The Cosatu central executive committee has decided not to hold a special congress, despite a request from nine of the federation's affiliates.
The central executive committee (CEC) of Cosatu has shot down the request by nine of the federation's affiliates to hold a special national congress. This congress would look at resolving divisions within the union as well as the suspension of its former general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
However, the CEC's decision – taken on Monday – does not enjoy the support of the nine pro-Vavi affiliates, which boycotted the meeting. Only unions aligned to Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini attended the meeting.
The CEC's decision was in sharp contrast to the announcement by Dlamini in September last year that he would comply with Cosatu's constitution by convening the special congress as per the written requests submitted by the nine affiliates. Under the Cosatu constitution, its president has to call a special national congress if a third of the 19 affiliated unions call for one.
But a senior Cosatu leader who attended the meeting pointed out that if the president is unable to convene the special congress, he could refer the matter to the CEC.
He told the Mail & Guardian the decision to drop the special national congress was based on financial reasons.
"The unions don't have money to organise a special congress. Also, the CEC could not agree on the proposed agenda of the meeting by the pro-Vavi unions and matters raised by the Numsa [National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa] in its resolutions."
During its special congress held in December, Numsa resolved to withdraw its support of the ANC's election campaign and to convince Cosatu to consider breaking away from its alliance with the ANC and the South African Communist Party. The Vavi-aligned unions were also planning to use the special congress to oust Dlamini and the other top six officials of Cosatu and reinstate Vavi.
Numsa national treasurer Mpumzi Maqungo said he was shocked by the CEC's decision.
"Numsa was not part of the decision and I know eight other affiliates did not attend the meeting. We will take them [Dlamini's aligned unions] head on. They are hijacking the organisation. They are holding the federation to ransom.
"There is a provision in the constitution that says a special congress must take place if a third of the affiliates request for it," said Maqungo.
He said the nine affiliates would consider legal steps to force Cosatu to convene the special national congress.
A Cosatu leader aligned to Dlamini said the federation was prepared to fight any legal action in court.
"They [the pro-Vavi unions] say they have the right. Our belief is that decisions in Cosatu are not about two-thirds but about the majority. The majority of unions are on our side. Legally, they [the Vavi aligned unions] don't have a standing to win the case in court," said the Cosatu leader.
He added: "It was about time that Cosatu takes bold decisions because if we don’t do that we create confusion among our members. We are saying to our members that that special national congress they are looking for, the answer is no."
Approached by the M&G, Dlamini refused to comment, saying the federation would announce the outcome of the CEC during a media briefing on Tuesday.