The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali on Wednesday reiterated the federation’s support for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to succeed President Jacob Zuma as leader of the African National Congress (ANC) in December.
“We have come out openly and we need to plead guilty as charged that we supported that the deputy president of the ANC should be next president of the ANC,” said Ntshalintshali said to a loud applause. He was speaking at the South African Communist Party's (SACP's) 14th National Congress being held in Boksburg.
Despite the instability in the tripartite alliance, which is made up of the ANC, SACP and Cosatu, Ntshalintshali said his union federation had not lost hope in the ANC or the alliance.
“Many people love the ANC, they see it as it’s liberation movement, workers understand the challenges facing the ANC as a challenge of leadership,” said Ntshalintshali.
“To Comrade Ramaphosa, the former general secretary of the NUM … our choice is not a blank check … we put a huge responsibility with the future collective of the ANC …”
Ntshalintshali asked Ramaphosa to instil leadership skills, which will focus on the masses as opposed to self-enrichment.
“I don’t know how we are going to solve this problem that when the mayor is elected from Thokoza, the first thing he thinks about is a new house, new car and not his constituency", said Ntshalintshali.
He told delegates that Cosatu supports Ramaphosa, just as it had supported Zuma in the past even when he was facing charges. Ntshalintshali used the occasion to reject suggestions that Cosatu was a lapdog of the ANC,
“We normally said when our government is doing good work we will be the first to say so, but equally when our government is taking wrong decisions we will be the first to condemn it,” explained Ntshalintshali.
Cosatu and the SACP have banned Zuma from attending their meetings and have deemed him unfit to be president.
More unions have joined the call to back Ramaphosa, including the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Health Education & Allied Workers Union (Nehawu).
Delegates attending the week-long conference are expected to nominate new leadership for the next five-year term and also decide whether to contest elections for the first time as a stand-alone party.
SACP second deputy secretary, Solly Mapaila, will not contest for the position of secretary general. The incumbent, Blade Nzimande, who has been the face of SACP since 1998, is expected to be re-elected.
First deputy secretary Jeremy Cronin is stepping down from the party leadership structures and will not be available for re-election.