Bereng Soke. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Bereng Soke. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, the National Health Education and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu), could emerge from next week’s elective congress bruised.

Many of the federation’s affiliates that have gone through leadership contestation have struggled to reunite, with factionalism taking root.

Sources in the union told Business Day that general secretary Bereng Soke’s position was set to be contested by his deputy, Zola Sapeta, at next week’s meeting in Boksburg.

This despite the majority of the union’s provinces pronouncing it was ideal to maintain the current leadership in the interest of unity, in light of the ripple effects that would be caused by rifts within Nehawu.

Should it also follow the direction of some of Cosatu’s ailing unions that are dogged by infighting, the federation, which is only starting to rebuild after the internal battles that lost it the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and the Food and Allied Workers Union, will deteriorate.

Nehawu is the majority union in the public sector and 2017 is a critical year for workers as negotiations with government get under way in September.

The congress will discuss the union’s stance on wage hikes ahead of the finalisation of the Cosatu position by its joint mandating committee, comprising leaders of the federation’s public sector unions, along with other issues. However, the leadership contest is likely to dominate proceedings as it is understood the faction pushing for Sapeta has its sights on other positions.

Some sources have also mentioned the name of first deputy president Mike Shingange, saying he would be contesting president Mzwandile Makwayiba. But others have poured cold water over the claim, saying Shingange was one of those who wanted the status quo retained.

Even though some provinces have finalised their candidate lists, KwaZulu-Natal, where Sapeta hails from, said it would do so only at a special provincial executive committee (PEC) meeting on Friday.

Nehawu KwaZulu-Natal secretary Phakama Ndunakazi did not rule out the inclusion of new names on its preferred candidates’ list.

"We will be nominating the new leadership, for now it will be difficult to pronounce on names of our candidates. We have a special PEC on Friday, where we will finalise the names," Ndunakazi said.

Mpumalanga provincial secretary Welcome Mnisi said his constituency agreed the current leadership should be retained for the sake of cohesion.

With Ngwako Modjadji

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