Posted on October 2, 2010


Forget the protestations of unity, the stress on solidarity within Cosatu and the governing, ANC-led alliance. Knives are still out and mud is being thrown as attempts continue to be made to settle political scores.

There is more than a hint of Biblical orthodoxy about the whole exercise. To paraphrase a verse from the Book of John: We are the truth, the light and the way, no-one comes to the revolution but by us.

Crudely put, it is a matter of: either you are for our political persuasion or you are the enemy. It is the antithesis of calm reason and clarity of vision.

It also completely undermines the only fundamental principle of trade unionism: the unity of workers as workers, irrespective of differences of gender, religion, politics, sexual orientation or ethnicity,

Take the ongoing fracas involving Tony Ehrenreich, Western Cape provincial secretary of Cosatu who is referred to in an official SA Communist Party communication as “a renegade of the new epoch”. According to SACP provincial secretary, Khaya Magaxa, Ehrenreich is part of a “right wing tendency, disguised as ultra-leftism” that is both “non-SACP and anti-ANC”.

The evidence put forward for this accusation is that Ehrenreich: invited DA leader Helen Zille to address Cosatu shop stewards; is not a member of either the SACP or ANC; failed to prioritise the recruitment of workers to the SACP and “consistently sidelined” the SACP from Cosatu’s campaigns on job losses.

The issue which triggered the row was the clash between Cosatu’s “global day of action” on January 26 (to coincide with the World Economic Forum) and the Joe Slovo memorial lecture and rally organised by the provincial SACP. Ehrenreich’s own union, the National Union of Metalworkers (Numsa) insisted that the SACP event was the priority.

From this came the mudslinging, rumour and innuendo that is sowing considerable and damaging confusion in the trade union movement. It is directed at Ehrenreich and the “right wing tendency of the non-SACP and anti-ANC persons in Cosatu”, a comment that smacks of an invitation to witch hunt.

Ehrenreich will not comment, apart from confirming yesterday that he was still waiting for a response to his request for a meeting with the provincial SACP executive on which Numsa’s provincial secretary, Karl Cloete, also serves.

However, this issue needs to be aired more openly because it affects the wider movement. Ehrenreich’s political affiliations should be irrelevant but, for the record, he is certainly a member of the ANC and may still be a member of the SACP on whose extended executive he once served for a period.

After consulting affiliates, he did invite Helen Zille, as mayor of Cape Town, along with Ibrahim Rasool, premier of the Western Cape, to address shop stewards about the approach of local and provincial governments to the Cosatu campaign against drug abuse.

He also insisted that an internationally agreed day of action should take precedence over a local party political function which was not bound to any particular date.

What all this has done is highlight once again the problems created by prioritising party politics within Cosatu. Some political fundamentalists have latched onto the congress resolution that “Cosatu should continue its endeavours to build the SACP as a party of workers and encourage workers to join the SACP and provide financial support.”

That they proclaim this resolution to be the ultimate gospel can only be to the detriment of the labour movement as a whole.

But those within the senior Cosatu leadership who wish to put a stop this, may find that they have a tough fight on their hands.

Posted in: Archive - 2008