The South African Commercial, Catering and Allied Workers' Union (Saccawu) has become the fifth Cosatu affiliate to write a letter to the federation's president Sdumo Dlamini, requesting him to convene a special congress to resolve deepening tensions in the organisation caused by the suspension of its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
Dlamini will be forced to convene a special conference if he receives formal requests from seven Cosatu affiliates, in terms of the federation's constitution.
Other affiliates, which have formerly requested the special congress, include the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), Communications Workers Union, Food and Allied Workers Union and the South African Football Players' Union.
While the South African Municipal Workers' Union's national executive committee took a resolution two weeks ago to support the special congress, the union is still consulting with its lower structures before it submits a letter.
Vavi's supporters said they expect the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (Denosa) and the South African State and Allied Workers' Union to throw their weight behind the call to convene the special congress. Already, four of the six Denosa regions are said to have agreed to support calls for the special congress. Consultations with two other Denosa unions were currently underway, according to Vavi's supporters.
Challenge suspension from Cosatu
"Once he [Dlamini] receives seven letters from affiliates, he will have to convene the special congress within 14 days," said a Cosatu leader who preferred to remain anonymous.
Vavi filed papers in the South Gauteng High Court on Friday to challenge his suspension from Cosatu. He was suspended last month after he admitted to having sex with a junior Cosatu employee. But Vavi's supporters believe his suspension was motivated by his detractors' political agendas within Cosatu and have vowed to fight for his reinstatement.
The Mail & Guardian has seen a copy of the letter written by Saccawu general secretary Bones Skulu.
"From inception of the current debacle, that is fraught and/or riddled with tensions and tantrums, we always held a view that by using the Cosatu internal instruments and resources at our disposal; this development, like some before, would be amicable but politically resolved. Hence our position then was to lay the anticipated or instigated commission to rest and utilise Cosatu organisational and political instruments/tools; to no avail.
"However, the systematic escalation of such a debacle, with evident but destructive and divisive overtures and utterances that tantamount to holding of the CEC [central executive committee] at ransom whilst plunging the whole federation into paralysis, made us to reconsider whether or not under such circumstances, would the CEC be in [a] position to rise above such personalities and egos; and had unfortunately arrived at painstaking but factually-derived conclusion that it cannot.
"Therefore, it would seem holding such a view or hope was but a false hope. It is with this conclusion that Saccawu NEC urges that a Cosatu special congress be convened. This request is informed by the provisions of clause 3.3.2 of the federation's constitution as amended by the 9th national congress of 2006," said Skulu.
Cosatu's anti-Vavi faction
Meanwhile, the M&G understands that the anti-Vavi faction in Cosatu was planning to use the central executive committee meeting which starts on Monday, to dismiss Vavi from Cosatu.
Dlamini told reporters this week that Vavi had breached his suspension condition when he spoke to striking Numsa workers. While Vavi enjoys little support within the federation's central executive committee, he has an overwhelming support from ordinary members of Cosatu – hence his supporters believe the special national congress was most likely to overturn the central executive committee's decision to suspend him.
A close Vavi ally told the M&G that even if Vavi was suspended, his supporters would still push for the special congress.
Approached for comment on Friday, Cosatu spokesperson Patrick Craven said: "As you know, we are not making any comment to the media about internal processes of Cosatu."