Cosatu in pre-Mangaung war of signals, iPad images, songs

2012-09-20 09:51

The final day of Cosatu’s four-day congress got off to a noisy start as delegates showed hand signals to indicate their preference or not for President Jacob Zuma.

The labour federation has so far avoided discussing who they would support at the ANC’s elective congress in Mangaung in December.

As delegates streamed into the hall at the start of this morning’s programme at 9am, groups of union members were already singing songs and marching around the Gallagher Convention Centre hall.

Following a message of support, Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi started delegates in a song, saying: “Sihamba noMsholozi, Sihamba noPresident (We are going with Msholozi, we are going with the president)”

Vavi, apparently in response to signals shown by delegates, stopped the singing to remind delegates that singing in favour of serving leaders was allowed according to Cosatu’s house rules, but making “divisive” hand signals were not.

This led Popcru delegates to put up their hands showing two fingers, a signal used by Zuma’s supporters, and Numsa members to show soccer substition signs, a sign that they want to see Zuma replaced.

One of the leaders joked that those putting up two fingers were Kaizer Chiefs supporters as it’s a sign used by supporters of the soccer team.

Another round of singing ensued, this time a more neutral song saying: “We are going forward even if times are hard.”

Some Numsa members also took to their chairs, with one raising his downturned hands to resemble two shower heads above his head, a signal started by supporters of expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema in criticism of Zuma.

Another Numsa member discreetly displayed an iPad with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s picture on it, calling for him to be president.

Vavi eventually managed to silence delegates, and a debate around Cosatu’s socio-economic report, which was started last night, continued.

Asked about the singing at an impromptu press conference on etolls this morning, Vavi said he would take questions on the matter later.

The congress has resolved to leave the decision of which leader to support in Mangaung to Cosatu’s central executive committee and to pronounce only in October, when the ANC officially opens nominations.

The labour federation’s leadership seemed to have been divided about whether to support Zuma or not, with Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini openly declaring his support.

Vavi has until recently been very critical, but his stance appears to have softened considerably since the unanimous nomination and re-election of all six of Cosatu’s national office bearers.

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

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