Ramaphosa Ally to Lead South Africa's Biggest Labor Group
(Bloomberg) -- A close ally of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was elected the leader of the country’s biggest labor union group, bolstering the odds that it will back him and the ruling African National Congress in next year’s elections.
Zingiswa Losi was elected unopposed as president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions by more than 2,000 delegates who attended its national congress in Johannesburg on Tuesday. Formerly Cosatu’s second-deputy president, Losi is the first woman to lead the 33-year-old federation.
Cosatu and the South African Communist Party are part of an alliance with the ANC that came under severe strain during the scandal-marred rule of former President Jacob Zuma. Both the SACP and Cosatu previously warned that they may withdraw electoral support for the ANC. That risk was mitigated by Zuma’s exit as president in February and Losi’s election.
“It works well for Ramaphosa, given the fact that he has come through a very fractured tripartite alliance that has had problems under Zuma,” said Ralph Mathekga, a Johannesburg-based independent political analyst.
Ramaphosa won control of the ANC in December and was appointed president two months later, after the ruling party forced Zuma to step down. Losi was one of Ramaphosa’s staunchest supporters during his rise to power and stood for the post of ANC deputy secretary-general on his slate in December but narrowly lost the post to incumbent Jessie Duarte.
Losi entered politics while she was at school, joining the Congress of South African Students, and later the ANC’s youth wing in the Eastern Cape province, according to the Cosatu website. After completing her studies, she served as a soldier for three years and then in 2002 went to work at the Ford Motor Co. in the southern coastal town of Port Elizabeth. She became a representative for the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, before joining Cosatu full-time.
The federation was previously led by Sdumo Dlamini, a one-time ally of Zuma’s, who declined to stand for re-election.
While Cosatu’s ranks have been depleted by job losses and a breakaway by Numsa, its biggest affiliate, it still presents a useful avenue for Ramaphosa to canvass support, according to Mathekga.
“The worker’s vote is no longer found in once place, so whatever Ramaphosa can scrape together going into the election, including from a broken Cosatu, helps him,” he said.
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