Cosatu congress: early signs of division

2012-09-17 10:38

Even before the speeches started, delegates attending Cosatu’s four-day congress at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand were showing their colours.

As a video was played of the previous congress in 2009, delegates from the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) seated in the blocks to the left of the stage, cheered loudly every time Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi appeared on the screen.

Those from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), seated right next to Numsa in a block of seats to the right of the stage, cheered every time Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini appeared on the screen.

The cheering for Vavi appeared to be the loudest.

Although Vavi has declared that he would make himself available for re-election for a fifth term, unions like NUM have not nominated him again.

Vavi is associated with the ANC’s fight to have President Jacob Zuma replaced, although he hasn’t pronounced on the governing party’s succession battle ahead of its congress in Mangaung in December.

Dlamini is associated with the pro-Zuma camp.

Cosatu congress house rules forbid the singing of divisive songs against leaders and of showing hand signs that might play into the ANC battles.

Read about the don’ts of the congress here.

Soccer substitution and V signs have been used by anti-Zuma and pro-Zuma supporters respectively to show their preference.

Zuma made a quiet entrance into the congress hall in the Gallagher Convention Centre earlier, where the entire wall to the left of the stage is decorated with an ANC centenary banner featuring two large pictures of his face.

Some of the congress delegates, especially those in the NUM blocks, started chanting Zuma’s name as he got to the front of the hall and onto the stage.

Although the labour federation has been resisting succession talk before the congress, the outcome of the leadership elections might indicate who Cosatu will support at the ANC’s elective congress.

Cosatu supported Zuma in 2007 and is a powerful lobbying voice and organiser within the ANC.

It is also possible that this week’s congress could resolve to support a certain ANC leader in Mangaung, but this is unlikely because the nominations for the ANC’s congress only start in October.

The Cosatu congress will end on Thursday.

» Follow @carienduplessis and @City_Press for updates from the congress

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