01/05/2017 14:59 SAST | Updated 02/05/2017 10:24 SAST

Cosatu Workers Chase Zuma Away

The May Day rally was all set, but incessant singing by anti-Zuma workers led to his speech being cancelled.

Rogan Ward / Reuters
Suspended general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) Zwelinzima Vavi (C) protests with members of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) as they march through Durban, March 19, 2014. South Africa's largest union called for a one day strike on Wednesday to highlight youth unemployment in the country, where one in four people are jobless, the union said. The 340,000-member NUMSA draws its members from car manufacturing, the metal industry, transport and general workers. REUTERS/Rogan Ward (SOUTH AFRICA - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT POLITICS CIVIL UNREST INDUSTRIAL)

President Jacob Zuma's address to trade union federation Cosatu's main Workers' Day rally in Bloemfontein was cancelled after unruly unionists wouldn't let him speak.

Zuma and SACP general secretary, Blade Nzimande, were both scheduled to address the rally. But as crowds began singing that Zuma should step down, Cosatu took the decision to cancel Zuma's all other speeches.

Earlier, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) and the National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) ,Costatu's largest affiliate, had written to Cosatu asking the federation not to allow Zuma to speak at its event, eNCA and News 24 reported. This heightened tensions within Cosatu.

According to eNCA, CWU and Nehawu cited a resolution by Cosatu's central executive committee that it no longer believed Zuma was fit to lead the country as the main reason. The unions stood firm that Zuma's address would be inconsistent with the trade union's call for him to step down. Last month, Cosatu's highest decision making body called for Zuma to go, after he changed Cabinet without consulting them and the SACP.

According to News 24, Cosatu initially stuck with its decision to forge ahead with Zuma as the main speaker, saying that it had sent an invitation to the 105-year-old liberation party, and cannot dictate who it decides to deploy to the May Day rally. News 24 reported that the Worker's Day rally was expected to be attended by both Zuma's friends and foes, with divisions within the tripartite alliance at play.

Speaking to News24 just hours before the international holiday, Makalo Mohale, the newly re-elected chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the Free State, said that those calling for Zuma not to deliver the keynote address at Loch Logan Park in Bloemfontein were misleading the public.

"Much as we have heard there are others who did not want the president to speak at the event, we as the ANC Youth League deem that as disingenuous," said Mohale. He told News24 that he also believes the rally would show that workers do not support decisions by their leaders in Cosatu.

Mohale said the ANCYL was "not happy" with the way the matter was being handled, that the SACP and Cosatu leadership needed "political maturity" and they must debate their viewpoints at the table and not in the public domain.