Johannesburg - Cosatu affiliates have warned the ANC not to even think about deploying President Jacob Zuma to address or attend the federation’s important mid-term meeting scheduled for later this month.
The federation’s largest union, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), is again leading the charge to stop Zuma from giving a speech at the meeting, where he is expected to speak as leader of the tripartite alliance.
On Monday, Zuma suffered embarrassment when booing and heckling Cosatu members forced the May Day rally in Bloemfontein he was due to address to collapse before he could speak.
Former KZN premier Senzo Mchunu and Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa joined thousands of congregants of the Nazareth Baptist Church (Shembe) to celebrate the life and times of its founder leader, Prophet Isaiah Shembe, at eGibisile Home in Empangeni. Picture: Bongani Mbatha/ANA Pictures
This was after Nehawu and the Communication Workers Union had written to Cosatu officials asking that the rally be addressed by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa instead of Zuma, who the federation resolved should step down.
Cosatu President S'dumo Dlamini with President Jacob Zuma at the May Day rally in Bloemfontein on Monday. Picture: Nokuthula Mbatha/ANA Pictures
The National Union of Mineworkers - which was part of the unions that pushed for Zuma to address the May Day rally despite objections - warned it would be “reckless” for the ANC to send the president to Cosatu’s central committee (CC).
The CC meeting, which runs from May 29 to June 1, is a mid-term gathering during which the federation assesses the progress of implementation of its policies adopted at an elective conference.
The federation and the SACP have been inviting Zuma to their important meetings and conferences since 2007, when they played a crucial role in helping him to power.
The last central committee meeting Zuma addressed was in June 2011, and the federation was split over whether to endorse his second-term bid in Mangaung in 2012.
On Tuesday, Nehawu spokesperson Khaya Xaba issued a stern warning to Zuma.
“That man (Zuma) must not even think about coming to the CC. The man must resign, and him coming to address the CC would be a way of dividing us. Look at how the May Day was divided, it’s because of him.”
Xaba added that if any politician were to address the meeting, it should be Ramaphosa.
“We want Ramaphosa to take over from Zuma. We have had enough of this man,” said Xaba.
Pule Molalenyane, president of the SA Municipal Workers Union, echoed Nehawu’s sentiments.
“I don’t think the Cosatu leadership will make such a blunder in inviting him (Zuma) to come and address the CC meeting, considering what happened on May Day.”
NUM president Piet Matosa said the ANC needed not to be reckless when deploying a leader to the Cosatu meeting, considering that Zuma was booed on Monday.
“I don’t think the ANC will be reckless in its deployment”. Matosa added that the ANC, as an alliance partner, would get an invitation letter to attend the CC meeting.
“It will then decide who it deploys. We don’t dictate who the ANC should send,” he said.
He stressed that Cosatu’s decision that Zuma should step down had not changed.
Communication Workers Union general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said having Zuma address the CC meeting “can put us into a predicament”.
“As the CWU, we have said it would be wrong for the president to come and address a Workers’ Day rally. We are therefore saying the sensible thing, going forward, is to avoid frictions,” he added.
Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said they were still to finalise the programme.
“We have not invited people as yet. The office-bearers will be looking at that one very closely,” he told The Star.
Ntshalintshali said the Cosatu leadership would decide soon on leaders it would invite to speak.
“What we have been doing today is that we have been inviting organisations that we normally invite, but in terms of who might be giving input, etc, we have not yet decided on that,” he said.
ANC national communications manager Khusela Sangoni said: “If Cosatu sends us an invite we will deploy accordingly, as we normally do.”
Zuma’s woes with Cosatu worsened as Ramaphosa continued on a charm offensive in KwaZulu-Natal, the president’s heartland.
On Tuesday, Ramaphosa, accompanied by former premier Senzo Mchunu, who has fallen out with Zuma, addressed the influential Shembe Church in Esikhawini near Empangeni.
Zuma previously frequented the church, one of the biggest and oldest indigenous churches on the continent.
Ramaphosa, who spent the previous two days campaigning for the party in the run up to by-elections in Nquthu, asked the church to pray for the ANC. Comparing the church with the founding fathers of the ANC, he congratulated church leaders for being able to stick to the values on which the ANC was founded in the early 1900s.
“I look at this church and I think about my own church, the ANC. I wonder whether our founders, the likes of John Langalibalele Dube, who was a close friend of the founder of the Shembe church, would be pleased with the current state of affairs in the ANC,” he said.
Ramaphosa said the ANC was in need of divine intervention. “If anyone watched the news (on Monday), you would have seen what happened to the president. He was not able to address the workers’ rally because there was unhappiness about how the programme was organised.”
“We ask the churches, which have always been a very important institution for the ANC, to pray for the party because it is clear that we are in a very dark place.”
He had earlier told the congregation: “I am not here looking for position (to become president).”