Aubrey Tshabalala. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Aubrey Tshabalala (centre). Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

TRADE union federation Cosatu on Wednesday called for restraint between its affiliate, the Communications Workers Union (CWU) and the South African Communist Party (SACP), following an exchange of "verbal hand grenades" this week.

On Monday the CWU criticised the SACP’s alleged absence on matters affecting employees. The CWU also alleged that the SACP had joined with "neo-liberal forces" to undermine the union’s presence in companies in which it organises, including the SABC and ANN7.

In June, the SACP in Gauteng joined protests over editorial policies at the SABC, marching on the broadcaster’s Auckland Park premises to protest transformation and the treatment of workers.

CWU general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala said during a briefing on Monday that the union "read with shock and disbelief" that the SACP was calling for the establishment of workplace forums within companies in which the union organised.

"This is a clear indication that the party fails to appreciate the current challenges faced by workers at plant level, and the fact that the so-called company forums have been used in companies to oppress and depoliticise workers, and to ultimately exploit them," Tshabalala said.

The CWU further criticised ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe as the "main embodiment of the extreme form of arrogance that is being associated with the ANC lately".

The CWU maintains that Mantashe has failed to meet the union to address its concerns over state-owned enterprises. However, such a meeting is scheduled for Friday.

On Tuesday the SACP said the criticism by the CWU was unwarranted. The party would seek to meet the CWU in Gauteng to deal with real or perceived fears of the party’s presence in the suggested workplace and was confident the matter could be dealt with.

"Whilst we do not seek to engage our alliance partners, especially worker leaders in the media, this venomous and slanderous attack seems to bear great resemblance and to fit neatly into the current and existing scheme of factional gangs and networks in our movement," the SACP said in a statement.

"These are factional schemes and gangs with links to the accumulation regime at state-owned enterprises," said the SACP.

On Wednesday Cosatu called for an end to attacks and the public trading of insults, expressing confidence in both the tripartite alliance and the CWU leadership.

"The federation is calling for calm and restraint from both parties because this exchange of verbal hand grenades and savage invectives will only serve to embolden and also give comfort to our enemies," Cosatu national spokesman Sizwe Pamla said.