South Africa: Cosatu's Hopes for Unionists On NEC Suffer Major Blow

Johannesburg — A CONGRESS of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) push to get more unionists into the national executive committee (NEC) of the African National Congress (ANC) took a knock this week.

Two senior trade unionists were disqualified during nominations from the floor, despite having widespread support at the ANC's 52nd national conference in Polokwane.

Cosatu was one of ANC president Jacob Zuma's main backers in the party's presidential succession battle. While Cosatu backed Zuma, the federation raised concern that his proposed NEC list was not leftist enough. Cosatu's 11th-hour bid to secure the nomination of trade unionists in the NEC yielded only one success because of a constitutional technicality.

Zwelinzima Vavi, Cosatu general secretary, said yesterday they had learnt a "hard lesson".

"It is a lesson we will learn. The October (Cosatu) central executive committee meeting was too narrowly focused on the top six, and by the November meeting it was too late. Although we had the support, we should have planned better. The rule was a killer punch," Vavi said.

Cosatu treasurer Alinah Rantsolase and National Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu) general secretary Fikile Majola were disqualified because of a rule that prohibits more than two people from the same province being nominated from the floor. The conference had just nominated Lyndall Shope-Mafole, director-general in the communications department, and Randall Howard, the South African Transport and Allied Workers' Union general secretary.

Shope and Howard are from Gauteng. Because Rantsolase and Majola are also from Gauteng, they were disqualified.

Former Cosatu general secretary and Gauteng Premier Mbhazima Shilowa blew the whistle when he informed the ANC's newly elected leadership that Rantsolase and Majola were not eligible to stand.

Another senior Cosatu leader told Business Day they had "miscalculated" constitutional rules before floor nominations. "We pushed to get our people in and had the support of Zuma supporters but miscalculated."

Cosatu is now lobbying the ANC's new leadership to include Rantsolase and Majola in the NEC as ex-officio members, a source said. The Zuma camp is believed to be discussing this.

Other names the entire Zuma camp backed for the ANC's NEC include ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula, Sports and Recreation Minister Makhenkesi Stofile, South African Communist Party (SACP) general secretary Blade Nzimande, his deputy, Jeremy Cronin, ANC NEC member Ebrahim Ebrahim, Nehawu president Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya, ANC MP Ncumisa Kondlo, SACP central committee member George Mashamba, Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies and Limpopo arts and culture MEC Joyce Mashamba.

Vavi was nominated from the floor, but again turned down the proposal. Yesterday he said the labour movement should remain independent and dismissed criticism that Cosatu had backed Zuma so that its leaders could get cabinet posts.

Other successful nominations from the floor for the NEC included ANC MP Lumka Yengeni from Western Cape, ANC MP Joyce Moloi from Limpopo, Fikile Xhasa, an ANC regional leader in Eastern Cape, and Enoch Godongwana, another Eastern Cape strongman.

The NEC's 80 positions are being contested by 164 candidates.

The nominees include Willie Madisha, Nozizwe Madlala- Routledge, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Billy Masetlha and Tony Yengeni, who have all been the focus of controversy in recent years.

The ANC's national conference also ratified a proposal of 50/50 gender parity in the ANC's NEC. This means the top 40 women in the ANC NEC election at conference will take their seats on the party's decision making body.

Results for the NEC's additional members are expected today.

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