There was a big surprise at the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) congress yesterday : President Jacob Zuma’s most strident union critic, National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) general secretary Irvin Jim, rose to support the president’s second term as African National Congress (ANC) leader.
Although support for Mr Zuma is not unanimous in Cosatu — some of the 3,000 delegates did not join in songs praising him — there was sufficient consensus at the congress to believe that Cosatu will endorse his second term. Before Mr Jim could throw his union’ s substantial weight behind Mr Zuma, he was stopped for raising the matter unprocedurally.
He was preceded by Thobile Ntola, president of the South African Democratic Teachers Union and another critic of Mr Zuma, who argued that the congress should discuss who Cosatu should back at the ANC’s electoral conference in December, arguing that "the revolution should not be left to chance".
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The discussion was deferred to Cosatu’s central executive committee, as were all the congress’s political resolutions.
But Mr Jim and Mr Ntola’s comments spoke volumes, indicating that Mr Zuma’s critics in Cosatu wanted to be seen as the first to support him.
Senior leaders of the biggest unions in Cosatu said that over the course of the four-day congress this week, unanimity on support for Mr Zuma had emerged in behind-the-scenes discussions.
It had always been probable that the federation — which has double the membership of the ANC and considerable resources to mobilise support for the party — was going to support Mr Zuma.
"I don’t know of a single affiliate that does not support a second term for Zuma," a union leader said.
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