All Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) members will be bound by its decision on the upcoming African National Congress (ANC) leadership election, general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday.
"Once we have taken that decision, it will then bind all of us as the leadership of the federation, full stop, finish and klaar," he told delegates at Cosatu's 11th national congress in Midrand, Johannesburg.
However, he cautioned that it was "premature" to discuss succession debates.
"We will encourage our members to assess the leadership of all alliance formations at the right time. The ANC has told us what the right time is," he said.
Cosatu's decision on leadership would be "informed by political analysis", Vavi said.
He was delivering Cosatu's political report on the second day of the four-day congress.
ANC branches will nominate leaders in October for election at the party's national conference in Mangaung in December.
Cosatu's leaders were nominated unopposed on Monday, resulting in Vavi and Cosatu president Sidumo Dlamini remaining in their positions.
Vavi said Cosatu needed to engage with the ANC.
"We need to be constructive, but critical and refuse to allow political paralysis. We need to ensure that they help us to help them," he said.
Cosatu also needed to defend the ANC leadership elected at its previous national conference in Polokwane in 2007.
However, Cosatu said in its political report that Polokwane had not delivered on its promises of returning the party to the people.
"In the aftermath of the post-Polokwane euphoria... It seemed that the challenges of the previous period had been overcome and that we were moving into a new area.
"It soon became apparent that matters were not going according to plan.
"Operation ANC ibuyile [renewal] was supposed to return the ANC back to members and hold government to account, both in the organisation and in government," it said.
Cosatu said the alliance had faced "political paralysis" since the 2007 conference and this needed to be unblocked.
"If we don't act decisively, we are heading rapidly in the direction of a full-blown predator state, in which a powerful elite increasingly controls the state as a vehicle for accumulation."
Cosatu said the ANC had committed a number of mistakes which had undermined the federation's ability to mobilise workers.
"On some occasions, the leadership have attacked the federation without provocation," Cosatu said.
"Something has gone wrong. The people we hate most today are not the enemy or white monopoly capital, but one another."
Vavi said Cosatu, the ANC and the South African Communist Party still had unity on "where the alliance should go" and needed to be applauded.
However, if the ANC continued its current trajectory, it would face what Cosatu called the "low road scenario".
This meant delegates to the Mangaung conference would focus only on the leadership contest, and policy issues would be ignored.
"We avoided that fighting yesterday, [during the Cosatu] nominations. ANC secretary general [Gwede Mantashe] I hope that your movement will be inspired by us," said Vavi.
"We cannot spend our time in a battle with each other [in Mangaung] going 'wah, wah, wah'," he said rolling his hands and then holding up two fingers.
Vavi was mimicking the gestures used by alliance members to replace Jacob Zuma with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, or to call for a second term for Zuma.
"We are calling for unity. If the ANC collapses, the people who will suffer the most are us." Problems in the ANC then led to problems of the state, which hampered service delivery.
"This is a crisis in state... which translates into an institutionalised crisis in respect of service delivery," he said.
Cosatu's 2015 plan, adopted in 2003, included proposals for organisational renewal.
Vavi said that despite this, worrying trends were emerging.
These included growing social distance between union leaders and membership, and the perception that some union leaders would not take up certain issues for fear of embarrassing the ANC.
Vavi said another concern was members' perceptions of growing corruption among union leaders.
"Worryingly, nearly 35% of members believed that there was some form of corruption or selling out of workers by leadership," he said.
These members had not necessarily even seen corruption themselves.
Vavi said just over 10% of members had actually witnessed or were directly aware of corruption in the unions.
He called on the congress to confront these perceptions, which were established by a survey of union members commissioned by Cosatu.
Cosatu's affiliates were expected to debate the political report later on Tuesday.