Cosatu elects its first female president, Zingiswa Losi
A tearful Losi said she had never anticipated that her strides in the ranks of the labour movement would result in the powerful position she now occupies
Newly elected union federation Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi has called for a return to basics for unionists as she takes over the helm of the country’s biggest trade union federation.
The deputy director at the Civilian Secretariat for the Police Service is the first woman elected to lead a union federation in Africa.
Losi was nominated unopposed at this week’s Cosatu national congress and her appointment was confirmed on Thursday to a cheering and ululating crowd of Cosatu members. She told Business Day on Thursday that Cosatu unions will be strengthened if leaders focus on offering quality services to members.
The federation has lost more than 300,000 members since 2015 and has been on a downward spiral since 2011, with infighting and corruption in many of its affiliates the order of the day.
“At times we speak as if [affiliates] are not in the federation, trade unions will stand up and say Cosatu is weak, and the same trade unions don’t ask themselves who is Cosatu. We have always said until we understand that when affiliates are weak, Cosatu is weak, when you are strong Cosatu will be strong. We have to go back to basics and understand what constitutes this trade union," she said. "Make sure we are close to our members and know their needs … that we pay what is due to the federation so that resolutions that are adopted at the congress are implemented.”
Losi is also a member of the ANC national executive committee (NEC) and the SACP central committee.
While in an earlier interview with a local TV station she said that if she had to choose between the ANC and Cosatu as the federation pushed for a reconfigured alliance, she would choose the workers’ movement, she told Business day that it does not need to get to that.
“It does not have to come to that point; workers are members of the ANC, communists are members of the ANC, we don’t have to choose, you just have to be that voice of workers in the ANC. When I attend the meetings of the ANC NEC, everything I say is informed by what workers are saying."
A tearful Losi said she had never anticipated that her strides in the ranks of the labour movement would result in the powerful position she now occupies.
She expressed humility and gratitude at workers’ demonstration of faith in her capabilities and intellect. “I feel excitement because of how women are taking this significant stride in our history, and also understand the responsibility that lies ahead with women’s expectations.
“It is humbling because to have gone through the ranks of the trade union movement — and it was not easy — there were difficulties on the way, but I managed to find my way through them. To be where I am today, where workers did not nominate and elect me because of being a woman but have walked with me through my journey in this trade union movement is humbling.”
Losi has been a second deputy president of Cosatu since 2009. Other Cosatu leaders elected at the 13th national congress are: first deputy president Mike Shingange second deputy president Louisa Thipe; general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali (re-elected); deputy general secretary Solly Phetoe (re-elected) and treasurer Frieda Oosthuizen (re-elected).
All leaders were elected unopposed.
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