JOHANNESBURG – High ranking officials within labour union federation Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)’s leadership structures are up in arms after Bheki Ntshalintshali, the General Secretary (SG) of the movement was overheard by key political figures at the ANC’s Manifesto Workshop this week seemingly admitting that they worked with big business to get rid of former president Jacob Zuma.
According to a well-placed high-ranking source who spoke on condition of anonymity, Ntshalintshali is alleged to have said: “We were approached by the mining industry to get rid of corruption and to get rid of the president. We did that and now all we get back from big business is retrenchments.”
According to some of the officials who were present at the workshop, this was an admission of guilt to collusion. Among those present at the workshop were ANC and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and Cosatu President Sdumo Dlamini.
“He is basically saying Cosatu and the mining industry colluded in getting rid of Zuma,” said one of the officials.
The workshop and consultative process was held in Pretoria and is said to form the foundation for its 2019 election manifesto in preparation for is election campaign.
According to one of the sources, last year, Ntshalintshali and a certain faction within Cosatu met with big business in Magaliesburg prior to the ANC’s Policy and Elective conferences that took place last year. At this meeting, the labour federation is said to have made a decision to shift their political support from Zuma and lean towards Ramaphosa.
“This cabal was led by Ntshalintshali and they received money in exchange for Cosatu’s support for Ramaphosa. However, what was ironic is that the people were paid under the banner of Cosatu’s leadership and in that group, Sdumo Dlamini, who is the current president of Cosatu, was left out and not invited.”
It is alleged that after that meeting in Magaliesburg, Cosatu announced its support for Ramaphosa and made a seismic shift in its political tune and went against its key policy frameworks by siding with big business to oust Zuma.
“Since then, the top leadership of Cosatu has not seen eye to eye and Sdumo Dlamini has been quietly isolated and left out of key executive meetings and programmes. They also never declared openly the financial benefits that they received from the meeting with big business in Magaliesburg,” said the source.
When approached for comment, Ntshalintshali confirmed that a meeting did take place in Magaliesburg prior to the ANC’s policy and elective conferences but denied that any of the members present at the meeting received payments to shift political support towards Ramaphosa.
“Yes, it is true that a meeting took place and it is true that Sdumo Dlamini was not there. However, when they say that we were paid by big business its all lies. It was not a secret meeting and many of our members and even the former president were aware. It was a breakaway kind of meeting that was inclusive of key business and economic players to map out a way forward in addressing issues such as investment into the economy and job creation. We even issued a statement by both Cosatu and some of the other organisations that were present, and we informed the ANC as alliance partner on what we had decided. The main issue was about jobs, there was no money that exchanged hands. It was people working together, brainstorming to try and address the challenges facing our economy,” he said.
Ntshalintshali also further sought to clarify that at the manifesto workshop, he made public contributions while raising an issue related to Zuma and corruption during his presidential tenure.
He said big business had made it known that the barriers to investment were corruption and the Zuma presidency.
“Now that Zuma is no longer there, why is there a strike on investment? I was posing this question in a debate. Business needs to tell us because they were using this as a pretext to the lack of investment in the economy. They raised issues such as uncertainty and corruption. Now that we have a new ANC leadership and now that we have a new deal, they need to tell us that here is the money that is going to be invested. However, what we are seeing is the question of massive retrenchments which is hypocritical of business because they are now shifting the goal posts,” he said.
Sdumo Dlamini, the president of Cosatu refused to be drawn into commenting on Ntshalintshali’s utterances as he did not want to be seen as playing leaders against one another.
“I do not have a comment on this issue, please speak to Mr Ntshalintshali and verify with him if he made those comments or not,” he said.