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Cosatu affiliates take Sdumo Dlamini to court

Matuma Letsaolo

Barely a month after the ANC intervened to broker truce within the embattled labour federation, unions have taken the Cosatu president to court.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini (right) with general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Eight Cosatu affiliates have taken its president Sdumo Dlamini to court to force him to convene a special national congress to elect new leaders. 

The unions include the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Food and Allied Workers Union, the South African Football Players Union,  South African Municipal Workers Union, Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa, Communication Workers Union, the South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers Union and the South African State and Allied Workers Union. 

In their affidavit filed at the Johannesburg high court last Thursday, the unions accuse Dlamini of contravening the Cosatu constitution by failing to convene the special national congress as requested by a third of the 19 Cosatu affiliates. 

“In the period from September 2013 to April 2014, Dlamini failed to comply with the constitution in persisting to decline and or refuse to convene a special national congress of the second respondent [Cosatu] despite having twice been formally requested to do so by more than one third of the affiliates in good standing of Cosatu. 

“What is more, at the special meeting of the CEC [central executive committee] held on February 10 2014, the CEC breached the constitution by declining the first to eighth applicants’ call for a special congress and failing to nominate a convenor for the special national congress. 

“These refusal by Dlamini and the CEC were unconstitutional, invalid and unlawful,” insisted the unions in their affidavit. 

Vavi to be suspended
The unions want the court to order Dlamini to convene the special congress within 60 days of the date that the order has been issued. They also want the court to declare the decision by the special executive committee in February to reject calls for special national congress unconstitutional and invalid. 

Numsa, supported by the same unions and Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, successfully applied for the reinstatement of Vavi after he was suspended for having sex with a subordinate at the Cosatu offices. 

The legal action by the eight Cosatu unions comes barely a month after the ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa intervened to broker truce within the embattled labour federation. 

Meanwhile, the Mail & Guardian has reliably learnt that Dlamini’s supporters in Cosatu are also planning to suspend Vavi once again and expel Numsa from Cosatu. Numsa, which is the largest union within Cosatu with over 320 000 members, took a decision in December not to campaign for the ANC during the 2014 elections. 

Numsa is holding a central committee from Monday to Friday to discuss among other things, Nkandlagate, the formation of the united front and the movement for socialism, the impact of the employment tax incentive Act on retrenchments, and the ANC’s good story vis a vis the real story of South Africa’s working class and the poor. 

Dlamini was not available for comment at the time of going to press. Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said: “The office bearers of Cosatu will be discussing the new developments and will comment in due course.” Meanwhile, Ramaphosa is expected to meet individual unions within Cosatu to try and find a lasting solution to the infightings by different factions within Cosatu.

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