PRETORIA, The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu), the country's largest labour confederation, has decided to endorse South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa as its preferred candidate for the presidency of the ruling African National Congress (ANC), succeeding President Jacob Zuma.

The decision to support Ramaphosa and the issue of unity within the Tripartite Alliance -- the partnership forged among the ANC, Cosatu and the South African Communist Party (SACP) during the days of the anti-Apartheid struggle -- dominated the first day of the Cosatu Central Committee meeting in Irene, Pretoria, on Monday.

Addressing the delegates, Cosatu president S'dumo Dlamini cautioned that both the ANC and Cosatu could not survive without each other. Dlamini insisted that despite challenges, Cosatu remains united and stronger.

Cosatu admitted to strained relations with Alliance leader, the ANC, and Dlamini criticised the ANC, for taking decisions affecting all without consulting other Alliance partners.

Dlamini said communication in the Alliance only happened when there is a crisis. The Alliance must do away with the "Big Brother versus small boy" approach, he stressed.

"The ANC cannot survive on its own, without us, the workers of this country. I want to argue that yourselves (Cosatu) cannot survive without being in this current alliance and hope to survive on your own."

It was announced earlier at the committee meeting that Ramaphosa, who is the ANC deputy president, would address delegates on Tuesday morning. This came after Cosatu last week announced that it had banned President Jacob Zuma from addressing all of its events. Cosatu maintains it was correct to pronounce Ramaphosa as its preferred candidate for the ANC presidency.

Cosatu first deputy president James Tyotyo said: "We are making that pronouncement because we want to save the ANC from self-destruction. Cosatu must not be condemned for saying who it wants to be president of ANC. We want Cyril Ramaphosa to be elected president of the ANC."

Not mincing their words, the SACP strongly spoke out against "State capture", the exercise of undue influence over the country's top leaders by non-State players.

SACP Secretary-General Blade Nzimande, who is also Minister of Higher Education and Training, said: "We must refuse to be blackmailed that when we are criticising wrongdoing, we are said to be on the same side as the DA (the Democratic Alliance, South Africa's main opposition party); as (former anti-apartheid leader OR) Tambo said, we must tell the truth even if it coincides with opposition."