South Africa


Gwede Mantashe heckled and sent packing at Cosatu national congress

Gwede Mantashe heckled and sent packing at Cosatu national congress
Gwede Mantashe, ANC chairperson, was booed off the stage at Cosatu’s 14th national conference held at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on 26 September 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) members barred ANC Chairperson Gwede Mantashe from speaking at their 14th national congress on Monday.

‘Hamba Gwede” [Go Gwede] and “asinamali” [we have no money] were slogans chanted on Monday by delegates attending Cosatu’s conference who believe the ANC is full of empty promises. 

This led to ANC Chairperson Gwede Mantashe having to exit the stage alongside ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) members Lindiwe Zulu and Mmamoloko Kubayi — without delivering his remarks. 

Conference delegates who heckled Mantashe, however, said that they were not particularly targeting Mantashe and that any ANC leader would have faced the same treatment.

Mantashe was meant to deliver a message of support on behalf of the ANC at the Cosatu conference, which was held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, Gauteng. Party leader President Cyril Ramaphosa was involved in another engagement in Soweto where the ANC was commemorating the 86th birthday of the late Struggle icon Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.

Conference delegates were unapologetic about their stance and wanted the ANC to account for a number of issues, the first being the wage increase that the government has offered workers — which they believe is not sufficient because of the high cost of living.

Last month, the government raised its wage offer to public servants from 2% to 3% during a mediation process aimed at breaking a deadlock in wage discussions. Among those considering the offer and taking it to their membership for a mandate are a number of Cosatu affiliates.

Wage demands by unions in the public service wage talks range from 4% to as much as 10%. 

Some delegates explained that raising their issues within union structures was a futile exercise seeing that their president, Zingiswa Losi, is a close Ramaphosa ally. 

After being booed, Mantashe was surrounded by his security and refused to speak to the media until later in the evening. When he eventually decided to comment on the matter, he insisted that the embarrassment that he had faced was not an indication that Cosatu is rejecting the ANC. 

“Rejection is actually raising your issue with the ANC. If they were rejecting the ANC they would, in fact, not invite us here. We were invited here, that is not rejection. If they want to disrupt the speed of the ANC, that’s a different matter, it’s a statement they are making and we must listen to that statement,” he said.

The tension in the alliance has been ongoing, with Ramaphosa having been heckled at the union’s May Day event this year. Ramaphosa was unable to deliver his speech and had to leave the event.

Gwede Mantashe, ANC chairperson, was booed off the stage at Cosatu’s 14th national congress at Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand on 26 September 2022. Cosatu members sang songs until he left the stage. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Gwede Mantashe being booed off the stage at Cosatu’s 14th national congress. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Gwede Mantashe at Cosatu’s 14th national congress. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Bheki Ntshalintshali and Zingiswa Losi at Cosatu’s 14th national congress. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Losi and Shingange to retain leadership positions

The union’s conference nominated new leadership which will be voted for during the course of the four-day sitting. Losi, who was nominated unopposed, will be re-elected as party president. 

Mike Shingange was nominated unopposed as first deputy president. Simon Hlungwani and Duncan Luvuno are vying for the second deputy presidency. Freda Oosthuizen is up for the treasurer position, Solly Phetoe was nominated to be the union’s general secretary, while Gerald Thwala and Moses Lekota received nominations for the position of deputy general secretary. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ‘Unity among trade unions is shattered, leaving the working class stranded

During her opening remarks, Losi had negative and positive views about the ANC. Her biggest criticisms of the party were surrounding the poor state of local government, state-owned enterprises, corruption and the unemployment rate. She also spoke about the Eskom crisis.

“The reports by the Auditor-General on the state of municipalities is a horror story. A decade ago, 10% of our municipalities were in financial distress but today it is 90% — 43 have collapsed, 151 are on the brink of collapse. Many municipal workers are sent home without being paid, from Renosterberg to Amahlathi.  

“We correctly condemn the reckless austerity budget cuts to key frontline service departments. And then what? What are we doing to expose corruption? When some of our own members are implicated, do we keep quiet? These are the hard issues we must grapple with,” she said. 

While SA suffers multiple crises, Nedlac summit offers few answers

In the same breath, she sang the praises of the party and highlighted the victories since the dawn of democracy. 

“The ANC is not perfect. It has made serious mistakes. It is battling to cleanse itself of the demons of corruption and factionalism. It is contested by various class forces. Yet it has stood with Cosatu when we demanded the constitutional enshrinement of workers’ rights, the passing of our labour laws and our many other progressive laws. Our task is to defend workers’ hard-won victories. 

“We must contest the ANC and the alliance to ensure that the voice of workers is heard and not sidelined. We must help to rid the ANC of criminal elements if it is to be saved,” she said.

Speaking on the state of Cosatu, Losi raised concerns about the decline in the number of the union’s members and said that they were working towards reaching two million members before 2027. The union has lost support over the years. 

“We need to engage more on how to bring other unions into Cosatu if we are serious about achieving our goal of one union, one industry, one federation, one country. We need to reflect on why only 27% of workers are unionised. What are our programmes to organise the unorganised? What creative strategies are needed to increase our membership to two million by the next congress and to attract young workers?” she asked. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    Ms Losi’s logic escapes me: the ‘horror story’ that is local government, corruption, Eskom and factionalism are mentioned. Who does she think is responsible for this, if not the ANC? Union members need to face a few facts too: your unions are corrupt and really don’t care about you.

    • Malcolm McManus says:

      To think they have stood by the ANC for decades and seen the horror story, and yet they still stand behind the ANC. Their members can chant slogans and dance until the cows come home, but that will make no difference. Yet they will still vote for the ANC hoping for change.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Here’s hoping the electorate will do the same and chase the ANC off any and every platform. They deserve Zilch from the SA electorate. We need younger, disciplined, credible, visionary leadership and ANC has proven over and again it doesn’t have any.

  • Willem Boshoff says:

    Now that the economy is in tatters and there’s no more money amid failing SOE’s and crumbling infrastructure, now COSATU wants to throw their toys. This is the bed you made; lie in it.

  • Chris Green says:

    Shame, poor Gwede and he looked sober !! lol

  • Dellarose Bassa says:

    DM, please edit articles carefully.
    Zingiswa Losi will be “re-elected unopposed as PARTY president’?
    Goodness me! Surely she will retain her position as COSATU President?
    COSATU is not a political party. It’s a union federation.

    Poor ol’ Gwede! Talk about a former unionist & worker transformed into the fattest of fat-cat elites! Hau, shem!

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