Comment: Chanllenges posed by the Cosatu 9th national Congress

From September 18 to 21 2006, close to 2500 delegates representing Cosatu’s 21 affiliates gathered in Midrand to discuss a range of issues pertinent to the Federation and its future. This Congress was preceded by a lot of media speculation on the issues of leadership and the so-called political camps within the leadership of the Federation. Consistent with our tradition, we attended the Congress well prepared to engage others on the future direction of the Federation. We tabled resolutions in the Congress which we had discussed with our regions. These covered the alliance and the national democratic revolution; state power and the struggle for socialism; the ANC and the succession debate and underlying principles; building structures of the Federation at local/regional and national level; campaigns and restructuring the economy; strengthening the labour market and international solidarity with workers of the world.We were always mindful of what Cabral said:”the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children….”We also had a discussion in our constitutional meetings on the issue of leadership in the Federation and how this matter should be handled in order to ensure that the outcome unified the Federation and its affiliates. What informed the discussion in our structures was the extent to which the current leadership had implemented the 2015 Plan as decided by the 8th National Congress. In this regard our Central Committee (CC) decided that we would retain the current leadership as we were satisfied with their performance. This remained the position of the national union up to the Congress.

One of the most important things that Cosatu and its affiliates now have to address is how we cement the cracks that emerged in congress between the Cosatu leadership and within affiliates. In the National Policy Workshop preparing for the Congress we asked these questions:* how do we ensure that we manage the external contradictions in the ANC such that they do not affect the cohesion and unity of the Federation, and * how do we manage the issues of leadership so that they do not divide affiliates of the Federation. As a result of our collective failure to handle these matters effectively, the media houses focused on leadership as if congress was about nothing else but leadership. In the process the most important issues about defending and advancing workers’ rights were lost to the media. Had we resolved this well in advance amongst affiliates, the Congress would have had an opportunity to deal with all of the issues that we had put forward for debate. Instead we had to take a decision to defer other matters to other structures of the Federation. How we manage Congresses in future has got to be reviewed. The workers’ parliament must allow elected representatives to express their views about the direction that their Federation should take. A focus on other matters robs workers of this historic moment to shape and direct their organisation. We must have a frank and honest discussion within our structures on how best we can ensure that this culture of worker control and democracy finds concrete expression in the Federation.We should also discuss how we handle minority dissent in a union when a majority decision has been taken. The tradition that has characterised the trade union movement has been high levels of discipline and respect for national decisions. A delegate in our national caucus reminded others on the very same matter that we were not a federal union but a national union. In our year-end CC we must:* evaluate our performance and the running of Cosatu’s 9th National Congress.* integrate Cosatu resolutions into Numsa’s 4-year Master Plan and process these resolutions in the run-up to the 10th National Congress in 2009.* deal with the general issues of unity and cohesion in the Federation and its affiliates.* deal with new tendencies that are emerging presenting themselves as revolutionary work but which by their nature represent destructive factionalism in the trade union movement and the broad liberation movement.In the Numsa News published before the Cosatu 9th Congress, we said the following, drawing lessons from Amilcar Cabral:”We must practise revolutionary democracy in every aspect of our organisational life. Every responsible member must have the courage of his responsibilities, exacting from others a proper respect for his work and properly respecting the work of others. Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…..”

Aluta Continua!Silumko Nondwangu, general secretary