challenge the union federation in any way it deems fit.

“It is not an issue of concern because we are a federation and by definition, we are not a unitary structure, which means unions have a right to take this kind of steps if they feel there is a need to do so.

“Of course, we always prefer that issues be discussed and we find a common position and reconcile our positions, but there is nothing wrong with what they’re doing because they have every right to do what they’re doing.

“But we continue to open those platforms for all our affiliates to engage and find each other and come with a common position.”

Political differences

Mkhabela said Sadtu’s legal action was clearly over political differences and, in his opinion, the matter should not be before the courts.

He said this demonstrated the extent of “political naivety” within the ANC-led alliance.

Mkhabela also said there were still a lot of questions that remained about the SACP contesting the elections outside of the alliance, saying the party was using its threats to drop its support for the ANC as a “bargaining strategy”.

“The SACP has listed a lot of conditions and they talk about the reconfiguration of the alliance. They have been talking about this forever and it seems to me the SACP strategy is to bargain for more influence within the ANC.

“This threat is basically a bargaining strategy,” he said.

The date for Sadtu’s legal case at the Johannesburg Labour Court is yet to be determined.

NOW READ: ANC has become what Chris Hani feared

Access premium news and stories

Access to the top content, vouchers and other member only benefits