THERE will be no dramatic changes to our body politic emanating from Cosatu’s central executive committee meeting next week.

The ANC’s intervention on the eve of the May elections has finally ended and its report is set to be presented to the federation’s central executive committee on Tuesday.

The report may or may not be accepted by Cosatu’s top brass.

The intervention was never going to be a panacea for the long-standing and deep divisions in the federation.

Cosatu has not yet hit rock bottom, although it largely appears so in public. But its unions are on the slow march in that direction unless the affliction of the mother body filtering down into its structures is not halted.

Its failure to adapt to a changing South African society, particularly in the labour market, is a direct result of its affiliates failing to pick up on those changes in their structures.

Cosatu continues to view society through the lens of party politics — us versus them.

Mechanisation, restructuring and a younger workforce are all issues with which Cosatu affiliates should rather be grappling.

Metalworkers union Numsa tried in part to deal with this at its special national congress last year, when it discussed the need for change in the manner in which the union organised, in order to remain relevant. But this attempt placed the affiliate in the line of fire for violating the federation’s principle of "one union, one sector".

It is not that Cosatu has not twigged on to the changes required of it and its unions to remain relevant. The federation simply lacks the will to drive the necessary change, or rather, its focus is wholly on palace politics in the tripartite alliance, which inevitably boils down to personal ambition.

Its congress in 1997 resolved to narrow down its core industries, but this was not done and now the "poaching" of members between unions is at the centre of the factional fight within the federation.

Yes, it is correct that most unions do not have general meetings with workers. But it may also be because many unions are in business themselves through their investment arms, leaving their bosses with little time for that pesky inconvenience called worker issues.

While Numsa was chastised for its resolution — notwithstanding its reason for taking the decision — it emerged that both the National Union of Mineworkers and the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union have taken similar decisions in the past.

It is clear from its own resolutions that Cosatu unions have deviated significantly from their original purpose. They are caught in a never-ending identity crisis.

Cosatu called for a "mind-set change" at its bargaining conference, saying this should have a "greater focus on expectations of members in the workplace". It is bizarre that a trade union federation would require a "mind-set change" to focus it on the very reason for its existence.

Cosatu resolved at the same conference that its unions should "reinstate" workplace general meetings.

Yes, it is correct that most unions do not have general meetings with workers. But it may also be because many unions are in business themselves through their investment arms, leaving their bosses with little time for that pesky inconvenience called worker issues.

Attempts to determine whether Cosatu unions were meeting the needs of their members also came to naught — participation by workers in surveys to gauge shopfloor sentiment was described as "dismal".

It is little wonder that the Marikana massacre had caught the federation by surprise. And it had. Even after 44 workers were killed, its attempts to regain ground along the Rustenburg platinum belt have barely been visible.

This week, a women’s delegation from the National Union of Mineworkers urged Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi to be more "visible and vocal" in the area. The federation’s mantra has been to organise vulnerable workers, yet vulnerable workers already in its fold are being ignored.

The present impasse between factions in Cosatu actually provides it with the perfect opportunity to go back to the drawing board and reconfigure itself organisationally to adapt to SA in the present day.

But there is no indication that it is honest enough with itself to do so.

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