POLITICAL heavyweights will be out in force tomorrow as the nation celebrates Workers' Day, with the centrepiece involving the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) taking place in Mangaung (Bloemfontein).

Mangaung is, of course, where the ruling African National Congress (ANC) recently celebrated its centenary and will be the site of the organisation's next elective conference in December.

President Jacob Zuma will be joined by Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini and South African Communist Party secretary-general Blade Nzimande (also minister of higher education and training) at Cosatu's main May Day rally.

The labour movement has 15 more rallies planned across the country to celebrate Workers' Day.

In East London, Cosatu secretary-general Zwelinzima Vavi will share the platform with ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and SACP deputy general secretary Jeremy Cronin (also deputy transport minister).

Given the composition of those who will be on the various platforms there is clearly an attempt to put unity within the tripartite alliance in the spotlight.

This will come after the recent acrimonious exchanges between Cosatu and the government over plans to implement e-tolling as part of the process to upgrade Gauteng roads.

On Monday, there will be further protests and blockades on some routes. This might also be a test of unity of those participating.

Mr Zuma will again be in the spotlight on Wednesday when he welcomes President Pratibha Patil of India on a state visit to SA.

The visit will last until May 8.

A statement from the last Cabinet meeting said "although the visit will focus on the strengthening of political and economic relations between SA and India, much of the programme will be extended to pay pilgrimage on the Gandhi Heritage Sites, where Mahatma Gandhi set a footprint during the years he spent in SA".

India is a key partner with South Africa in the India-Brazil-SA grouping (Ibsa) and in the broader grouping known as Brics when China and Russia are added.

Various ministers will come under scrutiny during a shortened parliamentary week when they present their budget votes to the National Assembly. On Wednesday, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa will present their reports for the past year and their plans for next year. They will put their cases after a debate on the floor of the house on the topic of Freedom Day.

On Thursday, Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson and Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile will be in the spotlight when they present their budgets to the assembly.

Parliament's police committee will meet on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to deliberate on the controversial South African Police Service Amendment Bill, with Friday set as the date for its adoption.

The bill, which is an attempt to comply with the Constitutional Court ruling that the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (the Hawks) was not sufficiently independent from political interference, was resoundingly rejected by civil society organisations during public hearings last week.

The criticisms were that the bill still did not go far enough in ensuring an absence of political interference as is required by a number of international anti-corruption protocols to which SA is a signatory.

There will undoubtedly be robust debate over whether the bill should be approved in its current form.

hartleyw@bdfm.co.za