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South Africa’s Cosatu Says It’s Losing Touch With Workers

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Sept. 18 (Bloomberg) -- The Congress of South African Trade Unions, the country’s largest labor group, said a growing gap between its leadership and members means rivals may erode its power as an ally of the ruling party.

“If we lose touch with our members’ concerns there is the danger of finding ourselves outflanked by the new independent unions, which are emerging as a result of dissatisfaction from the shop floor,” Cosatu General-Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told about 3,000 delegates at the group’s congress in Johannesburg today.

Anglo American Platinum Ltd., Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., and Lonmin Plc, the world’s three biggest platinum producers, have halted output this year amid labor unrest over pay. The National Union of Mineworkers, Cosatu’s biggest affiliate, has failed to represent worker demands adequately, according to mine laborers.

The strikes at gold and platinum mines this year have cost the economy 4.5 billion rand ($547 million), President Jacob Zuma, who is also leader of the ANC, said yesterday. The government has lost 3.1 billion rand in revenue as a result of the labor unrest, he said.

More than a third of the two-million strong labor federation believes its leaders are either corrupt or have sold their members out, Vavi said, as he presented a political report by Cosatu’s leadership.

Vavi and Cosatu President S’Dumo Dlamini were yesterday re-elected after no one else was nominated for their positions. Cosatu was one of the biggest factions to support President Jacob Zuma when he ousted Thabo Mbeki as leader of the ruling African National Congress.

It is “premature” to discuss who should be elected to the ANC’s leadership at its conference in December, Vavi said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Franz Wild in Johannesburg at fwild@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andrew J. Barden at barden@bloomberg.net

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