It is trying to wrest power by dabbling in the ANC leadership election

SAME SONG: Cosatu delegates at the federation's conference at Esselen Park in Ekurhuleni this week. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 17/09/07. © Sowetan.
SAME SONG: Cosatu delegates at the federation's conference at Esselen Park in Ekurhuleni this week. Pic. Antonio Muchave. 17/09/07. © Sowetan.

Eric Naki

Eric Naki

Cosatu's list of its preferred leaders to be elected at the December ANC national conference in Limpopo is dangerous for the ANC and for unity in the tripartite alliance.

The worst danger is that non-ANC members in Cosatu or its affiliates might find themselves influencing or even taking part in nominating the leader of the ANC and subsequently the country.

Cosatu does not only have ANC members, but members across the political spectrum in its affiliate unions.

Since 1994, many independent trade unions and "sweetheart unions" joined Cosatu, ostensibly for expedience and political survival.

The Police and Prisons Civil Rights Union (Popcru), for instance, might not necessarily have ANC or SACP members, but by virtue of its affiliation to Cosatu, it qualifies to attend the federation's central committee meetings such as the one currently under way in Kempton Park. The powerful committee is Cosatu's second highest constitutional structure after its national congress.

Who will stop police officials and prison warders from influencing the election of their future ministers of safety and security and of correctional service?

Other public service unions will also determine the fate of future ministers, the deputy president and the president of the country or simply their bosses. This is an awkward situation.

Some members in the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the National Union of Mineworkers and the Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu) who opposed Cosatu's interference in the ANC leadership election have this in mind. They understand that influencing the election is different from nominating such a leadership, even if it's only a wish-list.

The latter is not only unprecedented and cause for confusion, but divisive of the ANC and the alliance membership. If this succeeds, the ANC leadership is not going to be decided solely by party structures, but by trade unions whose members are not even ANC members. The Cosatu move to dictate to the ANC is out of order and has the potential to kill the ANC in the long run.

Fawu, which invited President Thabo Mbeki to speak at its 66th anniversary celebrations recently, are cautious about taking sides. While it has produced a 16-member candidates list for the top six positions, it will not put specific names to the positions.

"We reject the view of placing names to positions, and this pool of names constitutes a preference in case Cosatu decides to make a list of preferred candidates.

"We believe [that] no one should be disqualified from standing in terms of the ANC constitution and that no one is automatically guaranteed to occupy any position. We further reject any implied or stated factional way of promoting specific names for specific positions in the ANC," Fawu's resolution said.

There are many interpretations to Cosatu's action. During liberation struggle debates in the 1980s, youth under the auspices of the South African Youth Congress debated that the national democratic revolution will later be replaced by a working-class socialist revolution under the SACP vanguard.

Is Cosatu not taking a short cut to socialism? Isn't it trying to bring its socialist revolution in through the back door?

This Cosatu Bolshevik approach is contained in its paper on the ANC leadership challenge. In the paper, which is based on its last congress resolution, Cosatu said that while it will continue to support the ANC, it is worried that the organisation is "dominated by the interests of the capitalist, rather than the working class".

Cosatu wants the ANC to return to its nationalisation policy, to end privatisation of government functions, to adopt an economic policy aimed at wealth redistribution and to abolish anti-worker legislation.

It admitted that the resolution was a marked departure from its historic position of not getting involved in the leadership debate.

It is clear that Cosatu is not only interested in the leadership issue, but also in changing how the ANC as a party functions and the alliance works..

It wants to take away policy-making powers that it believes are centralised in the country's presidency, to the alliance.

"This environment is not static but rather subject to intense contestation.

"The principal task of the working class is to recapture the ANC as a progressive and radical liberation movement," said Cosatu.

If the sentiment expressed in the paper is anything to go by, war is declared against those it believes have capitalist tendencies. In recent discussions with the SACP, the two allies agreed on building a counter-hegemonic bloc to monopoly capital's agenda.

The SACP and Cosatu want Jacob Zuma to take their socialist vision forward. They believe that with Zuma in power, they will indirectly be able to run the country. Zuma is neither a communist nor a socialist; his overnight involvement in the socialist agenda is opportunistic. He has aligned himself with Cosatu and the SACP for his survival.

If he is elected in December and becomes the country's president in 2009, he will have to pay back by giving SACP, Cosatu and ANCYL leaders state positions.

Whether such a revolution will last, in the light of the failure of socialism and communism the world over, remains to be seen. The fact is, leaders climb the power ladder as red-hot socialists and climb down as pale neo-capitalists. There are many living examples.