THE African National Congress (ANC) buzzwords "the second transition" lacked content and should be fleshed out by delegates at the party's policy conference in Midrand from Tuesday, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) president Sdumo Dlamini said yesterday.

The ANC's strategy and tactics document outlines the "second transition", a policy proposal punted by President Jacob Zuma, which has largely been received with scepticism by party structures and now by its key ally, Cosatu.

The document describes the first transition as the achievement of political freedom and puts forward a second transition where the paradigm shifts to economic transformation as the party's central focus.

Mr Dlamini acknowledged that it was an important debate, and the intention behind it was to "highlight what needs to be done", but practically, the proposals lacked depth.

"Cosatu is quite critical on a notion of saying you have had a political freedom then, at one point you cut, it's no more political freedom, it's economic freedom," he said.

"For us, it's not material. What is material is the content. What do you mean when you are saying second transition and what are the elements of the second transition, what is the programme of the second transition?" Mr Dlamini said.

Although in alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party (SACP), Cosatu will have only 25 delegates at the policy talks. However, it will try to sway the discussions around key issues set to come under scrutiny, including nationalisation, land, economic transformation and the thorny issue of its "oppositional" stance.

While Cosatu's official position is in support of nationalisation, Mr Dlamini said the federation would keep an "open mind".

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa), its second-largest affiliate, views the nationalisation of mines, banks, the Reserve Bank and monopoly industries as non-negotiables. Nationalisation also has the support of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union - also one of the four largest Cosatu affiliates.

However, Cosatu's largest member and the union that would be directly affected by mine grabs, the National Union of Mineworkers, rejected all-out nationalisation at its national congress earlier this month in favour of increased state intervention in the sector.

Numsa has also punted amending the property clause in the constitution to allow the expropriation of land without compensation.

The union made it clear it would only endorse leaders - at the ANC's elective conference in December - who supported its policy proposals, as the ANC Youth League has promised to do.

Mr Dlamini said policies should not be used to "blackmail" the organisation.

"You don't even do this thing of saying I will elect you because you support this policy, we will not elect you if you don't support that policy. That for me is pure blackmail, which we must move away from," he said.

The Cosatu president, who is more restrained in his criticism of the federation's allies than general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, said Cosatu disagreed with expropriation without compensation but wanted the "state to intervene urgently and massively" in land redistribution.

Mr Dlamini's more passive stance is attributed to his close ties to SACP general secretary Blade Nzimande and to Mr Zuma.

The ANC's policy document on organisational renewal devoted a section to alliance politics, bemoaning Cosatu's "oppositional" stance towards the party. Mr Dlamini rejected the criticism.

"If people don't say why, they simply say we're working with the opposition and they can't put evidence, you are causing people to close ears and not listen to your criticism because it is not constructive."

"We will hear them closer on this matter. We are not fighting with the ANC, we will be engaging constructively," he said.

The proposals to heal the alliance suggested in the ANC document were also not new and programmes to improve relations and communications between the partners had been developed as far back as 2009 - but had yet to be implemented.

"I don't know what new things could be said about that except to repeat the call that we need to have a programme," Mr Dlamini said. "If there is no alliance programme, you hear public spats, you hear labelling and name-calling... we hope the policy conference will clarify that."

Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said the federation's detailed response to the ANC's policy documents was likely to be publicised today. Cosatu would be watching the commissions tackling the economy closely, particularly on addressing youth unemployment. It hoped the party would come up with alternative solutions to the government's youth wage subsidy, which the federation had rejected.

marriann@bdfm.co.za