Cosatu losing contact with its roots, says analyst

2010-02-10 13:31

Labour federation Cosatu does not seem too keen to learn from the

hard lessons of union movements in other parts of the work, an analyst said in a

report published today.

Writing in the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation’s yearly

transformation review Professor Sakhela Buhlungu said Cosatu’s political power

and influence would be the envy of union federations in other developing


However, organisational weaknesses were becoming increasingly

apparent in the federation.

Its future was being fiercely contested by those who prioritised

political influence, and those who gave primacy to building organisational


Buhlungu, who is a professor of sociology at the University of

Johannesburg, said the post 1994-democratic environment had helped Cosatu extend

its political influence.

But this had often meant resources were diverted from building the

organisational capacities of unions.

“Union movements in the rest of the world have learnt the hard way

that political influence is impossible to sustain in the absence of

organisational power,” he said.

“Sadly, Cosatu does not seem to keen to learn from the experiences

of union movements in other parts of the world.”

He said key union leaders had become alienated from members, and

had begun to think and act like the business people, politicians and bureaucrats

they were trying to displace.

They spent longer hours in meetings with bosses and bureaucrats

than they did with blue-collar members of their unions.

During social occasions at such events, the conversation was

seldom, if at all, about building a workers’ paradise.

Instead, it was often about the latest trends in consumption –

“cars, houses, food and expensive drinks, playing golf, and free tickets to

watch sports matches from corporate suites at sports stadiums”.

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