Tyotyo James. Picture: SUPPLIED
Tyotyo James. Picture: SUPPLIED

Labour federation Cosatu is planning to roll out a mass action campaign after its September congress, a move that will fuel the simmering tension between it and President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The federation, a member of the governing tripartite alliance, was one of Ramaphosa’s key backers during his rise to the presidency of the ANC and the country. Relations between the ANC and Cosatu were fractured during former president Jacob Zuma’s tenure. The frosty relations thawed when Ramaphosa took over.

In his first few months in office, Ramaphosa has had to take tough decisions, some of which have angered the unions, resulting in renewed tension. This tension comes at the wrong time for Ramaphosa and the ANC as the union federation is still weighing up its options on whether to support the ANC in the 2019 national polls.

A one-day Cosatu special central executive congress decided the federation would lead workers to the streets against job losses, unemployment and suspicions of planned public sector retrenchments.

At a media briefing after the meeting on Tuesday, Cosatu said it is clear that the balance of forces politically and socially is in favour of white monopoly capital, which it blamed on failures by the ANC.

Cosatu also warned the ANC that the party will "pay the price" if it fails to balance the demands of "capital" and labour.

In a strongly worded statement, the federation said workers would have no reason to continue supporting the ANC if it does not promote and protect their interests.

The central executive committee also resolved that Cosatu leaders should request an urgent meeting with the ANC’s top six leadership to communicate "a clear message that workers will not vote against their interests in the upcoming elections".

First deputy president Tyotyo James said workers’ support for the ANC does not come without conditions. "Workers in this country voted the ANC to protect their interests. If the ANC will betray the interest of workers, they will have to rethink their support of the ANC.

"Our vote for the ANC is not free, it is for the ANC to continue to protect our interests."

Cosatu’s national congress will be held in Midrand.