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The News Line: Feature Tensions emerge between the ANC and the unions COSATU president Sdumo Dlamini has publicly endorsed the re-election of ANC president Jacob Zuma, thus exposing the tensions existing within the trade union federation.

Dlamini, who was flanked by Zuma and SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, made his announcement at the main Workers’ May Day rally in Botshabelo, the Free State, and said that the COSATU will work with the current ANC leadership towards Mangaung and beyond.

The controversial head of police intelligence, Richard Mdluli, also attended the rally. He was flanked by uniformed officers.

Dlamini said COSATU’s position leading up to Polokwane in 2007 had not changed and the labour federation was pleased with the current ANC leadership.

‘Leading up to Polokwane, we said as COSATU that we needed a certain character of leadership, and we said we will support that leadership and support the resolutions of Polokwane.

‘We will work with that leadership as we go to Mangaung and beyond.

‘There is nothing that has changed from the position we took leading to Polokwane. We still stand by that position and nobody must be confused,’ Dlamini said.

His comments were made a few days after COSATU’s highest decision-making body, the central executive committee, publicly stated that it would not endorse an ANC leader as it did in 2007.

But Dlamini’s pledge to support Zuma ‘beyond’ Mangaung appears to be an endorsement of him.
Zuma is to face a test of his leadership when the ANC holds its national elective conference in December.

Dlamini’s call is in direct contrast to the labour federation’s central executive committee statement last week that stated that COSATU would not endorse any individual for a leadership position in the ANC.

‘COSATU will not be won over into any faction this time around, because that’s now the binding policy on all of our leaders; you will not endorse any person unless it is the decision of the central executive committee,’ COSATU’s general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, said in the presence of Dlamini after the meeting.

May Day rallies in other parts of South Africa attracted large numbers.

In Eastern Cape, Vavi shared the stage with ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

Mantashe told about 1,000 members to ‘pull themselves off the bottom’ and not take socio-economic and political criticisms personally.

Mantashe threw down a challenge to COSATU and the SACP to apply for leadership within the government and not see themselves only as leaders within their own structures.

In his speech, Vavi focused on the e-tolling system in Gauteng and the federation’s continuing fight to force the government to scrap labour broking.

His counterpart, SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande, said the Gautrain and the e-tolling system in Gauteng did not help the transport problems of South Africa’s workers or the poor.

Nzimande said these projects were essentially directed at making profits at public expense.

Zuma, who spoke at the Free State rally, avoided party politics but focused on narrating the historical victories of workers and organised labour worldwide.

In KwaZulu-Natal, Young Communist League national secretary Buti Manamela warned workers to guard against ‘Superman and Batman’ politicians who were only interested in their own positions.

The central committee member of the SACP also warned against ‘comrade tsotsis, whose desire to fill their pockets has replaced comradely love and virtue’.

Zuma is to face a test of his leadership when the ANC holds its national elective conference in December.

• Two trade unionists in Swaziland were arrested and beaten by police at a May Day rally.

They were arrested because they were holding a banner with markings of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), a labour organisation that is not recognised by the Swazi government.

The Centre for Human Rights, Swaziland, reported the two men ‘were violently arrested, beaten up and later released without charge by state police in Swaziland’.

The two are named as Muzi Mhlanga, who is Secretary General of the Swaziland National Teachers’ Association (SNAT), and another member of the union identified only as ‘Oscar’.

The Centre said the two were arrested at a May Day rally in Manzini, the main commercial city in the kingdom, which is ruled by King Mswati III, sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch.

In a statement, the Centre said the men ‘were arrested after police pounced on toyi-toying workers who were carrying a banner with TUCOSWA markings’.

It added, ‘The two were taken to the Manzini Regional Police Headquarters where they were detained for two hours. They were later called into an office and asked what their business was at the police headquarters, to which they responded that they had not gone there voluntarily, but were brought in by the police.

‘According to Mhlanga, who was interviewed by the Centre after his release, five plain-clothes police officers pounced on them as soon as the van delivered them at the regional headquarters.

‘Mhlanga was shoved to the floor, and beaten by these members of the law enforcement agency.

During the fall he sustained injuries to his knees and face. During the interview, Mhlanga had a visibly swollen face, especially around his eyes. Oscar on the other hand sustained injuries while state police dragged him and threw him into the police van which sped off immediately. Ironically, no charges were preferred against the two.’

The Centre said the two would bring charges against the police officers.

The demonstration took place under the banner of the Trade Union Congress of Swaziland (TUCOSWA), despite the government’s warning that the congress had been deregistered and only the SFTU, SFL and SNAT were being permitted to celebrate this day observed worldwide by workers.

The government and TUCOSWA, which amalgamated the three above mentioned workers unions in February this year, are engaged in a protracted battle.

The government argues that it was improperly registered while TUCOSWA says they are a legal entity and nothing will change that.

This battle almost cost the country’s workers yesterday’s holiday, while workers at the Illovo Sugar Estates were taken to court by their employer, who demanded them to show cause why they should not be at work yesterday, after government had stated that it did not recognise TUCOSWA, which many of their employees were affiliated to.

A sea of red t-shirt wearing workers, a majority which were emblazoned with the TUCOSWA emblem and messages toyi-toyied and shouted ‘Viva TUCOSWA’ as the congress’ leaders and others from the progressive formations addressed them.

Among these were the leader of the proscribed People United Democratic Movement (PUDEMO) President Mario Masuku, who was a hit with the workers.

The organisers condemned the police’s heavy-handedness during the event, adding that at least five buses ferrying the workers to the sports ground had been turned back at various checkpoints, which the police had mounted at different entry areas to the city of Manzini.

They said various reasons were cited by the police, which included the buses not being road-worthy and that they were servicing routes they had no permission to service.

Indeed, this showed with the numbers of the workers who were at the sports ground and bore the sweltering heat of the sun.

The event was initially scheduled for Big Bend’s Mayaluka stadium, but the company withdrew its permission after the deregistration debacle leaving the federation with nowhere to go.

It was not until they applied for permission to hold the event as SFL, SNAT and SFTU and not TUCOSWA that they got permission to use the Salesian sports ground.

But TUCOSWA was adamant that they were celebrating under the banner of the federation, saying the government, if it is serious, should simply ban and not deregister them, adding that as far as they are concerned they are a fully legal entity and the only workers’ representatives in Swaziland.

 
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