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Vavi says critics are govt turncoats

Zwelinzima Vavi, the general secretary of Cosatu, has reiterated to his enemies in the trade union federation that he best represents the interests of the working class, accusing them of abandoning its agenda to appease government, the ANC leadership and the South African Communist Party.

In a hard-hitting submission to the commission of inquiry established to investigate several allegations against him by leaders of Cosatu affiliates, Vavi accuses Cosatu leaders – among others its president, Sdumo Dlamini; its deputy president, Zingisa Losi; the general secretary of the National, Education, Health and Allied Workers' Union (Nehawu), Fikile Majola; and the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Frans Baleni – of showing right-wing tendencies by deviating from Cosatu resolutions.

Dlamini, Losi, Majola and Baleni have all testified against Vavi, suggesting that he was responsible for the "political rupture" within Cosatu. The rupture refers to the divisions and ideological differences that have beset the trade federation in the last few years.

The Mail & Guardian has seen the 87-page document that Vavi submitted to the commission of inquiry.

"The attack on the Cosatu general secretary appears to be a cover that aims to conceal from workers the true nature of the strategic rupture and where it comes from; and to divert attention from the congress and other decisions of the federation with which they disagree. Those pursuing this agenda have shown that they will stop at nothing to force the federation's leadership to disown the organisation's decisions and that they have no interest in building the unity of the organisation or advancing its political strategies. On the contrary, they are determined to divide and defeat it," Vavi writes in his explosive submission.

In his submission, Majola – who is also a member of the ANC's national executive committee – accuses Vavi of "hegemonising positions and an ideological posture and perspectives that are not consistent with the tradition of the federation".

Wrote Majola: "There is a tendency to exaggerate problems while not addressing the issue. Like the question of civil society. There is a tendency [to] associate with certain people, including [political analyst Prince] Mashele. They crop up in the Chris Hani seminars and in Corruption Watch, this guy [Corruption Watch chief executive David] Lewis. There are the same suspects in all processes, always a part of civil society that is opposed to the ANC, but that likes Cosatu. What are we up to by going to bed with Moeletsi [Mbeki]," Majola asks in his submission.

Militant positions
"We have a historic problem not with Numsa [the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa], which has the right to express its own militant positions, but [with] the connection of the general secretary with those views to make them the dominant views of the federation when they are not. Numsa is locked into one faction with the general secretary and therefore cannot be disciplined."

Baleni, in his submission, accused Vavi of not acting against Numsa, which he claimed had hijacked Cosatu campaigns, such as the electricity tariff campaign.

"The general secretary was co-opted into this. There are no consequences from the federation."

Dlamini, in his submission, launched a veiled attack on Vavi and his association with civil society, pressure groups and the Democratic Alliance.

"There is a groundswell around civic action and to suggest that the country is collapsing and we need alternatives. A few months ago in the heat of Cosatu's engagement with issues, I raised a matter with NOBs [national office bearers] when I came across a DA document on the youth wage subsidy being copied in the office. Comrades will invite pressure groups within affiliates to meet with the president, when I know nothing about the issues."

Losi, on the other hand, expressed concerns about the close relationship between Vavi and Dr Mamphela Ramphele, the leader of Agang SA.

"I got an email from [businessperson] Bobby Godsell about active citizenship. Ramphele talks of the same. The manifesto is linked to the shop stewards survey. Are we not giving something to the opposition, consciously or unconsciously? Ramphele is talking about the social distance we have from our members. We need constant engagement or we will find Agang members in our own workplaces. Ramphele says in a tweet that she will work with Equal Education, Section 27 and Corruption Watch," said Losi.

Counter-revolutionary forces
Vavi, however, dismissed all the allegations against him, arguing that there was nothing wrong with him associating with civil society.

"By working with progressive civil society formations, with whom we share a tactical alliance, Cosatu is alleged to be collaborating with counter-revolutionary forces in civil society to undermine the ANC government. This is also allegedly part of the anti-majoritarian conspiracy.

"Fomenting this fear undermines congress decisions to promote the development of tactical alliance with civil society organisations … Cosatu has been subjected to vicious attacks by both the leadership of the ANC and the South African Communist Party on initiatives it has taken in pursuance of these congress resolutions. Again, this reflects insecurity about legitimate criticism in society of certain weaknesses in the movement and the state. There is no basis to suggest the existence of a counter-revolutionary agenda."

Vavi accused his fellow union leaders of being reluctant to oppose the national development plan, despite the fact that it blatantly went against Cosatu and alliance policies on core issues. He accused the SACP of supporting the plan without a critical working class analysis.

"We have referred to the SACP initially endorsing Gear (the Growth, Economic and Redistribution strategy) without suggesting the movement of a comma. Today, the SACP threatens to endorse a similar anti-worker neoliberal offensive for so-called strategic reasons," Vavi wrote.

Cosatu's central executive committee is expected to meet next week.

Cosatu House was sold below value, Vavi admits

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi has for the first time admitted that national office bearers might have erred in agreeing to sell the federation's old building in Braamfontein for R9-million less than its value.

Cosatu House in Leyds Street was sold to Street Talk Trading for R10-million in August 2011.

Vavi said that he became concerned that the price negotiated by Cosatu's investment arm, Kopano ke Matla, was lower than he had thought. Following discussion with the national office bearers, he commissioned a second market valuation by CPF Valuers, which said that the building was worth R19.5-million.

"However, by this stage, the legal process of the sale had already been completed, and as reported to the CEC [central executive committee] in November 2011, the sale could not be interrupted," he said.

Vavi denied any wrongdoing regarding the sale and the purchase of the new Cosatu House.

He also rejected the claim by police union Popcru that it had offered him R15-million. Popcru has been leading the charge against Vavi on the sale of the old building, suggesting financial impropriety.

"There is no record in any CEC minute of any questions or concerns raised about the ownership structure of the new building," said Vavi. "Nor was the matter raised in the 11th congress debate on the organisational report. Neither Cosatu nor Kopano ke Matla received a counter-offer from anyone, including any Cosatu union,"

Vavi said all information relating to the financial transactions regarding the selling of the old Cosatu building and the acquisition of the new one were reported to the central executive committee

Cosatu also confirmed that the new building in Jorrissen Street, Braamfontein, had been bought for R50-million.

Vavi explained why Cosatu was paying a monthly rent [to Kopano] for the new building, despite purchasing it for R50-million.

"We pay rent for the simple reason that the building must be maintained. The budget under consideration by the [national office bearers] put rental income at R6 034 920 against expenditure of R4221 932.40, making a surplus of R1812987.60 annually." – Matuma Letsoalo & Charles Molele

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Matuma Letsoala
Guest Author
Charles Molele
Guest Author

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