Union federation rivals, Cosatu and Saftu held separate May Day rallies in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. Picture: Cindy Waxa/ANA

Johannesburg - Union federation rivals, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the SA Federation of Trade Unions (Saftu) were on Tuesday holding separate May Day rallies in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.

The Saftu main rally is in Bloemfontein, Free State where its president Mac Chavalala will deliver a keynote address. Secretary general Zwelinzima Vavi will speak at Nelson Mandela Bay's KwaZakhele township event. 

The Cosatu event, an annual calendar event traditionally addressed by the State president, will see President Cyril Ramaphosa deliver the keynote address at Isaac Wolfson Stadium. Other speakers will include SA Communist Party secretary general Blade Nzimande and Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini.

A buoyant Vavi on Tuesday told television news channel eNCA that Cosatu ''is dying''.

''The defenders of the R20 hour rate for the minimum wage are at the stadium...Cosatu is dying. We are not going to interfere with the Cosatu rally, these are workers gathered here, not children.''

Saftu was formed in 2017 following the expulsion of Vavi, its former secretary general, and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA for bringing the federation into disrepute. 

Cosatu lost at least 400 000 Numsa members, the largest Cosatu affiliate at that time. Numsa and the Food and Allied Workers Union backed Vavi to the hilt as he fought for his political survival in Cosatu. Fawu also later joined Saftu.

Last week, Vavi led Saftu in a national march that drew thousands of workers to the streets of Johannesburg. The workers marched against the proposed R20 per hour national minimum wage and amendments of the country's labour laws.

African News Agency/ANA