Special Cosatu congress to decide Vavi's fate

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (M&G)

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi. (M&G)

Cosatu leaders attending the federation's central executive committee meeting in Johannesburg have agreed to hold a special congress to deal with deepening divisions within the organisation, Cosatu sources attending the meeting told the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday.

The special congress, which will be convened by Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini in two weeks from now, is expected to elect new leaders capable of implementing the federation's programmes, including the push for national minimum wage, the abolition of labour brokers and the push for the scrapping of e-tolls. For the past few months, Cosatu has been plagued by infightings and divisions between factions aligned to its general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi and Dlamini. Tensions between Cosatu leaders were worsened by the suspension of Vavi last month after he admitted to having sex with a subordinate at the Cosatu office.

"We agreed on the special congress.
We shall wait for president [Dlamini] as per the constitution to convene the special congress within 14 days," said an affiliate leader attending the CEC.

The special congress decision came after eight Cosatu affiliates wrote letters to Dlamini demanding that he convene the special congress to resolve the divisions in Cosatu. The Cosatu constitution forces the president of the federation to convene a special congress 14 days after he or she has received letters of requests from seven unions.

Another Cosatu leader told the M&G that the anti-Vavi group successfully pushed for more charges to be added against Vavi. The new charges relate to public statements he made to striking Numsa workers, despite the fact that he was suspended.

"The decision to convene a special congress means the ANC task team will be reduced to a little lobby group. The intervention by the ANC was an attempt to save Sdumo [Dlamini], but it is too late now. He will have to face the workers at the special congress," said the Cosatu leader.

The ANC task team includes the party's deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa, secretary general Gwede Mantashe and national chairperson Baleka Mbete.

In a letter to Cosatu dated 13 September 2013, Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim accused all Cosatu office bearers of dismally failing to champion the implementation of Cosatu's 11th national congress, which took place in September last year.

"The Cosatu 11th congress adopted a range of resolutions, amongst others, calling for our own Lula moment in South Africa and the most resolute implementation of the Freedom Charter. The national office bearers have dismally failed to champion the implementation of the resolution of the 11th congress.

"The March 2013 Cosatu national campaigns, organising and collective bargaining conference took very progressive resolutions amongst others the call for the implementation of a national minimum wage. We now know that the Cosatu national office bearers have been unable to steer the federation towards the execution of these resolutions.

Rather, Cosatu became stuck in a self-manufactured rupture detaining the entire federation from addressing the needs and aspirations of our members including the lack of a well-coordinated Cosatu living wage campaign," said Jim.

Vavi's supporters led by Jim are expected to push for the removal of Dlamini at the special congress, while the Dlamini faction will push for Vavi's removal. Vavi enjoys the majority support from ordinary Cosatu members.

On Tuesday, addressing the Numsa political school in Benoni, Vavi said the inclusion of senior Cosatu leaders into the ANC national executive committee was part of the reason for divisions within Cosatu. Current NEC members include Dlamini, Nehawu general secretary Fikile Majola and NUM president Senzeni Zokwana.



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. Read more from ML

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