‘Cosatu should work with and support Tripartite Alliance’ — Mkhize

2014-07-14 00:00

NEW-ELECTED KwaZulu-Natal Cosatu boss Edwin Mkhize says the labour federation should work with and support the Tripartite Alliance in the lead- up to the municipal elections.

“Part of the task will be to continue working with the alliance and supporting the alliance as we go to the local government elections,” Mkhize said in an interview with The Witness. “We have to make sure we commit that we fulfil that particular task.”

He made the comment in the wake of calls by National union of Metalworkers Union (Numsa) for Cosatu to break away from the ANC-led alliance, alleging the ruling party pursued what it calls a neo-liberal and anti-worker agenda.

In December 2013, Numsa formed a platform it called United Front, and is now researching the possibility of forming a labour party or workers’ movement that may contest the municipal elections in 2016.

In the May elections Numsa withdrew financial support from the ANC and did not endorse the party. This saw Numsa members withdraw from participation in election campaigns.

Numsa’s move has worsened troubles in the labour federation to the point that the ANC have set up a task team to intervene in resolving problems that engulfed Cosatu amid reports of a possible split in the federation.

However, Mkhize said nothing had taken place to sever relations with the alliance. “We have always worked in and with the alliance. It is strange now that some people are being critical when there is no decision taken.”

Mkhize also said the unity of Cosatu-affiliated unions was important.

“The legacy I would like to leave is obviously to see a united Cosatu,” he said as KZN Numsa regional secretary Mbuso Ngubane last week accused some alliance leaders of hatching a plan to destabilise Numsa in order to form a splinter metalworkers’ union.

“We have to strengthen the locals [the branches] and build unity within the affiliates,” he said but declined to comment on the plot alleged by Ngubane.

Mkhize (41), replaced his predecessor Zet Luzipo, who took up a parliamentary position as an ANC MP.

Until his election Edwin Mkhize was the deputy secretary of SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu). The former Samwu Pinetown branch secretary started his trade union career as a shop steward in 1995, a year after his first job as a general worker in the eThekwini Municipality.

“My parents did not have money to take me to the university,” said Mkhize, who completed matric. “So I started as a general worker. In the process of developing myself I managed to rise through the ranks.”

After studying on his own, he now holds a bachelor of social science degree, diplomas in labour economics and developmental studies and a certificate in business administration.

Mkhize was born in Mzumbe, but grew up in KwaNdengezi. Like his predecessor he is grounded within the ranks of the SACP and holds the position of district secretary in the eThekwini’s Eric “Stalin” Mtshali District — Durban West.

He is also a member of the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Education Alliance, a forum that seeks to deal with instability at public schools and ensure learning and teaching takes place.

The married father of four said KZN Cosatu, under his leadership, would take up worker issues seriously, especially the training shop stewards.

“The shopstewards of Cosatu have to be capacitated, have to be able to assist members on labour issues, ensuring our members are properly represented and know what is happening in the struggle for their improved conditions.”

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