Cape Town - There will be one publicly unspoken question among the more than 2 000 delegates to the UNI Global Union congress that starts in Cape Town on Sunday: “Why is the South African labour movement apparently intent on destroying itself?”
That question came on Saturday from a British trade unionists and organiser who, like many activists in the international labour movement, has watched with horror as Cosatu has moved ever closer to implosion. However one of the speeches that will be most keenly looked forward to is that of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. He is scheduled to speak on Tuesday.
Will he mention or hint at the turmoil that is going on or will he stick to the theme of celebrating 20 years of non-racist democracy and the legacy of Nelson Mandela? That is the question on the minds of many delegates who have started to arrive for this largest ever trade union gathering on the continent.
Swiss-based UNI Global union represents more than 20 million workers from over 900 trade unions in sectors ranging from finance and media to IT and sport. This Fourth World Congress focuses on the need for union growth and on the promotion of a “new fairer and sustainable global economy”.
Speakers at the opening ceremony on Sunday afternoon include economic development minister Ebrahim Patel and Rivonia trialist Ahmed Kathrada along with International Trade Union Confederation general secretary, Sharan Burrow and her predecessor, Guy Ryder who is now director general of the International Labour Organisation.