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With new powers to intervene in troubled affiliates and an extended term in office from three to four years for national leaders, the new Cosatu leadership believes the union federation is rising from the ashes. "We have emerged from the worst chapter," said newly elected president Zingiswa Losi to loud applause. The federation has been in a state of decline and paralysis since 2013, when infighting threatened its survival. It has lacked relevance among workers and society ever since, with its dwindling membership pointing to struggles by its affiliates to attract members. Cosatu’s four-day 13th national congress, which ended on Thursday, adopted several resolutions aimed at reviving the once mighty federation that had 2.2-million members in 2012. Its membership now stands at 1.6-million following the expulsion of SA’s biggest trade union, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA, in 2014 for expanding its scope.

Cosatu was also hit by the disaffiliation of three unions and th...

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