Cape Town – Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa called for a rejuvenation of the labour movement within the governing alliance on Tuesday.
“Nothing is more important than a strong, united, cohesive and progressive trade union movement,” Ramaphosa said at the Elijah Barayi Memorial Lecture, an event by the SA Congress of Trade Unions (Cosatu).
“We must acknowledge that most of our structures have felt, in some way or other, the negative effects of political incumbency,” he said, referring to the 22 years that Cosatu has been operating within an ANC-led government.
“Many have been weakened by factionalism as comrades compete against each other for positions and resources,” he said, calling on all within Cosatu “to work to restore the alliance”.
Cosatu was severely affected when former general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi left the organisation, resulting in about nine unions falling away from the federation. The cause of the split was political factionalism, with Vavi changing his tune on President Jacob Zuma, who he now wants to resign.
“We need to acknowledge that the structures of the alliance (which incorporates the ANC, Cosatu and the Communist Party) do not function as they should,” he said.
The Communist Party and the SACP, which have had their differences with the ANC recently, have called for unity ahead of the upcoming local elections.
“Except for during elections and in the build up to conferences, the alliance does not have a coherent and consistent programme of action,” said Ramaphosa.
“As we work to build the alliance, we should not confuse unity with uncritical uniformity,” he said. “The alliance will always be characterised by debate and there will always be differences.
“As it participates in developing the positions and implementing the programmes of the alliance, Cosatu must remain firmly and fiercely independent.
“It answers to no one, but the workers of this country.”