Numsa leaders come out in defence of Vavi's honour

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Gallo)

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (Gallo)

Leaders of the National Union of Metal Workers of South Africa (Numsa) have come out in defence of Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who is being investigated on allegations of financial impropriety raised by his comrades within the federation. Officially, the trade union federation has repeatedly denied there was any investigation against Vavi, but it has since been established that Cosatu has appointed auditing firm Sizwe Ntsaluba Gobodo to investigate Vavi.

The Mail & Guardian reported last month that three independent investigations would be conducted simultaneously. One will probe how the organisation is run, another will examine how the current state of politics is affecting Cosatu. Forensic auditors SizweNtsalubaGobodo will examine administrative issues, including claims of financial mismanagement by Vavi.

The political commission is expected to be headed by respected labour lawyer Charles Nupen, while Petrus Mashishi, the former president of the South African Municipal Workers' Union, will probe "organisational matters". All three commissions are expected to report back next month, just in time for Cosatu's next central executive committee meeting in May.

Vavi's supporters in Cosatu, including Numsa, believe he is being targeted for political reasons. 

Some of his comrades in Cosatu have blamed Vavi for publicly calling for an investigation into the upgrade of President Jacob Zuma's Nkandla compound, which cost taxpayers more than R200-million. They also blame him for publicly criticising ANC and government leaders, instead of raising issues internally. 

Addressing about 400 delegates attending Numsa's national bargaining conference at the St Georges Hotel in Pretoria, Numsa president Cedric Gina said while his union respected Cosatu's internal processes, its leaders would look at the possibility of calling for a special Cosatu congress to resolve the Vavi matter.

"We will give the process [Cosatu investigation] a chance as requested by the leadership of Cosatu. However, our central committee that meets on Friday cannot escape a discussion that has been put in the public domain by Fawu [Food and Allied Workers Union].

"Fawu seems to believe that we have taken too long toresolve the hangover from  Cosatu congress and maybe a special Cosatu congress can be a better solution. I think I will reserve my views here and share them in the Numsa central committee or our closed session later," said Gina.

Throughout the proceedings delegates sang revolutionary songs in support of Vavi.

During his keynote address, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim, a close ally of Vavi, said: “Cosatu has attempted to recognise the worsening conditions of the working class and is attacked for doing so. The aim is to weaken trade unions, eliminate their militancy and turn them  into darlings of the capitalist class; that is why there such crude attacks by faceless and nameless traitors to the class. So far they have failed.”

In a statement last week Numsa took a swipe at some Cosatu leaders for using the probe against Vavi, for their own political reasons.

“These forces inside and outside Cosatu who miserably failed in their endeavours to have general secretary comrade Vavi dethroned in the 2012 Cosatu national congress ... now want to go behind the backs of their members, who demonstrated confidence in the leadership of comrade Vavi, want to use the smaller leadership of the Cosatu central executive committee (CEC) to stage a coup,” said Numsa.

"As Numsa, we refuse to allow Cosatu to be used by greedy and power-hungry individuals who have lust for positions of power in the broad liberation movement and the state. We want a Cosatu that fearlessly and militantly advances and champions a revolutionary programme guided by the Freedom Charter geared towards improving the living conditions of our people, including fighting corruption vigorously and unashamedly”.

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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