Zingiswa Losi: 'It's not about me'

2018-09-23 11:56
Zingiswa Losi PHOTO: Gallo Images

Zingiswa Losi PHOTO: Gallo Images

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Had she not been mature enough to separate personal feelings from leadership responsibilities, Zingiswa Losi could easily have been lost to Cosatu, instead of making history as its first female president.

Never take things personally in any organisation, says Losi, because when they have been addressed and dealt with, you still have to lead those who were raising the issues. “I have learnt to separate myself as Zingiswa from the position that I occupy. If I fail to do that, emotions will come in, because Zingiswa will not understand that the issues are about the office and not about her as an individual.”

There is a painful background story to her sentiments. She had a bruising experience in 2013 with her then union, Numsa, when she was suspended by her Eastern Cape home region over charges of bringing the union into disrepute.

In the end she resigned from her position at a local Ford plant and found refuge in Popcru to avoid losing her position as Cosatu’s second deputy president.

Losi, also a former soldier in the SA National Defence Force before joining Ford in 2002, almost burst into tears when she told national congress delegates this week about the support she received from her family in Port Elizabeth when “the road was filled with potholes”. She said her father, sisters, children and nieces held her hand, helping her to “identify the potholes”.

Losi says she appreciates the Numsa experience because “if you focus on emotions, you are easily dislodged without really understanding the reasons behind some of the questions that are being asked. Had I addressed it differently, I would have burnt many bridges. But now I’m able to meet my former comrades and we greet, we smile and we hug.

“I have never taken issues personally and I will never do. I must first understand why this person is raising this issue and then put myself in the shoes of that person. Perhaps they do not have information and maybe it is an opportunity to share information,” she says.

Losi describes herself as “one person who genuinely cannot hold grudges”, saying it takes a lot of energy and drains her if she cannot speak to somebody. “It completely destroys me internally and that is why I refuse to carry any baggage for anyone. You bring your baggage; you shall take it back with you. But I only reject the baggage and not the person, because next time you may be bringing something that is worth taking note of,” she says.

The road ahead may not be without new potholes for Losi, with workers increasingly agitated because they feel they are getting a raw deal in their alliance with the governing ANC. The federation’s 1.6 million workers have always voted for the ANC during elections, but their loyalty to the party has not always resulted in government policy and decisions that push the interests of the workers.

Among Losi’s first tasks in office is to persuade the ANC to listen and respond to the workers’ concerns by agreeing to the reconfiguration of the alliance so that all partners have an equal say in the running of government. President Cyril Ramaphosa said the ANC was amenable to the proposal, but urged that for now the general elections next year should be the alliance’s first priority.

The ANC is feeling the heat from the SACP regarding the same matter, because the latter agrees with Cosatu that the alliance should be reviewed. It is going a step further and threatens to contest elections against the ANC if it does not respond favourably.

“What we do not want is to be placed in a position where we must choose between the ANC and the SACP,” says Losi, who is also a member of the ANC’s national executive committee. “Some of us have dual membership, belonging to the party and the ANC. We do not want to choose. If the party says the best option is to reconfigure the alliance, then we want the ANC to really consider, because as workers we would continue to make assessments and take a decision.”

She says Cosatu’s support of the ANC through finances and human resources during election campaigns are not open-ended. The trade union federation expects that discussion papers on the proposed reconfiguration will soon be ready so that common issues are pulled together and “we are able to draft the kind of reconfigured alliance that we are talking about”.

“The SACP says the first choice is reconfiguration, and if that fails then they contest elections. So, let’s go through that first option and if that fails and the ANC is not serious about reconfiguration, then the SACP will go to special decision.”

She says the next Cosatu congress in 2021 would have to assess whether the reconfiguration has worked, also taking into consideration the position of the SACP.

The ANC is not driving socialism in any way and it is the SACP that is doing that, she says, adding that “the SACP must then take a decision on whether it wants to contest the elections”.

Losi has always declared that her personal struggle in Cosatu is “to see women taking their rightful place in the federation, not for the purposes of achieving gender equity, but for the transformation of broader society”, as well as the defeat of patriarchal tendencies in society.

This week saw another step towards the achievement of those goals being made with two more women now members of Cosatu’s top brass. Freda Oosthuysen continues in the role of treasurer and Louisa Thipe was elected as the new second deputy president.

Losi’s complete team also includes general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali and his deputy Solly Phetoe, who both retain their positions.

Read more on:    cosatu  |  anc  |  zingiswa losi

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