Cosatu general secretary, Zwelinzima Vavi, believes divisions within the federation have impacted negatively on the organisation’s influence in society.   He stresses the need to heed the warning of Cosatu’s 2012 Political Report that concluded that if Cosatu did not act decisively to address a range of concerns, ‘these elements of the scenario may indeed become a reality over the medium to long term’.   ‘If all, or even some of the elements of this worst-case scenario materialised, we would see the end of Cosatu as we know it.   Clearly we cannot allow such a disastrous situation to unfold’.

The report  Vavi: Cosatu’s ‘painful reality’ may signify its end by Matuma Letsoalo, a senior political reporter at the Mail & Guardian, first appeared in the Mail & Guardian today.   View the earlier blog of 2 September 2014 – State of trade unions needs addressing.

Extracts from the latest M & G report

Unless its leaders act urgently, the federation will face a decline in membership, political clout and reputation, says Zwelinzima Vavi.

In his draft organisational report prepared for Cosatu’s central committee meeting in November, Vavi warns that the once powerful federation could become irrelevant if its leaders do not act decisively to resolve long-standing divisions.

The ANC’s intervention – led by deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa to resolve tensions among Cosatu leaders – appears to have done very little, if anything, to unite worrying factions within the federation.

The party’s task team, which was expected to present its final report to Cosatu national office bearers by last Thursday, appears to have backtracked on its initial plans to offer Vavi and Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini ambassadorial positions in an effort to bring about unity within the organisation.

Vavi and Dlamini have been identified as key elements of division within Cosatu, with Vavi on the one hand pushing for a militant Cosatu and Dlamini on the other preferring a less critical federation – particularly towards the ANC.

Dilution of organisation power

“Cosatu has through its work over the years built up critical political capital in terms of its image and reputation at home and abroad, and the trust which workers in particular have had in the organisation,” reads Vavi’s report.

. . . .

Decline in membership

The general secretary said that already there were worrying signs emerging that this was beginning to happen.

“There was already evidence of this danger in relation to Cosatu’s minimal impact at the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung.   The emergence of serious tensions in the federation made it difficult for Cosatu to meaningfully shape critical aspects of the resolutions, including on the economy and the NDP [National Development Plan],” Vavi said.

. . . . .

While Cosatu’s membership remained above 2-million, Vavi said there has been worrying decline in membership in certain sectors since the federation’s 11th national conference in 2012.

“Equally worrying is the qualitative decline in the organisational cohesion of our affiliates, threatened splits, scandals, declining levels of services.   Few can be in doubt that the coherence and unity of Cosatu has been seriously undermined, and the real possibility has emerged at one point of the federation itself splitting,” the secretary conceded.

“Divisions or scandals in a significant number of affiliates (this is being experience in about 7 affiliates representing over a third of the membership) have either led to splits, or have seriously undermined their effective functioning.”

Only intact on paper

With regard to the alliance, Vavi said it remained intact on paper.   The paralysis in Cosatu and the challenges faced by the ANC and the SACP have meant that the alliance was at its lowest point since 2001, when the right wing attempted to force Cosatu and the South African Communist Party out of the alliance, said Vavi.