Why Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali was 'fired': We told him, he didn't listen


Former Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali bowed out of his influential position last week in an unexpected manner for an incumbent.

Ntshalintshali, a veteran trade unionist, was forced to decline nomination after being nominated by only one affiliate.

But according to sources, his exit was planned way before the union federation’s 14th national congress held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand from September 26 to 29.

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Some union leaders who tried to persuade him not to stand for re-election said Ntshalintshali had failed to execute his mandate after he replaced Zwelinzima Vavi in 2015.

According to the congress rules, to be considered for election in any position, the person has to be nominated and that seconded by another union affiliate. After receiving a single nomination with no support, Ntshalintshali declined to stand for re-election, making way for his deputy Solly Phetoe to be elected unopposed.

City Press reported that in the build up to the congress, leaders of the affiliate unions engaged their preferred candidates for the different positions, and some advised him not to stand, but he did not listen. They felt that Ntshalintshali, who is almost 70, was too old to continue serving in the demanding position.

But other sources told City Press that his close relationship with the ANC, which has fuelled rumours that he was being lined up for a Cabinet post, influenced the affiliates’ decision not to support him. They felt that he would leave Cosatu, so they needed someone to take over.

"We did not nominate him because we had an agreement that he is no longer going to stand. We had been speaking to him since January because our members felt he is old, and he has done his job. We told him that for us to continue to honour his legacy, he needed to leave now,” said the union leader.

Members of affiliates who spoke to City Press said they felt it was time for Ntshalintshali to make way for a new person as they wanted to embark on an aggressive recruitment drive and the position needed “an energised person”.

Ntshalintshali replaced Vavi who was fired in 2015, and retained the position when he was re-elected in the 13th national congress in 2018.

After declining the nomination, he allegedly lobbied for Lebogang Mulaisi to stand for the deputy secretary general position. But she also received one nomination from the Chemical, Energy, Paper, Printing, Wood and Allied Workers’ Union. She failed get a second endorsement, which made her ineligible to contest.

Ntshalintshali was not the only one to fall by the wayside at the congress. Simon Hlungwani, leader of the Democratic Nursing Organisation of SA, made way for Duncan Luvuno who was elected the second deputy president. He told the congress that his decision was for the benefit of Cosatu and it was “taken in the spirit of uniting the organisation”.

Cosatu president Zingiswa Losi retained her position with Mike Shingange her first deputy president and Luvuno as the second deputy president.

Freda Oosthuizen was elected the treasurer general while Gerald Thwala was elected deputy general secretary.

Efforts to get comment from Ntshalintshali yesterday were unsuccessful. He asked to be sent the questions via SMS but had not responded at the time of going to print.

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