23/05/2018 09:11 SAST | Updated 23/05/2018 09:25 SAST

Ramaphosa Steps In To Mend ANC And Cosatu Relations

President Cyril Ramaphosa has met with the Congress of South African Trade Unions' (Cosatu) central executive committee (CEC) - the first such meeting since his election as president of the ANC.

Sumaya Hisham / Reuters

President Cyril Ramaphosa has met with the Congress of South African Trade Unions' (Cosatu) central executive committee (CEC) - the first such meeting since his election as president of the ANC.

The trade union federation is holding its three-day meeting at its headquarters in Braamfontien, where a range of issues, including the state of the tripartite alliance, are expected to be discussed.

Ramaphosa told journalists his meeting with the CEC was about implementing the ANC's 2017 national conference resolutions to improve the relationship between the different partners.

"The ANC, as the leader of the alliance, should keep the alliance united and strong. So, my coming here with other leaders has been advancing that process, to engage with the alliance and deal with issues that are germane to all of us as structures of the movement... It's to also engage at a deep level to strengthen the relationship," said Ramaphosa.

Hannah Mckay / Reuters

The alliance was fraught with tension during former president Jacob Zuma's tenure as leader of the ANC and the country. Some believed it was the end of the alliance between the ANC, Cosatu, the SA Communist Party and the SA National Civic Organisation (Sanco).

The communist party even toyed with the idea of contesting in the 2019 national elections and its members in the Metsimaholo Municipality actually going at it alone during by-elections last year.

The president also said the alliance council, which was never successfully held between the different alliance partners, would take place.

The council failed to focus on organisational unity as Zuma and alliance members faced off.

The former president had taken issue with calls from all three of the ANC's partners, calling for his removal. He was also booed and jeered by Cosatu members during a Worker's Day rally in May.

The alliance partners complained of being sidelined by the former president.

Cosatu's general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali told journalists on Tuesday that the federation still saw Ramaphosa as a unifying character, claiming that the president was working towards bringing the different factions within the ANC together.

"In that process there will be give and take."

"[The] majority are positive. Some are still in Nasrec (at the national conference) by their thinking. We need to go back to them and make them realise now is the time of implementing [the ANC's policies]."

He said the period of contestation was "gone" and referred to the ANC's watershed conference where Ramaphosa narrowly defeated Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the position of party president.

"He (Ramaphosa) accepts that it hasn't been smooth sailing," noted Ntshalintshali.

The Cosatu general secretary said it continued to believe Ramaphosa was a unifier even though he was not supported by everyone in the ANC to succeed Zuma.

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"We wanted somebody who believes in unity, who is going to unite the ANC," he said.

He added that Cosatu had been yearning for a leadership that would strive, even during difficult times, to bring people together.

"We think he is doing that. That's why he is accused by others [of being] a softy in terms of dealing with those issues."

Treating people with dignity

Ntshalintshali said people wanted Ramaphosa to deal with Zuma "as quickly as possible" but that the statesman had refused, "because he thought it was important for people to be treated with dignity even if they have to go".

The federation leader added that he believed Ramaphosa adopted the same values when dealing with other leaders within government.

"Even in the team that he leads, leading with people who have been totally against him. Look at Ekurhuleni, one of the leaders there said he'd never work under him. Ramaphosa didn't say: 'What do you say now? Are you prepared to leave?'"

Ramaphosa described the meeting as a good one, where all in attendance were positive about ways to strengthen the alliance.

He added that the movement would embark on a series of campaigns on issues affecting South Africans together.