Dlamini supporters strike blow to Vavi's reinstatement hopes

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini. (Gallo)

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini. (Gallo)

Attempts by Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi supporters to push the reinstatement of the suspended leader suffered a major blow when supporters of federation president Sdumo Dlamini won almost all debates at its central executive committee meeting this week.

Dlamini's supporters in Cosatu are hoping the forensic audit of the sale of the old Cosatu building and purchase of the new one, expected to be released in two weeks, will find against Vavi before the planned special congress scheduled next year. The congress will decide if Vavi is reinstated.

It is alleged that Vavi sold Cosatu's old building in Johannesburg for R10-million less than its market value and that he had awarded a tender to a company at which his stepdaughter was employed. ​Vavi has repeatedly denied all allegations against him.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), which has been Vavi's most vocal supporter within the federation, came out of the meeting bruised after the committee took a decision to investigate it. The committee forced Numsa to withdraw a letter written last weekend to Dlamini (that stated if he doesn't call for special national congress, it will call for a convener), telling the union to respect the office of the president and saying the special national congress will not be possible this year.

The Cosatu central executive committee found that two of the nine unions requesting the special congress were not in good standing.

Numsa was accused of using its resources to pay other unions' subscription fees in return for support in its bid to reinstate Vavi.

Dlamini, speaking at media briefing following the three-day Cosatu central executive committee meeting, confirmed that Numsa was investigated for disrupting Cosatu activities across the country.

Cosatu members in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape have booed Dlamini and other leaders from his faction in the past week.

Dlamini said on Thursday Cosatu had information that union leaders, particularly those from Numsa, met in corners ahead of Cosatu's activities in all the provinces to plot the disruption of the meetings.

The decision to investigate Numsa came after five unions – including the National Union of Mineworkers, the South African Democratic Teachers' Union and the Chemical Energy Paper Printing Wood and Allied Workers Union – tabled a motion at the central executive committee meeting to have Numsa expelled from the federation.

Acting Cosatu general secretary Bheki Ntshalintshali said Cosatu's special national congress would in all likelihood be held sometime next year, owing to a number of reasons. 

"The president reported on the practicalities of convening such a congress, including timing, costs and resources, the state of readiness of the affiliates and the objectives and agenda of the congress. The last point was relevant, as the seven affiliates had not given the same reasons for their request for a special congress.

"The central executive committee acknowledged that the special congress would not be taking place this year and it was agreed that these issues be referred to a meeting of national project co-ordinators and affiliates' presidents and general secretaries, which would report to the special central executive committee convened to discuss the reports of the internal processes, and if that meeting could not resolve the matter it would be taken to the scheduled February central executive committee."

Money and logistics
Dlamini told journalists that "it's not the president who fears to convene a special conference" but that a number of issues have to be resolved before it can be held.

Cosatu second deputy president Zingisa Losi said Cosatu did not have funding for the special congress and had not budgeted for it.

"Cosatu must fund its own congresses, and cannot be funded by donors who might exert influence on the federation's agenda. We need to talk to the issue of what is the purpose of a special congress really, how do we juggle dates, venues and logistics. By the way, we don't have the cash in our budget for a special congress … we also need to come up with an agenda," said Losi.

Charles Molele

Charles Molele

Charles Molele is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. Charles joined the paper in 2011. He has covered general news, court and politics for the past 19 years, and also worked as a senior reporter for the Saturday Star, Sunday World, ThisDay, Sunday Times and is former politics editor of the New Age. Charles's other career highlights include covering Kenya's violent general elections (2007/08), Zimbabwe’s sham general elections (2008), Mozambique's food riots (2010) and the historic re-election of US President Barack Obama (2012).
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    Matuma Letsoalo is a senior politics reporter at the Mail & Guardian. He joined the newspaper in 2003, focussing on politics and labour, and collaborated with the M&G's centre for investigations, amaBhungane, from time to time.In 2011, Matuma won the South African Journalist of the Year Award and was also the winner in the investigative journalism category in the same year.In 2004, he won the CNN African Journalist of the Year prize – the MKO Abiola Print Journalism Award. Matuma was also a joint category winner of the Mondi Shanduka SA Story of the year Award in 2008. In 2013, he was a finalist for Wits University's Taco Kuiper Award.
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