Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: BUSINESS DAY
Bheki Ntshalintshali. Picture: BUSINESS DAY

WITH some of its affiliates clamouring for Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to take over the leadership of the ANC, Cosatu on Tuesday sought to put a lid on the succession debate.

The federation’s central executive committee discussed the issue and decided to park it to avoid "divisive contestation", general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said.

Cosatu, like its alliance partner the South African Communist Party, has no voting power in the ANC. But it has traditionally used its membership muscle to lobby for its preferred candidate. It played a key role in the election of President Jacob Zuma in 2007 in Polokwane and his re-election in 2012

An increasing number of affiliates led by the South African Democratic Teachers Union, the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union are lobbying behind the scenes for Ramaphosa to take over in the ANC tradition of the deputy succeeding the incumbent.

Cosatu, while hitting out at slate politics, said lobbying should not focus on an individual position.

"The workers should not only be looking at the position of the president but at the leadership collective that will act as the centre and also be guided by the resolutions of the ANC‚" Ntshalintshali said.

The ANC Youth League, the uMkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association and the ANC Women’s League appear to be throwing their weight behind AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. The woman’s league has put forward the principle of gender representation in the ANC top six.

The contestation is expected to further divide the ANC, which has just surrendered Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Johannesburg in the local government elections.

"In dealing with the issue‚ Cosatu has urged that all discussions should take place with the intent of uniting the ANC and the alliance‚ but also to open a new path that will see the ANC abandoning the politics of slates that breeds the fallacy of composition," Ntshalintshali said.

Political analyst Nic Borain said on Tuesday the "shadow boxing" between various parts of the ANC on the issue was likely to continue as the genuine contenders continued to test the waters.

"Succession tends to build about the sort of momentum [that] imposes itself on all other discussions and debates, which is probably why you will have people like Cosatu backing away and saying it is too early," he said.

As the debate moved formally down to lower structures it was likely to take on a life of its own, and the ANC did not appear to have enough agency to control the succession debate, he said.

Meanwhile, Ntshalintshali said the federation was gearing up for a one-day strike on October 7 to protest against working conditions across all sectors.