Institutionalised factionalism is almost turning Cosatu into what the September Commission report called a “ sikorokoro”.
In this scenario, the federation fails in its responsibility to engage on political issues, fight for better rights and working conditions for workers and locate its struggle within the broader working class, which includes working hand in hand with NGOs and the alliance partners.
Instead, union leaders are preoccupied with narrow interests.
We agree that Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has erred gravely in the sex scandal involving a junior staff member.
Fairness and the principle of natural justice should prevail in the Vavi matter, and justice delayed is justice denied. But a contaminated suspension and disciplinary process serve no purpose.
In fact, they infringe his rights and undermine the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) and the long-term struggle for a socialist revolution.
But the courts under capitalism are an extension of the ruling class – they cannot provide political clarity beyond the evidence presented by parties concerned.
There is no need to elaborate on what made Numsa take Cosatu to court for breaching its own constitution by suspending Vavi.
What needs to be done? What is the best long-term approach to the Cosatu saga? Can the alliance partners – the ANC, SACP, and Sanco – assist in restoring unity and cohesion to the federation?
Antonio Gramsci advocates the theory of a counter-hegemonic alliance responsible for to dethroning the dominant ideas in society and providing an alternative developmental trajectory in the quest for a just society.
While the court action is critical, it is not a panacea for the challenges facing Cosatu. A Cosatu special congress can assist in finding the way forward, as well as the special alliance summit, which will review the organisational form and the role of the alliance.
Most importantly, the summit will review the powers vested in the ANC as the alliance leader and ensure that the alliance is the political centre charged with driving government policies, deploying cadres to the state and driving social and economic transformation.
Class alliances remain just as critical as ever – no struggle that can be fully executed without them.
The Vavi saga should be located within the context of a dysfunctional alliance. Squabbles over the tenders and positions in the state and the desire to legitimate the ruling party tend to blind certain comrades in Cosatu, who are trying advance their sectarian interests at the expense of the revolution.
These elements are active in the labour movement because of the ideological deficiency of the members and leaders of certain Cosatu affiliates.
Against this gloomy background the slogan “Motsotso wa Numsa” (it’s the Numsa moment) takes on new meaning. More than ever before, the union must provide leadership.
Numsa must assist in healing the political rupture in Cosatu, expose foreign forces that are seeking to hijack the federation, and return the labour movement to its initial organisational form so that the political programme adopted at last year’s Cosatu congress can be implemented.
Numsa members must give political clarity, avoiding slogans that create divisions among the motive forces of the NDR.
The union has demonstrated leadership in the recent past on a range of important issues. Examples are the progressive campaigns on exorbitant electricity tariffs, the National Development Plan (NDP), labour brokers the e-tolling system and the land question, as well as submissions on the proposed carbon tax.
There are countless instances where Numsa has stood firm against the neo-liberal policies intended to empower the ruling class at the expense of the working class.
Borrowing from the ANC slogan “The ANC lives, the ANC leads”, we say: “Numsa lives! Numsa leads!”
John Manana is the secretary of Numsa’s Johannesburg central local, JC Bez region.