Sdumo Dlamini: Will Zuma divide Cosatu?

2012-04-01 07:50

Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini says perceptions linking him to a campaign to secure a second term for ANC president Jacob Zuma are misguided.

Dlamini, who is about to finish his first term as the labour federation’s president, told City Press his softly-spoken and calm manner has been used, incorrectly, to link him to Zuma.

While trade union leaders are popularly known for being militant and loud, Dlamini has a mellow take on issues and often advocates for talks before radical positions.

“We are different individuals with different methods of engaging. All we ought to be guided by is the principle and position on the particular issue that is being discussed”.

He will not be a copycat of firebrand Cosatu general-secretary Zwelinzima Vavi just to satisfy sections of the federation and the alliance that link him to Zuma.

“I’m not going to be faking anger on my face because maybe the general-secretary of Cosatu should be seen to be genuinely angry about the situation”.

Though Dlamini is equally outspoken on Cosatu’s opposition to labour brokers and e-tolling, he is willing to listen to the ANC’s and the government’s positions.

“If you have a situation after the strike where the ANC says ‘come let’s talk’, you welcome that. You go and engage because you’re intending to find a solution”.

Cabinet had already sent the labour law amendment bills to Parliament by the time the ANC invited Cosatu for talks and e-tolling is due for implementation at the end of April.

“Does that mean we’re wasting our time because Parliament is continuing on the other side? I don’t think so. It is possible that whatever can be found will fit into the Parliamentary processes, so nothing is lost at the moment.”

ANC politics continuously cause divisions in Cosatu by creating camps aligned to preferred ruling party leadership candidates.

Dlamini says keeping Cosatu united in the midst of all this is a “very difficult task”. The federation’s leadership needs to speak with a united voice, he believes.

Articulating the federation’s position saves leaders from being “swamped and swallowed into the pure, narrow, factional issues” of the alliance.

The political environment in the alliance is currently tense and is fuelling public spats.

“It’s a very difficult, sometimes poisonous environment which is highly charged, but it’s to be expected. We’re now in 2012 which people have dubbed the year of the congresses,” says Dlamini. All alliance partners, the ANC, SACP and Cosatu, are due to elect their new leaders this year.

While Dlamini is in favour of workers “swelling the ranks” of the ANC, he is worried about the disappearance of an “all-round cadre” which is not confused about their ideology.

“The problem is that you have workers who come to an ANC meeting and first want to declare that ‘we are Cosatu and this is what we believe in. I will never say I now speak as a president of Cosatu in an ANC meeting. We want a cadre that is able to fit into all these areas without losing his or her own identity and ideological stance.”

The 46-year-old is a qualified nurse who joined the health workers’ union Nehawu and rose up the ranks from being a shop steward in 1992 to lead Cosatu.

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