Pretoria - Cosatu’s decision to call a “ceasefire” in its ranks for a month-long mediation process towards unity was little more than papering over the cracks until after the May 7 elections when hostilities are set to resume, analysts said on Wednesday.
“It’s a temporary ceasefire. The advantage for the warring parties is that it gives them time to regroup and use this period to re-energise for the battles after the elections,” said political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi.
With Cosatu’s 30th birthday coming up at the end of next year, the stakes over the direction of the 2.2 million-strong trade union federation remained high, he added.
Those supporting outspoken Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who returned to work on Monday talking unity after a court ruling his suspension in August unlawful and invalid, would continue to push for a special Cosatu congress.
This gathering was expected to confirm his job on the back of popularity in the federation as the pro-Vavi group does not hold the numbers at the central executive committee (CEC).
In that structure, Cosatu’s highest decision-making structure between national congresses, the anti-Vavi camp holds sway and its first prize would be his removal.
Getting rid of Numsa, Matshiqi argued, was more difficult because as the largest Cosatu affiliate it also contributes most in fees to the labour federation.
“It will take a major effort to make it more than a temporary thing,” said director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy director Steven Friedman, adding the agreement brokered by ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa was highly unlikely to be more than a month-long truce.
However, politically, the ANC has achieved what it wanted: a joint front with less than 30 days to go before elections and more certainty about the traditional electioneering organisational muscle of Cosatu, even if it comes to the table late in the day.
Tuesday’s special Cosatu CEC effectively gagged federation and affiliate leaders, and others, from making speeches straying off the official line - Cosatu supports the ANC in the coming elections - or divisive comments and bans “ill-disciplined activities or events” which could disrupt the federation.
“The first stage was for all comrades to agree to a ceasefire and stop doing anything that would militate against the preservation of unity. Then all comrades wold need to persuade and convince one another to reach agreement on issues,” Cosatu said on Wednesday.
“It would not in any way interfere with the unions’ normal campaigns and activities, including May Day rallies, though it could affect what is said at rallies.”
On Workers Day (May 1), President Jacob Zuma, Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini and South African Communist Party (SACP) leader Blade Nzimande will share a stage in Polokwane, Limpopo.
On Thursday, Cosatu Gauteng structures of teachers union Sadtu, the National Education, Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) and police union Popcru will join the SACP for its commemoration of the assassination of its leader Chris Hani in Boksburg, and with the ANC do electioneering.
Until the mediation process under the auspices of the Cosatu-ANC task team already set up in September 2013 is completed, Vavi will stay in his post, and Numsa remains an affiliate even as Cosatu asked it earlier this year to provide reasons why it should not be expelled.