Cosatu crisis is like Polokwane – Zuma

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Cape Town – President Jacob Zuma has compared the crisis in Cosatu to the divisions that racked the ANC in the run-up to its 2007 Polokwane conference – where he was elected president of the party, saying “right now Cosatu is in the eye of the storm”.

What happened next would depend on the federation’s strength, and the co-operation of its alliance partners, the ANC and SACP.

“The outcome of such a storm is dependent entirely on the consciousness and maturity of that organisation. If you are not ready you are going to be destroyed,” Zuma said on Friday during his address at the congress of the Young Communists League at the University of the Western Cape.

It was also necessary to analyse people who spoke “as if they are Marxist Leninists”, and wanted to create a socialist organisation, Zuma said, referring to the movement for socialism proposed by metalworkers union Numsa.

“No person can say he has the interests of the workers at heart when every basic, genuine labour theory tells you, unite the workers so they are strong against this huge market (system), and you work hard 24 hours to divide the workers and claim you have the interests of the workers at heart – impossible,” Zuma said.

Numsa was expelled by Cosatu last month after it was accused, among other things, of undermining the federation’s constitution by seeking to recruit members in sectors where fellow unions were organised.

There is now a “political process” to try to bridge the divisions in Cosatu, but its second deputy president, Zingiswa Losi, told the meeting on Friday this was taking place on the understanding it would not undermine the federation’s constitution.

As the central executive committee decision to expel Numsa had been taken in accordance with the federation’s constitution, this meant it was proceeding on the understanding that Numsa remained expelled. If it wanted to return it should drop its court bid to force the calling of a Cosatu special national congress where its expulsion could be rescinded, and instead convene its own special national congress to reverse the resolutions of its congress last December, Losi said.

Zuma told the young communists they needed to analyse the “balance of forces” so the revolution didn’t go astray amid “opportunism that abounds”. “These people need to be analysed so that workers understand exactly what they are, or what they stand for.”

If a union leader lacked political clarity they would make “mistakes”, like confusing their union with a political party and failing to focus on the interests of workers.

“You can’t engage in political polemics in the union, and talk politics rather than the interests of the workers,” Zuma said in a swipe at Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim, who has been vocal in his criticism of ANC leadership.

Zuma also urged the young communists to take to social media to win over the youth in “the battlefield of ideas”.